Goldman Sachs Sees a ‘Really Painful Transition’ Away From Libor

(Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc. sees a global migration away from the scandal-tainted London interbank offered rate improving the soundness of debt markets, but it’s likely to be an arduous process.

The world was put on notice last year that Libor was set to be consigned to the history books and global regulators have been spearheading the promotion of alternatives to the half-century old global borrowing benchmark. In the U.S., the heir presumptive to Libor is the secured overnight financing rate, or SOFR, while in the U.K. authorities have been championing the Sterling Overnight Index Average, known as Sonia.

The impact of shifting to new benchmarks “is going to be hopefully an improvement in safety and soundness,” Goldman Sachs Treasurer Beth Hammack said in a podcast posted by the firm this week that was recorded in September. “That said, it’s going to be a really painful transition to get there because there are so many people and so many products that are referencing this rate, it is such a foundational part of our markets. And markets are really creatures of habit.”

Jason Granet, who in September was appointed to lead Goldman Sachs’ transition away from Libor, said on the podcast that the global movement to new benchmarks will be “nothing short of enormous for a lot of people.”

Participants and regulators are currently in a “phase of understanding where everything is and that will help define the path as we go forward,” Granet said. That includes getting a grip on documentation and figuring out how to inventory outstanding trades. For Granet, the transition process is actually a lot further along than he thought it would be.

“We’ve seen around the first 10 billion specifically in the U.S. dollar market referencing SOFR. So, we have the rate, we have contracts, we have things trading,” he said. “It has a lot of momentum and people are really talking about it.”

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