By the end of 2021, new rates will be in place for each IBOR. Financial regulators have been closely engaged with industry working groups to identify alternative replacement reference rates.
In the UK, for example, the Sterling Overnight Index Average, also known as SONIA, has been chosen to replace Sterling LIBOR. In the US, the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, SOFR, will replace US$ LIBOR.
Purpose and timing of the changes
Regulators globally want to promote greater transparency, measurability and credibility in central-bank administered rate-setting processes, which are based on actual transactions, where possible.
They have acted because the use of interbank lending has declined substantially since the global financial crisis, which has had an effect on the reliability of some LIBOR rates. Panel banks are still providing quotes across LIBOR’s broad spectrum of rates, but the volume of transactions has fallen. Historic rate-rigging scandals also continue to weigh on LIBOR’s reputation, despite it now being subject to much stricter official oversight.
The regulators require the replacement rates to be in place by the end of 2021. The transition process is already underway, with most replacement rates already having been identified, and it is possible, or even likely, that the replacement rates will be in full effect before that current deadline.
One reason for providing a long lead time is to give parties affected by the changes sufficient time to ensure as smooth a transition as possible and to minimise the effect on all market participants. Ideally, the changes will be transparent and borrowers, lenders and investors will experience little or no effect.
We aim to provide regular updates to this information to reflect the position of the transitions as they develop.
Industry working groups in each market have already identified preferred replacement risk-free rates (RFRs). The main ones are:
- UK sterling – Sterling Overnight Index Average (SONIA) replaces £ LIBOR – SONIA has existed for more than 20 years and is used in the sterling overnight indexed swaps market, and now, increasingly, as a reference interest rate for borrowing
- US dollars – Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) replaces US$ LIBOR – SOFR will sit alongside, and eventually replace, US$ LIBOR. SOFR is based on transactions in the Treasury repo market and has existed since 2014, though only officially published since April 2018
- Euro – Euro short-term rate (€STR or ESTR) and Euribor – The European Central Bank announced ESTR as the successor to the Euro overnight index average (EONIA). Currently, European authorities plan to retain a reformed version of Euribor rather than replace it
The agreement from panel banks to provide quotes for LIBOR expires on 31 December 2021. Some of the key milestones that have occurred to date in the development of solutions, and the transitions to them are highlighted below:
April 2018 – SONIA is reformed by the Bank of England, though it had been in use since 1997. First official publication of SOFR by the US Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
13 September 2018 – ESTR is recommended as the replacement RFR for EONIA, which will be discontinued from 3 January 2022.
2 October 2019 – ESTR is published for the first time by the ECB, reflecting transactions that took place on 1 October 2019.
The value of the fund's assets will go down as well as up. This will cause the value of your investment to fall as well as rise and you may get back less than you originally invested.
Some Frequently Asked Questions
The replacement rates are largely similar to the IBORs they are replacing, but there are some important differences industry participants should be aware of.
- Quote-based versus Transactions-based – IBORs have historically been calculated based on quotes provided by a panel of banks (different for each currency). The replacement RFRs will use a transaction-based approach.
- Term rates versus Overnight rates - IBOR rates are forward-looking interest rates for specific time periods, or terms. The replacement RFRs are backward-looking rates, published based on transactions that occurred on the previous day. Therefore, new mechanisms will be required to determine how much interest will be payable on a bond or loan that uses the new rates.
This difference is one of the main challenges facing the industry. For example, a great deal of consultation and work is currently underway to resolve this issue and create “term SONIA” rates.
- Unsecured vs Secured
IBOR rates are unsecured, which is common practice in the markets. While some of the replacement RFRs are unsecured, some are secured against particular assets. Secured borrowing rates are typically lower than unsecured rates.
Unsecured lending is provided “in good faith”, with no collateral provided by the borrower to protect the lender. Secured lending means that the borrower provides something of value – collateral – to support its borrowing.
We are members of the industry group, supported by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Bank of England, working to make the market-wide transition as smooth as possible, and determining best practice in areas of the market, such as floating rate notes. Any effect on the value of your clients investments is currently expected to be negligible or very small, at the time of change. However, there can be no guarantee that circumstances may not arise which result in a more material change to investment values.
Where a fund has an objective related to LIBOR it will need to change. We will make this change in line with best market practice and with the aim to have minimal effect on how the fund is managed. We will communicate to you and your clients any planned changes to fund objectives before they take effect.
No. We are managing the transition away from LIBOR and other IBORS in a way that is intended to minimise the effect on all our customers.