Gain CEO says Swiss franc fallout will cause brokers more pain

LONDON (Reuters) - Retail currency brokers survived the Swiss franc’s surge in January, but they will take more hits as some choose not to pursue into bankruptcy clients who lost money, according to the head of the one of the market’s biggest players.

Speaking to Reuters after completing the purchase of British spread-betting firm City Index in March, U.S.-based Gain Capital Holdings GCAP.N CEO Glenn Stevens said he was still open to acquisitions, pointing to continental Europe and the Middle East as markets where the company could expand.

He said U.S. and British regulators were actively looking at the retail sector after some high-profile losses on the franc, but they were unlikely to put severe limits on retailers.

A number of the big retail trading platforms, including IG IGG.L, Saxobank and FXCM FXCM.N, are owed money by clients who lost everything on their trading accounts and more when the franc jumped almost 40 percent on Jan. 15.

Many, including Gain, have increased margins and cut the leverage they offer customers since then. They say that makes speculation about formal limits moot.

“The reality I think is that the regulators generally will be pretty measured,” Stevens said.

“They’re doing a lot of fact-finding -- I have sat down with the FCA and the Commissioner of the CFTC in the U.S. They are listening, doing things they should and ultimately I don’t expect much change. If it is a somewhat emotional response, in the end the companies with scale will probably suffer less.”

Gain, one of the market’s biggest players with 225,000 retail clients and more than $1 billion (682 million pounds) in client assets, has written off debts from clients, and Stevens said he expected others would do the same.

Many of those hurt are not financial professionals and say they are effectively bankrupt, leading to a string of negative media stories for the brokers.

“They’ll send three nasty ‘grams to the small guy and hope that the guy caves,” Stevens said. “But they may send the lawyers to knock on the door of the guy who owes seven figures.”

On acquisitions, Stevens added:

“We can do more. It might be a region, it might be a product expertise, it might be a particular platform that bodes well. We continue to have a gap in some parts of continental Europe. We need to be a lot stronger in the Middle East. We could probably do better in terms of some of our portal content.”

Editing by Larry King