The LME has robust business continuity procedures in place designed to deal with a wide variety of potential developments to ensure service resiliency, availability and stability across our platforms, during and around unforeseen events, crisis, or out-of-the-ordinary operating environments.
The LME’s framework has modelled and anticipated a broad range of scenarios, including pandemics.
The LME enacted its BC pandemic plan in early 2020 in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 to address potential risks.
The LME places the utmost importance on managing the health and safety of its staff, its Ring dealing member teams and the wider community, as well as maintaining a stable and orderly market.
The pandemic plan includes necessary protocols as part of a response to a number of contagion/infection related scenarios with preparations undertaken to ensure an efficient, effective and appropriate response should a suspected or confirmed case arise.
The LME’s plans consider the end-to-end provision of business services including its vendors and business partners.
The LME has implemented the following measures in response to the spread of COVID-19 and to mitigate contagion risk and maintain an orderly market:
Home-working for LME employees where possible
Full risk assessment of workplace completed regularly to ensure risks are appropriately mitigated for the safety of those staff returning to the office
Contingency plans for LME Ring trading, the warrant depository function and other potential physical supply issues
The LME continues to monitor the evolving situation, including UK Government guidance and measures initiated, and will also continue to liaise with industry bodies, regulators and experienced business continuity professionals.
Additionally, the LME has issued weekly updates to members on policy changes as the situation evolves.
The LME’s pandemic plan enables it to continue to serve the metals and financial community with all its business services available.
The LME temporarily moved to fully electronic pricing on Monday 23 March 2020 (with prices being calculated on the basis of electronic market activity on LMEselect). Ring trading is being suspended until conditions normalise in respect of COVID-19, at which point Ring trading will resume. During this period, trading will be conducted via LMEselect and the inter-office market.
This decision took into account relevant advice of the UK Government, and was taken to protect the health and safety of LME staff and the staff of Category 1 members, as well as to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Since this time the UK Government advice has continued to prioritise social distancing as a key method for avoiding the spread of infection. Notwithstanding the easing of social distancing rules from 4 July 2020 in respect of the “1m+” alternative to the 2 metre rule, the position of the LME remains not to reopen the Ring until such a time as it would be consistent with the Government’s social distancing guidance.
The LME continues to engage with its Category 1 members as guidelines evolve and remains committed to reopening the Ring once it is safe to do so.
Further information regarding the criteria set out by the LME for the return to Ring trading can be found in Notice 20/187. In addition, this notice provides information regarding the incentive programme introduced for Category 1 members from 1 August, which is intended to provide some recompense to them in response to the current exceptional measures that are being taken to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The LME issued its latest BC pricing procedures for the determination of Official and Closing Prices on 19 March 2020 following detailed further analysis by the LME in the light of the COVID-19 situation and with invaluable input from members.
Following detailed discussions with our Ring-dealing members and User Committee, and having fully assessed the updated UK Government guidance that came into effect on 4 July, our position remains not to reopen the Ring until such a time as it would be consistent with the Government’s social distancing guidance. While it remains challenging to provide certainty on a timeline for reopening due to our reliance on Government guidance, we will be providing a roadmap to our members and the wider market regarding the specific criteria for reopening the Ring, which will be communicated in due course. We will also continue to actively assess our options as the guidelines evolve, while prioritising the health and safety of our staff, of our Ring members’ staff, and ensuring that we minimise infection rates for the benefit of society.
The benchmark methodologies for the Official Prices and Closing Prices continue to apply, with the LME relying in particular on its ability to calculate Official Prices and Closing Prices on the basis of LMEselect activity.
Depository and warehouse operations
The LME and its depository provider are working together on contingency plans. Currently the depository service has not been affected by the Coronavirus outbreak and the depository has taken additional steps to minimise the risk to its current operating model. These measures include deploying staff to various locations to avoid cross contamination between teams, and enhanced hygiene practices. Should a member of staff contract the virus the current plan is for the depository service to cease for a time to allow for a deep clean of the premises before a new team can be brought on site to support the service offering. As a result of these measures, Members may experience a delay during times of peak activity in relation to their lodgement or withdrawal instructions.
Given the dynamic nature of the current situation, we would encourage Members to be forward-thinking in terms of their warranting needs. There are currently many more warrants in the depository than needed for settlement, and the transfer of those existing warrants is an entirely electronic process. It is of course possible that, in an extreme situation, the virus could disrupt the physical movement of metal or the shipment of new warrants to the depository, and the LME always encourages short position holders to ensure that they have warrants available for settlement.
Additionally, the LME has received a number of questions and concerns about the possibility of market tightness or physical supply disruption caused by difficulties in putting metal on warrant or delivering metal in to and out of warehouses.
As a general point, the LME expects its listed warehouses to have robust procedures in place to deal with the effects of COVID-19, and warehouses should make every effort to continue to meet their obligations under the Warehouse Agreement and applicable policies.
Nevertheless, the LME is conscious that the nature of COVID-19 means that it is foreseeable that a Delivery Point, or an individual Warehouse within a Delivery Point, is forced to shut for a period of time. If a Delivery Point as a whole is shut, then it follows that all the Warehouses operating within that Delivery Point would also be unable to operate. Given these risks, the LME has developed procedures to manage the temporary unavailability of a Warehouse or Delivery Point as a result of COVID-19, in line with the provisions of the Warehouse Agreement and addressing potential issues around delivery obligations, warranting, and rent payments. These procedures have been discussed with the LME Warehousing Committee and would only be invoked (via LME Notice) in the event of closures relating to COVID-19.
In addition, the LME has contingency plans in place to enable warehouse listings to take place remotely – on a temporary basis – should it become necessary to do so. This will ensure that listings for additional warehouse space can still be considered, as long as supporting evidence can be provided to show that the warehouse meets the LME’s listing criteria.
Further, it is worth noting that the LME’s Special Committee has a broad range of powers to ensure an ongoing orderly market.