Wall Street appears to have survived unscathed a hectic week under new Securities and Exchange Commission rules designed to speed the settlement of stock trades.
The SEC rules are aimed at cutting the time between the execution of a stock trade and receipt of payment from the investor, from five days to three. Known in industry parlance as "T+3," the rules went into effect last week.
Investment managers, brokers, and custodian banks have spent the past few months retooling back offices to comply with the rules, which were implemented to reduce the operational risk in the settlement of billions of dollars in stock trades taking place every day in the United States.
As little as two months ago, some Wall Street insiders were fearful the transition would be rocky.
According to Bruce Garland, vice president at the Depository Trust Co., the securities clearing house owned by major financial firms, many brokers and custodians missed an April 1 deadline for modifying their computer systems in order to transmit and receive electronic trade messages.
"We were concerned back then about how prepared everyone would be," Mr. Garland said. "But when the June 7 deadline came, everything went extraordinarily well."
Before the rules went into effect, Mr. Garland said, market participants on average "affirmed" 93% of trades. Under the new rules, the affirmation rate is 85%. "That's much higher than we expected," he said, given the magnitude of changeover. He added that he expects the number of trades completed to rise as participants work the kinks out of their systems.
Sue Burton, a marketing manager at the electronic settlements group at Boston-based Thomson Financial Services, concurred with Mr. Garland's upbeat assessment. Thomson Financial provides a number of electronic messaging and data base products to brokers, investment managers, and custodian banks. It is a unit of Thomson Corp., which owns the American Banker.
"We had extra staff manning our help desk in case our clients needed help" complying with the rules, Ms. Burton said. "But it looks like most people prepared early enough."
Mr. Garland was complimentary to the investment manager community, which many brokers and custodians feared would not be up to the more aggressive settlement schedule. "The proof is in the pudding, and that's the affirmation rate," Mr. Garland said.
The only minor snafu has been that a few investment managers have complained that some brokers are not staying late enough to receive trade "allocations," messages detailing distribution of purchased shares to multiple investors or custodians.