Straight Through Processing (STP)
Straight Through Processing (STP) enables the entire trade process for capital markets and payment transactions to be conducted electronically without the need for re-keying or manual intervention, subject to legal and regulatory restrictions. The concept has also been transferred into other asset classes including energy (oil, gas) trading.
Presently, the entire trade lifecycle, from initiation to settlement, is a complex labyrinth of manual processes, taking several days. STP is at least 'same-day' or faster, ideally minutes or even seconds. The goal is to minimise settlement risk for the execution of a trade and its settlement and clearing to occur simultaneously. However, for this to be achieved, multiple market participants must realise high levels of STP. In particular, transaction data would need to be made available on a just-in-time basis which is a considerably harder goal to achieve for the financial services community than the application of STP alone. After all, STP itself is merely an efficient use of computers for transaction processing.
Historically, STP solutions were needed to help financial markets firms move to one-day trade settlement of equity transactions, as well as to meet the global demand resulting from the explosive growth of online trading. Now the concepts of STP are applied to reduce systemic and operational risk and to improve certainty of settlement and minimize operational costs.
When fully realized, STP will provide asset managers, broker/dealers, custodians and other financial services players with tremendous benefits, including greatly shortened processing cycles, reduced settlement risk and lower operating costs. Some industry analysts believe that STP is not an achievable goal in the sense that firms are unlikely to find the cost/benefit to reach 100% automation. Instead they promote the idea of improving levels of internal STP within a firm while encouraging groups of firms to work together to improve the quality of the automation of transaction information between themselves, either bilaterally or as a community of users (external STP). Other analysts, however, believe that STP will be achieved with the emergence of business process interoperability.