A Guide to Trade Confirmations and Affirmations

Trade confirmation and affirmation are steps in the post-trade lifecycle that help investment managers and other financial market participants to:

  • Mitigate risks
  • Reduce errors
  • Streamline operations

This guide will take you through trade confirmation and affirmation fundamentals.
We've written the article to address "you", assuming you're an investment manager.

Limina is an investment management software that handles the investment workflow from order raising to post-trade processing. The latter includes automation of post trade matching. If you want to learn more about Limina, follow the link at the beginning of this paragraph.

Understanding Trade Confirmation

Trade confirmation is a receipt from your broker-dealer that verifies the details of an executed trade. Sometimes, it's referred to as "post trade confirmation".

The confirmation contains essential information such as the trade's time, price and fees (such as commissions).

Typically, you receive a trade confirm promptly after a trade is executed. The format can often take the form of:

  • CSV files, sent to an sFTP
    Good, because these are easy for systems to digest
  • PDF files attached to emails
    Bad, because systems struggle to parse such files in a stable and predictable manner

The confirmation can also include the settlement date and be sent to the custodian once both parties have agreed to the trade's terms and conditions.

Why do you need to check the confirmation?

It's easy to assume that the confirmation will reflect the order details. If you've traded electronically via an Execution Management System (EMS), shouldn't all details just match?

The post-trade confirmation has more information than the order does, for example:

  • If you place an order for multiple accounts, it's often a block order, i.e. an order with multiple allocations. The confirmations are on an account-by-account basis (each allocation gives rise to one confirmation)
  • The confirmation includes more details than the order, such as exact commission payment in dollar terms on each account

What is Trade Affirmation?

Trade affirmation means validating the details of a trade between you and the broker, once it has been executed. Essentially, it's matching the trade confirmation with your view of what the trade details should be.

Post Trade Matching Platforms

You and your broker submit your respective transaction information electronically to a post trade matching platform. When the details match, the matching platform affirms the trade.

You can also perform the affirmation workflow directly with each broker. Then, you must agree on how the affirmation shall happen and who is responsible for checking what. While expensive, most market participants prefer a matching platform so that setting up processes with each counterparty can be avoided.

Internal matching processes

It's possible to run an internal one-sided trade affirmation. You can, for example, compare the trade confirmation in your internal trade order management system.

  • If it matches your internal price, time and calculated commission, then do nothing.
  • If there is a mismatch, pick up the phone and call the broker to resolve it.

If you skip trade affirmation altogether, which is possible, the risk of settlement issues is significantly increased. The higher your trade volumes are, the higher the risk of trade completion errors.

Difference between Affirmation and Confirmation

Post trade confirmation and affirmation are closely related processes in the post-trade lifecycle but differ slightly. Let's look at a side-by-side view of affirmation vs confirmation:

 

Confirmation

(Confirm)

Affirmation

(Affirm)

Timeframe Immediate Daily, for example with 9 pm cut-off time
Parties involved One-directional from the broker to you You and the broker. Sometimes also a matching platform
Documentation A file from the broker (CSV or PDF) An electronic 2- or 3-way communication (excl. or incl. a matching platform)

Understanding these differences is crucial for deciding if a post trade matching platform is needed for you.

Importance of Trade Confirmation and Affirmation in the Trade Life Cycle

Trade confirms and affirms are crucial steps in the trade lifecycle that ensure smooth and correct settlement instructions.

The confirm and affirm help identify discrepancies between you and the broker early. This, in turn, mitigates costly errors and disputes down the line. Affirmed trades are more likely to settle smoothly on the agreed-upon settlement date. Timely affirmation reduces the likelihood of trade failures and improves overall settlement efficiency.

Challenges and Solutions with Confirmation and Affirmation

Many firms still rely on manual processes for trade affirms, which can lead to errors, delays, and increased operational costs. Automating affirmation processes through electronic platforms such as Limina's investment operations software can improve accuracy and speed significantly.

Adopting a Straight-Through Processing (STP) workflow can automate and streamline the post-trade processing workflow. Critical components to enable full STP are:

  • Electronic Confirmation Platforms
    Leverage electronic confirmation platforms like DTCC's CTM (Central Trade Manager), NYFIX Matching or Osttra's MarkitServ & Triana. The benefit is automation of the confirmation process, which reduces errors and improves efficiency.
  • Data Formats
    Ensure you receive confirmations electronically using FIX protocol or in computer-readable formats such as CSV or XML, rather than PDF.

FAQ: What is T+1 settlement in the United States and Canada?

The T+1 settlement refers to the change in May 2024 that shortened the settlement cycle in the US and Canada. The change reduced the settlement time from two business days after the trade date (T+2) to just one business day after the trade date (T+1). Securities affected are equities, corporate bonds and UITs. Read more about T+1 settlement in our complete guide for investment managers.

Conclusion

Trade confirmation and affirmation are essential to the post-trade process, ensuring correct and efficient transaction settlement. By implementing automation, such as electronic confirmation platforms and data standardisation, you can improve efficiency and reduce the risk of errors.

Too many late nights at the office? We help Investment Managers save up to 4 hours / day / person. Chances are we can help you too - let's find out.

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