Understanding ISDA SIMM

As the landscape of derivatives trading continues to evolve, it is crucial for market participants to be well-versed not only in central counterparty (CCP) initial margin requirements but also in the nuances of uncleared derivatives margin. This guide aims to provide a comprehensive understanding of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA) Standard Initial Margin Model (ISDA SIMM™), a pivotal tool in the realm of non-cleared derivatives.

What is ISDA SIMM?

ISDA SIMM is an industry-standard methodology designed for calculating regulatory initial margin on non-cleared derivatives. Launched in September 2016, it was developed in response to new margin rules under the framework of the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). This model is particularly crucial for entities with a significant amount of non-cleared derivatives, specifically those exceeding an aggregate average notional amount of €8 billion.

The need for ISDA SIMM

Under the new margin rules, entities are required to exchange initial margin on most non-cleared derivatives. Prior to ISDA SIMM, discrepancies in margin calculations could lead to delays and disputes, interrupting trading operations. ISDA SIMM offers a standardised, transparent methodology, significantly reducing the potential for such disputes and the associated costs.

Other key benefits of ISDA SIMM include cost efficiency as it helps eliminate the need for firms to develop individual margin models, as well as alignment with global standards by ensuring uniformity in margin requirements across markets.

Key features of ISDA SIMM

  • Transparent Methodology: ISDA SIMM utilises a parametric sensitivities-based VAR model, calibrated to market data in historical stress periods. It encompasses various risk/product classes including interest rate, FX, credit, equity, and commodity.
  • Risk/Product Classes: The model calculates margin requirements for each risk class, factoring in delta, vega, and curvature margins. This involves complex calculations of 'the Greeks' for each derivative deal within a portfolio.
  • Model Calibration and Governance: The model is subject to annual recalibration and backtesting, with an industry governance committee overseeing this process. From 2025, the model will move to semiannual calibration.
  • Global Adoption and Compliance: Since its launch, ISDA SIMM has been widely adopted by major financial institutions globally. It aligns with BCBS/IOSCO margin requirements, ensuring compliance across jurisdictions.
  • Licensing and Usage: Available to both ISDA members and non-members, the ISDA SIMM can be licensed for various services, including margin calculation and optimization.

SIMM implementation and usage

Implementing the ISDA SIMM requires a deep understanding of derivative pricing and risk management. Firms must calculate and input 'the Greeks' as per ISDA specifications. This includes specific tenors for interest rate bucketing and methods for aligning with standard approaches proposed by ISDA.

Comparison with CCP initial margin

Unlike CCP initial margin, which is typically based on a portfolio's net exposure through a central counterparty, ISDA SIMM calculations are bilateral and sensitive to the specific characteristics of each trade within a portfolio. This can result in different margin requirements on each side of a transaction, especially in cases involving optionality and non-linear derivatives.

Adapting to evolving ISDA SIMM standards

Understanding the intricacies of the ISDA SIMM is crucial for efficient and compliant operations in the non-cleared derivatives market. The ISDA SIMM not only ensures regulatory compliance but also fosters a more harmonious and efficient trading environment by standardising the approach to initial margin calculation. As regulations and market dynamics continue to evolve, staying informed and adaptable to these methodologies remains a key aspect of risk management and operational success in derivatives trading.

Compliance and efficiency with Cumulus9

Compliance with regulatory requirements is a key concern in the derivatives market. Cumulus9's implementation of the ISDA SIMM, strictly adhering to the guidelines set out in the ISDA SIMM Methodology documents, ensures that market participants remain compliant while maximising efficiency. Cumulus9 offers cleared and non-cleared derivatives margin calculations, risk analytics, and a host of other features, empowering users to make informed decisions and maintain a competitive edge in the market.

Get in touch to find out more about Cumulus9.