After consulting its members in 2007, ICMA concluded that retail investors might benefit from easier access to price transparency in the bond market. It was felt that easier access to price transparency could help to improve understanding of the range of products available and the levels of liquidity in those products. Accordingly, in September 2007 ICMA introduced a voluntary European Financial Services Industry Standard of Good Practice on Bond Market Transparency in an attempt to improve the quality and accessibility of price and liquidity information available to retail investors about more liquid and more highly rated bonds.
In December 2007 ICMA launched bondmarketprices.com as a dedicated website providing free access to post-trade data on higher quality investment grade bonds with a large issue size. The website is now owned and operated by a former subsidiary of ICMA, Xtrakter Ltd. using data from Xtrakter’s TRAX trade reporting services. Approximately 200 firms report trades to Xtrakter’s TRAX trade reporting service. While most of these firms are UK based, market estimates indicate that two-thirds, by value, of all transactions in the European bond market have at least one leg of the trade going through London. Currently, trades are reported and published on the Xtrakter Service on a daily basis for about 1,200 – 1,500 bonds though the actual number of bonds traded each day will vary.
As of April 2009, Xtrakter became a wholly owned subsidiary of Euroclear SA/NV. Euroclear have indicated to ICMA that they will continue to provide the Xtrakter Service free of charge.
When ICMA adopted the voluntary European Financial Services Industry Standard for Good Practice on Bond Market Transparency for retail investors, it undertook to carry out a one-year review of the Standard. The review was completed in January 2009 and can be accessed here. The review suggested a few minor amendments to the Standard. The revised Standard can be accessed here.