What next for Libor – and for reference rates?

Held on Wednesday, June 12


  • Phillip Stafford (Financial Times)

  • David Clark (EVIA)

  • Rick Sandilands (ISDA)

  • Serge Gwynne (Oliver Wyman)

  • Patrick Donegan (CMS)

  • Vivek Agarwal (Wipro)



I spent many years working with a Greek banker whose proudest boast was that he had “invented” Libor – at least, that was his boast until the various rate-rigging scandals (some still winding their way through the courts) brought Libor, and indeed the BBA which administered it, into disrepute. Almost overnight, it seems, everyone decided that Libor was too easily manipulable, that it was inherently vulnerable (since it was based on hypothetical, not real, transactions), and that It Had To Go.

But getting rid of it is not that easy. It has been estimated that there may still be US$350 trillion of financial contracts – from US mortgages to the most esoteric derivatives – pegged to Libor, and none of the proposed alternatives yet seems to tick all the boxes. In particular, replacing a forward-looking six-month rate (even if estimated) with an actual overnight rate like Sonia or Sofr is a pretty clear mismatch that makes hedging difficult. As a result, there are even moves by ICE (which “bought” Libor from the old BBA for £1) to revamp Libor as we know and love it.

The regulators (on both sides of the Atlantic) appear to have mellowed a bit – acknowledging that it would be very difficult, disruptive and perhaps impossible to migrate all existing Libor-based contracts to some other reference rate by 2022, as had been their intention. But migration is still their goal – even if there remain questions about the appropriate reference rate and how we get there. Given the enormous numbers involved, this is a crucial issue for the City – and indeed for global finance.

I am, therefore, delighted that we have been able to put together a distinguished panel to kick off what I am sure will be a lively discussion:

  • Philip Stafford is the editor of FT Trading Room at the Financial Times, leading the paper’s coverage on exchanges, trading and clearing. He has written extensively on the issues around Libor.

  • David Clark is the chairman of EVIA, the European Venues & Intermediaries Association. He is a member of the BofE’s FX Joint Standing Committee and the Sonia Advisory Committee, and a NED of Thomson Reuter’s Benchmark Services. He is also a member of the ICE Benchmark Administration Libor and IceSwap oversight committees.

  • Rick Sandilands is the senior counsel, Europe for ISDA, specializing in capital markets and regulatory compliance. He represents ISDA on the Sterling and European Risk Free Rate Working Groups. From 2001 to 2009, he was the senior lawyer for structured rates, FX and commodities at Lehman Bros – and then, from 2011 to 2015, led a team of lawyers settling prime brokerage and capital markets claims after the firm collapsed.

  • Serge Gwynne is a partner in the corporate and institutional banking practice at Oliver Wyman, and one of the leaders of the firm’s Libor transition platform. He is also the author of a report on “Changing the World’s Most Important Number”.

  • Patrick Donegan is a partner in CMS’s banking and finance group, focusing on leveraged and structured financings and complex restructurings.

  • Vivek Agarwal is a partner in Wipro’s securities and capital markets consulting group. His responsibilities include Libor to ARR transition, and he led construction of an artificial intelligence tool for review of Libor language in financial contracts.

There’s a lot to cram in – but we’ll do our best. If you (or a colleague) would like to join us, please let us know as soon as possible by emailing alex@csfi.org or by calling the Centre on 0207 621 1056. As usual, there will be wine and sandwiches to dull the pain.

Many thanks,

Andrew Hilton