Before we head into 2020 and find out what the new decade has in store for the structured product industry, let’s take stock of what readers were the most interested in last year.

Two of SRP’s personality of the year interviews gathered a significant amount of traffic. 

The first is an interview with the Americas recipient of the award, Morgan Stanley’s Larry Wilson, who joined the investment bank as head of equity derivative sales in August 2018. He joined after a 16-year career at JP Morgan, where he was a driving force behind its SI 360 platform, a single-dealer platform for structured notes developed by the bank over the last couple of years with the help of IBM.

The other is a profile of his Apac counterpart, Jérôme Niddam, head of global markets for Asia Pacific at Société Générale. He told SRP that the French bank’s increase in market share in Asia Pacific was due to investments made in its linear equity activities delivering returns as well as growth in its warrants business. While maintaining its firm footing in South Korea and Japan, Niddam said the bank’s next focus was China, a notoriously secretive market to crack.

Another topic of interest for SRP readers was ESG. Overall, SRP data shows consistent issuance and sales levels with the number of players and new entrants suggesting it is a market segment to watch.

One of the highlight stories of the year was in January 2019, when SRP reported that Credit Suisse was using double ESG criteria for a new index it was launching. Romain Noirault, a director in equity derivatives and investor products at Credit Suisse, said the bank was pitching to French investors a new sustainable structured product linked to the performance of the Euronext Eurozone 100 ESG family of indices. The selection method relies on the index selecting the 100 best-rated stocks in terms of ESG criteria, among the 150 largest free float-adjusted market capitalisation in the Eurozone, with the innovation in the weighting part: each of these 100 stocks is then weighted according to its ESG rating.

Another was published in May, when Goldman Sachs announced it was deploying new green index range in France, by marketing Jade, an eight-year autocallable note linked to the performance of the Euronext CDP Environment France EW Decrement 5% (FRENV Index). The US bank is also offering two versions of the index which offer broader geographic scopes, notably eurozone (excl. UK) and world. It partnered with Euronext and CDP [an environmental data provider] to launch the first indices with focus on the three main environmental challenges, notably climate change, sustainable management of water resources and deforestation.

ESG developments also attracted interest from the US. SRP reported in March that Citi issued and traded its inaugural structured green bond in the form of a private placement. This was also the first ESG trade involving a structured product carried out by a US bank. The five-year structured bond features a capped call structure and is linked to the performance of the three-month USD Libor with a floor, payable quarterly.

One other topic that attracted interest was in March, when Nordea announced its return to the Nordics structured product market. Mathias Lundberg, director at Nordea Markets, told SRP that the move was part of a wider exercise of returning the bank at the forefront of the structured products market after a couple of years of subdued activity. The offer includes 21 new structures in Finland of which 14 are flow products, six in Sweden, three in Norway and the bank’s first capital-protected offering of the year in Denmark.

Finally, on exclusive story that SRP broke in March focused on the Absa/Halo partnership. The former Barclays Bank Africa, now rebranded as Absa Bank, teamed up with Halo Investing to develop its click and trade capabilities with a ‘white-labelling’ twist. One of the capabilities Absa had to review as part of the rebrand was the Barclays’ Barx IS platform. Chicago-based structured products platform Halo had a business model that was aligned with what the South African bank wanted to achieve: providing structured products with the space to develop as an integral part of people’s investment portfolios.