Insights from ESMA's 2023 Global CCP Fire Drill

As derivatives market participants, staying informed and prepared for potential market disruptions is critical. The recent ESMA (European Securities and Markets Authority) report on the 2023 global CCP fire drill offers valuable insights and highlights the importance of these exercises in enhancing the resilience of the financial system. In this article, we’ll summarize the ESMA report and discuss the future improvements planned for the 2025 exercise, emphasizing how market participants can engage and prepare for real defaults.

Summary of the ESMA 2023 Global CCP Fire Drill

In November 2023, the largest global CCP fire drill to date was conducted, involving 31 central counterparties (CCPs), 23 regulators, and numerous clearing members and their clients. The exercise simulated the default of a major clearing member, named "A.C.M.E – A Clearing Member Everywhere," across multiple CCPs simultaneously. The drill aimed to test the readiness of CCPs and their stakeholders, identify potential operational bottlenecks, and share best practices for default management.

Key Outcomes:

  • No Major Bottlenecks Identified: The drill revealed no significant operational bottlenecks, indicating robust preparedness among CCPs.
  • Need for Realism: Participants suggested enhancing the realism of future drills by including client porting simulations.
  • Standardisation and Automation: Feedback highlighted the need for standardised and automated default management processes to reduce operational risk.
  • Hedging and Auction Process: Recommendations included improving hedging strategies and auction portfolio management to ensure effective and timely execution.

Future Improvements and the 2025 Exercise

Looking forward to the 2025 exercise, several key areas for improvement have been identified, which are crucial for market participants to understand and prepare for:

  1. Structured Coordination Across CCPs: The 2023 drill's lack of structured coordination highlighted the need for a more aligned approach across CCPs. Future exercises will aim to synchronise procedures and timelines, providing a more realistic simulation of multiple CCPs managing a default simultaneously. This structured approach will help uncover cross-CCP dependencies and operational challenges.

  2. Strengthening Realism Through Client Porting Simulations: Client porting, the process of transferring client positions from a defaulting member to another, is critical in maintaining market stability. Including client porting simulations in future drills will provide a comprehensive test of CCPs' operational capabilities and readiness. For intermediaries and their clients, understanding and preparing for their roles in these scenarios is essential to ensure continuity and avoid liquidation.

  3. Creation of Common Standards: Standardising processes across CCPs will significantly reduce complexity and operational risk. This includes using market conventions, standardised file formats, and references to external data providers. Common standards will facilitate smoother coordination and more efficient handling of defaults, benefiting all market participants.

  4. Enhanced Automation and Communication: Implementing automated systems, such as default-management portals, can reduce operational risk and improve efficiency. Standardised communication methods and timelines will ensure that all parties are well-informed and can act promptly during a default scenario.

Engaging in Future Fire Drills and Preparing for Real Defaults

For market participants, engaging in future fire drills is crucial to staying prepared for real default scenarios. Here are some steps to consider:

  • Active Participation: Participate actively in fire drills and provide feedback to improve the exercises. This involvement will help you understand the processes and identify areas for improvement in your own risk management strategies.
  • Utilise Analytical Tools: Leverage platforms like C9 to access margin and risk analytics. These tools can help you estimate margin requirements, perform scenario analyses, and better prepare for potential defaults.
  • Understand Client Porting: Familiarise yourself with the client porting process and ensure that your clients are also prepared. This knowledge will help you manage positions effectively during a default and avoid unnecessary liquidations.
  • Advocate for Standardisation: Support initiatives for standardising default management processes across CCPs. Standardisation will simplify operations and reduce risks, benefiting the entire market ecosystem.
  • Continuous Improvement: Use the insights gained from fire drills to refine your default management practices continuously. Stay updated with regulatory developments and best practices to ensure your preparedness.


The ESMA 2023 global CCP fire drill has provided valuable insights into the current state of default management processes and identified key areas for future improvement. As we look ahead to the 2025 exercise, market participants must engage actively and leverage these opportunities to enhance their readiness for real defaults.

Get in touch to find out more about Cumulus9.