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MKTX > SEC Filings for MKTX > Form 10-K on 24-Feb-2014All Recent SEC Filings

Show all filings for MARKETAXESS HOLDINGS INC

Form 10-K for MARKETAXESS HOLDINGS INC


24-Feb-2014

Annual Report


Item 7. Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations.

You should read the following discussion and analysis of our financial condition and results of operations in conjunction with "Selected Financial Data" and our consolidated financial statements and related notes included elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. In addition to historical information, this discussion and analysis contains forward-looking statements relating to future events and the future performance of MarketAxess that are based on our current expectations, assumptions, estimates and projections about us and our industry. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties. Our actual results and timing of various events could differ materially from those anticipated in such forward-looking statements as a result of a variety of factors, as more fully described in this section, in "Item 1A. - Risk Factors" and elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K. We undertake no obligation to update publicly any forward-looking statements for any reason, even if new information becomes available or other events occur in the future.

Executive Overview

MarketAxess operates a leading electronic trading platform that enables fixed-income market participants to efficiently trade corporate bonds and other types of fixed-income instruments using our patented trading technology. Our over 1,000 active institutional investor firms (firms that executed at least one trade in U.S. or European fixed income securities through our electronic trading platform during 2013) include investment advisers, mutual funds, insurance companies, public and private pension funds, bank portfolios, broker-dealers and hedge funds. Our 90 broker-dealer market-maker clients provide liquidity on the platform and include most of the leading broker-dealers in global fixed-income trading. We also execute certain bond transactions between and among institutional investor and broker-dealer clients on a riskless principal basis by serving as counterparty to both the buyer and the seller in trades which then settle through a third-party clearing organization. We provide fixed-income market data analytics and compliance tools that help our clients make trading decisions. We also provide trade matching and regulatory transaction reporting services to the securities markets. In addition, we provide technology solutions and professional consulting services to fixed-income industry participants.

Our multi-dealer trading platform allows our institutional investor clients to simultaneously request competing, executable bids or offers from our broker-dealer clients and execute trades with the broker-dealer of their choice from among those that choose to respond. We offer our broker-dealer clients a solution that enables them to efficiently reach our institutional investor clients for the distribution and trading of bonds. Our trading platform provides access to global liquidity in U.S. high-grade corporate bonds, emerging markets and high-yield bonds, European bonds, U.S. agency bonds, and credit default swaps ("CDS") and other fixed-income securities.

The majority of our revenues are derived from commissions for trades executed on our platform and distribution fees that are billed to our broker-dealer clients on a monthly basis. We also derive revenues from information and post-trade services, technology products and services, investment income and other income. Our expenses consist of employee compensation and benefits, depreciation and amortization, technology and communication expenses, professional and consulting fees, occupancy, marketing and advertising and other general and administrative expenses.

Our objective is to provide the leading global electronic trading platform for fixed-income securities, connecting broker-dealers and institutional investors more easily and efficiently, while offering a broad array of information, trading and technology services to market participants across the trading cycle. The key elements of our strategy are:

• to innovate and efficiently add new functionality and product offerings to the MarketAxess platform that we believe will help to increase our market share with existing clients, as well as expand our client base;

• to leverage our existing client network and technology to increase counterparties and improve liquidity by developing and deploying a wide range of electronic trading protocols to complement our traditional request-for-quote model and allowing broker-dealers and institutional investors to operate in an all-to-all trading environment;

• to leverage our existing technology and client relationships to deploy our electronic trading platform into additional product segments within the fixed-income securities markets and deliver fixed-income securities-related technical services and products;

• to continue building our existing service offerings so that our electronic trading platform is more fully integrated into the workflow of our broker-dealer and institutional investor clients and to continue to add functionality to allow our clients to achieve a fully automated end-to-end straight-through processing solution (automation from trade initiation to settlement);

• to add new content and analytical capabilities to Corporate BondTicker™ and expand the data service offering provided by Xtrakter to improve the value of the information we provide to our clients; and


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• to continue to increase and supplement our internal growth by entering into strategic alliances, or acquiring businesses or technologies that will enable us to enter new markets, provide new products or services, or otherwise enhance the value of our platform to our clients. The acquisition of Xtrakter Limited ("Xtrakter") in February 2013 provides us with an expanded set of technology solutions ahead of incoming pre- and post-trade transparency mandates from the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II in Europe. In April 2013, we entered into a strategic alliance with BlackRock, Inc. to create a unified, open trading solution designed to help reduce liquidity fragmentation and improve pricing across credit markets.

Critical Factors Affecting Our Industry and Our Company

Economic, Political and Market Factors

The global fixed-income securities industry is risky and volatile and is directly affected by a number of economic, political and market factors that may result in declining trading volume. These factors could have a material adverse effect on our business, financial condition and results of operations. These factors include, among others, credit market conditions, the current interest rate environment, including the volatility of interest rates and investors' forecasts of future interest rates, economic and political conditions in the United States, Europe and elsewhere, and consolidation or contraction of broker-dealers.

Competitive Landscape

The global fixed-income securities industry generally, and the electronic financial services markets in which we engage in particular, are highly competitive, and we expect competition to intensify in the future. Sources of competition for us will continue to include, among others, bond trading conducted directly between broker-dealers and their institutional investor clients over the telephone or electronically and other multi-dealer trading companies. Competitors, including companies in which some of our broker-dealer clients have invested, have developed electronic trading platforms or have announced their intention to explore the development of electronic platforms that may compete with us.

In general, we compete on the basis of a number of key factors, including, among others, the liquidity provided on our platform, the magnitude and frequency of price improvement enabled by our platform and the quality and speed of execution. We believe that our ability to grow volumes and revenues will largely depend on our performance with respect to these factors.

Our competitive position is also enhanced by the familiarity and integration of our broker-dealer and institutional investor clients with our electronic trading platform and other systems. We have focused on the unique aspects of the credit markets we serve in the development of our platform, working closely with our clients to provide a system that is suited to their needs.

Regulatory Environment

Our industry has been and is subject to continuous regulatory changes and may become subject to new regulations or changes in the interpretation or enforcement of existing regulations, which could require us to incur significant costs.

Our U.S. subsidiary, MarketAxess Corporation, is a registered broker-dealer with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") and is a member of Financial Industries Regulatory Authority ("FINRA"). Our U.K. subsidiary, MarketAxess Europe Limited, is registered as a Multilateral Trading Facility dealer with the Financial Conduct Authority ("FCA") in the U.K. MarketAxess Canada Company, a Canadian subsidiary, is registered as an Alternative Trading System dealer under the Securities Act of Ontario and is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada. Relevant regulations prohibit repayment of borrowings from these subsidiaries or their affiliates, paying cash dividends, making loans to us or our affiliates or otherwise entering into transactions that result in a significant reduction in regulatory net capital or financial resources, without prior notification to or approval from such regulated entity's principal regulator.

In July 2010, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (the "Dodd-Frank Act") was signed into law. Among the most significant aspects of the derivatives section of the Dodd-Frank Act are mandatory clearing of certain derivatives transactions ("swaps") through regulated central clearing organizations and mandatory trading of those swaps through either regulated exchanges or swap execution facilities ("SEFs"), in each case subject to certain key exceptions. In September 2013, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission ("CFTC") granted temporary registration to MarketAxess SEF Corporation, our wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary, to operate a SEF for the trading of swaps subject to the CFTC's jurisdiction. The CFTC's rules relating to the trading of swaps on SEFs were implemented on October 2, 2013. Effective February 26, 2014, counterparties must execute swaps that are subject to the made available for trade determinations on a SEF or designated contract market. The SEC has not yet finalized its rules for security-based SEFs, nor has it published a timetable for the finalization and implementation of such rules. No assurance can be given regarding when, whether or in what form the remaining rules regarding the new regulatory regime for the swaps marketplace will be finalized or implemented.


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The Volcker Rule promulgated under the Dodd-Frank Act bans proprietary trading by banks and their affiliates. The Volcker Rule could adversely affect our bank-affiliated broker-dealer clients' ability to make markets in a variety of fixed-income securities, thereby negatively impacting the level of liquidity and pricing available on our trading platform. We cannot predict the extent to which any future regulatory changes may adversely affect our business and operations.

Similar to the U.S., regulatory bodies in Europe and elsewhere are developing new rules for derivatives trading. For example, the European Parliament and the EU Council of Ministers endorsed an agreement in 2012 that will, among other things, require central clearing of standardized OTC derivatives and the reporting of all derivatives (OTC or otherwise) to trade repositories. However, it is not yet clear whether there will be any requirement in the EU to trade standardized derivative contracts on regulated exchanges or trading platforms.

Rapid Technological Changes

We must continue to enhance and improve our electronic trading platform. The electronic financial services industry is characterized by increasingly complex systems and infrastructures and new business models. Our future success will depend on our ability to enhance our existing products and services, develop and/or license new products and technologies that address the increasingly sophisticated and varied needs of our broker-dealer and institutional investor clients and prospective clients and respond to technological advances and emerging industry standards and practices on a cost-effective and timely basis. We have been issued 12 patents covering our most significant trading protocols and other aspects of our trading system technology and additional patents are pending.

Trends in Our Business

The majority of our revenues are derived from commissions for transactions executed on our platform between our institutional investor and broker-dealer clients and monthly distribution fees. We believe that there are five key variables that impact the notional value of such transactions on our platform and the amount of commissions and distribution fees earned by us:

• the number of institutional investor firms that participate on the platform and their willingness to originate transactions through the platform;

• the number of broker-dealer clients on the platform and the frequency and competitiveness of the price responses they provide to the institutional investor clients;

• the number of markets for which we make trading available to our clients;

• the overall level of activity in these markets; and

• the level of commissions that we collect for trades executed through the platform.

We believe that overall corporate bond market trading volume is affected by various factors including the absolute levels of interest rates, the direction of interest rate movements, the level of new issues of corporate bonds and the volatility of corporate bond spreads versus U.S. Treasury securities. Because a significant percentage of our revenue is tied directly to the volume of securities traded on our platform, it is likely that a general decline in trading volumes, regardless of the cause of such decline, would reduce our revenues and have a significant negative impact on profitability.


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Commission Revenue

Commissions are generally calculated as a percentage of the notional dollar volume of bonds traded on our platform and vary based on the type, size, yield and maturity of the bond traded. The commission rates are based on a number of factors, including fees charged by inter-dealer brokers in the respective markets, average bid-offer spreads in the products we offer and transaction costs through alternative channels including the telephone. Under our transaction fee plans, bonds that are more actively traded or that have shorter maturities are generally charged lower commissions, while bonds that are less actively traded or that have longer maturities generally command higher commissions.

U.S. High-Grade Corporate Bond Commissions. Our U.S. high-grade corporate bond fee plans for fully electronic trades generally incorporate variable transaction fees and distribution fees billed to our broker-dealer clients on a monthly basis. Certain dealers participate in fee programs that do not contain monthly distribution fees and instead incorporate additional per transaction execution fees and minimum monthly fee commitments. Under the fee plans, we electronically add the transaction fee to the spread quoted by the broker-dealer client. The U.S. high-grade transaction fee is generally designated in basis points in yield and, as a result, is subject to fluctuation depending on the duration of the bond traded. The average U.S. high-grade fees per million may vary in the future due to changes in yield and years-to-maturity of bonds traded on our platform.

Other Credit Commissions. Other credit includes emerging markets and high-yield bonds and Eurobonds. Commissions for other credit products generally vary based on the type of the instrument traded using standard fee schedules. Similar to the U.S. high-grade plans, our European fee plans generally incorporate monthly distribution fees as well as variable transaction fees.

Liquid Products Commissions. Liquid products includes U.S. agency and European government bonds. Commissions for liquid products generally vary based on the type of the instrument traded using standard fee schedules.

For trades that we execute between and among institutional investor and broker-dealer clients on a riskless principal basis by serving as counterparty to both the buyer and the seller, we earn our commission through the difference in price between the two riskless principal trades.

We anticipate that average fees per million may change in the future. Consequently, past trends in commissions are not necessarily indicative of future commissions.

Other Revenue

In addition to the commissions discussed above, we earn revenue from information and post-trade services, technology products and services, income on investments and other income.

Information and post-trade services. We generate revenue from information services provided to our broker-dealer clients, institutional investor clients and data-only subscribers. Information services are invoiced monthly, quarterly or annually. When billed in advance, revenues are recognized monthly on a straight-line basis. We also generate revenue from trade matching and regulatory transaction reporting services. Revenue is recognized in the period the services are provided.

Technology Products and Services. We provide technology solutions and professional consulting services to fixed-income industry participants. Technology products and services include software licenses, maintenance and support services and professional consulting services.

Investment Income. Investment income consists of income earned on our investments.

Other. Other revenues include fees from telecommunications line charges to broker-dealer clients, initial set-up fees and other miscellaneous revenues.

Expenses

In the normal course of business, we incur the following expenses:

Employee Compensation and Benefits. Employee compensation and benefits is our most significant expense and includes employee salaries, stock-based compensation costs, other incentive compensation, employee benefits and payroll taxes.

Depreciation and Amortization. We depreciate our computer hardware and related software, office hardware and furniture and fixtures and amortize our capitalized software development costs on a straight-line basis over three to seven years. We amortize leasehold improvements on a straight-line basis over the lesser of the life of the improvement or the remaining term of the lease. Intangible assets with definite lives, including purchased technologies, customer relationships and other intangible assets, are amortized over their estimated useful lives, ranging from three to 15 years. Intangible assets are assessed for impairment when events or circumstances indicate a possible impairment.


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Technology and Communications. Technology and communications expense consists primarily of costs relating to maintenance on software and hardware, our internal network connections, data center hosting costs and data feeds provided by outside vendors or service providers. The majority of our broker-dealer clients have dedicated high-speed communication lines to our network in order to provide fast data transfer. We charge our broker-dealer clients a monthly fee for these connections, which is recovered against the relevant expenses we incur.

Professional and Consulting Fees. Professional and consulting fees consist primarily of accounting fees, legal fees and fees paid to information technology and non-information technology consultants for services provided for the maintenance of our trading platform and information services products.

Occupancy. Occupancy costs consist primarily of office and equipment rent, utilities and commercial rent tax.

Marketing and Advertising. Marketing and advertising expense consists primarily of print and other advertising expenses we incur to promote our products and services. This expense also includes costs associated with attending or exhibiting at industry-sponsored seminars, conferences and conventions, and travel and entertainment expenses incurred by our sales force to promote our trading platform and information services.

General and Administrative. General and administrative expense consists primarily of general travel and entertainment, board of directors' expenses, charitable contributions, provision for doubtful accounts, and various state franchise and U.K. value-added taxes.

Expenses may grow in the future, notably in employee compensation and benefits and depreciation and amortization, primarily due to investment in new products and geographic expansion. However, we believe that operating leverage can be achieved by increasing volumes in existing products and adding new products without substantial additions to our infrastructure.

Critical Accounting Estimates

This Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations discusses our Consolidated Financial Statements, which have been prepared in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States, also referred to as U.S. GAAP. The preparation of these financial statements requires management to make estimates and assumptions that affect the reported amounts of assets and liabilities and the reported amounts of income and expenses during the reporting periods. We base our estimates and judgments on historical experience and on various other factors that we believe are reasonable under the circumstances. Actual results may differ from these estimates under varying assumptions or conditions. Note 2 of the Notes to our Consolidated Financial Statements includes a summary of the significant accounting policies and methods used in the preparation of our Consolidated Financial Statements.

Use of Estimates

On an ongoing basis, management evaluates its estimates and judgments, particularly as they relate to accounting policies that management believes are critical. That is, these accounting policies are most important to the portrayal of our financial condition and results of operations and they require management's most difficult, subjective or complex judgments, often as a result of the need to make estimates about the effect of matters that are inherently uncertain.

Allowance for Doubtful Accounts

All accounts receivable have contractual maturities of less than one year and are derived from trading-related fees and commissions and revenues from products and services. We continually monitor collections and payments from our customers and maintain an allowance for doubtful accounts. The allowance for doubtful accounts is based upon the historical collection experience and specific collection issues that have been identified.


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Software Development Costs

We capitalize certain costs associated with the development of internal use software, including among other items, employee compensation and related benefits and third party consulting costs, at the point at which the conceptual formulation, design and testing of possible software project alternatives have been completed. Once the product is ready for its intended use, such costs are amortized on a straight-line basis over three years. We review the amounts capitalized for impairment whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate that the carrying amounts of the assets may not be recoverable.

Revenue Recognition

The majority of our revenues are derived from commissions for trades executed on our platform and distribution fees that are billed to our broker-dealer clients on a monthly basis. We also derive revenues from information and post-trade services, technology products and services, investment income and other income.

Commission revenue. Commissions are generally calculated as a percentage of the notional dollar volume of bonds traded on the platform and vary based on the type and maturity of the bond traded. Under our transaction fee plans, bonds that are more actively traded or that have shorter maturities are generally charged lower commissions, while bonds that are less actively traded or that have longer maturities generally command higher commissions. For trades that we execute between and among institutional investor and broker-dealer clients on a riskless principal basis by serving as counterparty to both the buyer and the seller, we earn our commission through the difference in price between the two riskless principal trades. Fee programs for certain products include distribution fees which are recognized monthly.

Information and post-trade services. We generate revenue from information services provided to our broker-dealer clients, institutional investor clients and data-only subscribers. Information services are invoiced monthly, quarterly or annually. When billed in advance, revenues are recognized monthly on a straight-line basis. We also generate revenue from trade matching and regulatory transaction reporting. Revenue is recognized in the period the services are provided.

Technology products and services.We generate revenues from technology software licenses, maintenance and support services (referred to as post-contract technical support or "PCS") and professional consulting services. Revenue is generally recognized when persuasive evidence of an arrangement exists, delivery has occurred, the fee is fixed or determinable and collection is considered probable. We generally sell software licenses and PCS together as part of multiple-element arrangements. We also enter into contracts for technology integration consulting services unrelated to any software product.

For arrangements that include multiple elements, generally software licenses and PCS, we allocate and defer revenue for the undelivered items based on vendor specific objective evidence ("VSOE") of the fair value of the undelivered elements and recognize the difference between the total arrangement fee and the amount deferred for the undelivered items as license revenue. Our VSOE of each element is based on historical evidence of stand-alone sales of these elements to third parties or the stated renewal rate for the undelivered elements. When VSOE does not exist for undelivered items, the entire arrangement fee is recognized ratably over the performance period. For PCS, the term is typically one year and revenue is recognized over the duration of the arrangement on a straight-line basis.

Professional consulting services are generally separately priced and are typically not essential to the functionality of our software products. Revenues from these services are recognized separately from the license fee. Generally, revenue from time-and-materials consulting contracts is recognized as services are performed.

Revenues from contracts for technology integration consulting services are recognized on the percentage-of-completion method. Percentage-of-completion accounting involves calculating the percentage of services provided during the reporting period compared to the total estimated services to be provided over the duration of the contract. If estimates indicate that a contract loss will occur, a loss provision is recorded in the period in which the loss first becomes probable and reasonably estimable. Contract losses are determined to be the amount by which the estimated direct and indirect costs of the contract . . .

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