Regulators in the U.K. are calling on the financial industry to kickstart the transition away from long-standing financial benchmark LIBOR this year.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), the Bank of England and an industry working group published a series of documents that aim to help push the industry away from LIBOR, which is to be eliminated by the end of 2021.
“This is a critical year for LIBOR transition,” they said, noting that firms need to “accelerate” their efforts to ensure they are prepared for the end of the once-dominant benchmark.
The FCA and the central bank sent a joint letter to major banks and insurers setting out their expectations for firms’ transition efforts in 2020.
“Firms must act now to help meet these targets and ensure a smooth transition to alternative rates by end-2021,” said Christopher Woolard, executive director of strategy and competition at the FCA.
They also called on market makers to switch the convention for interest rate swaps from LIBOR to a new benchmark, the Sterling Overnight Index Average (SONIA), on March 2.
“This is designed to help progress transition in the derivatives market,” they said.
The working group also published its priorities and an updated roadmap for the year ahead, which includes ending the issuance of cash products linked to LIBOR by the end of the third quarter; steps to make SONIA easily accessible and usable; and establishing a framework for the transition of legacy LIBOR products by the first quarter of 2021.
“2020 will be a pivotal year in the transition journey, with critical focus on enabling the flow of new business away from sterling LIBOR,” said Tushar Morzaria, chair of the working group on sterling risk-free reference rates.