Otkritie’s Tim Bevan describes the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the Russian markets, and offers suggestions on how to effectively access the deep liquidity there.
How would you profile the firms that are interested in DMA to Russia?
There is an interest in DMA to Russia from prime brokerage desks because many of the hedge funds that use the global prime brokers have expressed interest in Russia, now that the liquidity has reached the point it has. It is worth pointing out that the liquidity in the local equity market is approximately $2.5 billion a day, and the derivatives market turnover is $10 billion notional a day. These are very significant and deep pools of liquidity. We are certainly seeing client pressure from different areas hitting Tier 1 banks, which in turn is reflected onto us. We are also seeing the big global electronic brokers looking to add Russia to their coverage.
There is sustained sell-side interest, but the other big pocket of interest we are seeing is from the low-latency, high frequency funds that utilize proximity hosting and co-location, who want to place hardware in Moscow and run their strategies in the electronic order books that are available there. There are many more of these types of participants now and they are often in London, New York, Chicago, Amsterdam, Paris and other parts of Europe.
How extensively are algos utilized in Russian DMA?
Obviously for a high frequency fund, the algo is the strategy. This is clearly different from execution algos, like VWAP, which are used to execute orders in a certain manner. Most Russian brokers have the most basic execution algos like VWAP, TWAP, icebergs, etc. It is a relatively new trend (i.e. 6-9 months old) for the big sell-sides to enter Russia, and many have not yet deployed their more sophisticated suites of algos into the Russian market.
Additionally, the Russian market itself, is quite unusual in that there is a lot of programming skill in Russia. The average Russian retail trader is quite often running an algo through an Excel spreadsheet with $10-20,000 worth of capital, so as regards alpha strategies, there is a lot of algo activity in the Russian market. In terms of execution algos, however, I think it has not penetrated this segment yet. As the sell-sides continue to move into the electronic market, the second phase will be to deploy their own execution algos and offer them to their main clients, but we are at the beginning of that part of the process.
With the majority of liquidity isolated in a dozen stocks, how would Russian DMA fit into a firm’s overall trading/investment strategy?
Liquidity is very concentrated in Russia. The top ten names account for the vast majority of liquidity, and even the top two or three probably make up 50% of the market. DMA is possible beyond the top 15 or 20, but it drops off fairly quickly thereafter. Obviously the big blue chip companies are where most of the interest is. Taking Sberbank as an example, there is no liquid Depository Receipt (DR) and there is an unsponsored DR trading of about $2 million a day in Germany. If you want to trade that stock, you have to trade the local market, where it trades between half to a billion dollars a day notional, so there are some very deeply liquid companies that are only available in the local market.
What other asset classes are being attracted or will attract DMA interest?
The biggest interest is in the RTS Index futures, which is an incredibly powerful product. Trading over $5 billion a day notional, more than double of all of Russian equity instruments (both DR and local), sometimes by a factor of two. RTS Index futures trade from 0700 UK time right through to the US close and are among the top ten most liquid equity index futures in the world. This instrument has generated the majority of interest from the quant funds, but interest is increasingly coming from more standard hedge funds and buy-sides where they are allowed to trade futures as it provides an instant hedge or leverage tool with an almost bottomless liquidity pool for any one player.
John Bates of Progress explains how complex event processing works and how it can simplify the use of algorithms for finding and capturing trading opportunities.
A brief summary of Complex Event Processing
Complex Event Processing (CEP) is about treating actions that happen all the time as specific events, which describe the action, and then being able to analyze those events as they are streaming through a system, while looking through them for patterns that create opportunities or threats. In the trading world, this means things like trading opportunities, such as monitoring a set of instruments across multiple trading venues and looking for particular patterns. Those patterns might be high frequency trading (HFT), statistical arbitrage, correlation relationship between two items, or even execution algorithms that are slicing orders based on some predefined metric.
The threats often focus around pre-trade risk. For example, will placing the trade exceed predefined risk levels, or run into potentially abusive trades, like a wash trade. CEP is about being able to monitor business in real-time to analyze what is happening now and, based on that, to try to predict what is about to happen and act on it immediately.
The value of Complex Event Processing
The world of trading is so fast moving. Research done by the AITE Group suggests that the average lifespan of a trading algorithm can be as short as three months. This is because new trading patterns are constantly coming to light and ones that might have been very successful might no longer be available as the markets become more efficient. In the old days, trading algorithms were like a cottage industry, in much the same way as the making of muskets used to be. Highly paid and highly skilled craftsmen would handcraft the algorithm. It was the domain of the very rich and not very many could be involved in the game.
With the advent of CEP technologies in the last ten years, now anyone can find patterns in fast-flowing data feeds, but more importantly, CEP provides the tools for business people to describe new algorithms quickly. This means that traders can keep up with a trading world that is moving ever faster, and which the handmade craftsmen struggle to keep up with. Suddenly, it has become easier for smaller firms to create algorithms to compete with the larger ones. There has been a revolution in software for the trading space, in that firms of all sizes now have access to the technology that was previously available only to Tier 1 banks.
Peeking under the bonnet
In a CEP platform, there is an engine which has the tools that allow you to model and visualize new strategies as they are running, as well as see any opportunities or threats. On top of this is an adaptive layer, with connectors to convey different formats of events in and out of the processing engine, taking in market data and sending out trades. CEP platforms can work off a simple consolidated feed, but organizations find that it is better to connect to trading venues directly because it reduces the latency and things can be seen as they happen.
In this article, Equiduct Trading’s Joint CEO Artur Fischer argues that in times of extreme structural and economic change, there is an even greater requirement for transparency. He believes that in an increasingly fragmented market, there’s an even greater risk that organisations will need even more help if they are to avoid effectively trading in the dark with no clear consolidated view of market pricing. Here he identifies the growing requirement for a new generation of virtual order book that can consolidate all the visible pre-trade information generated from significant relevant markets, effectively delivering transparency and providing firms with access to a single, unbiased source of pan-European equity price data.
The European equity markets have undergone a period of rapid and unprecedented change over the past two years. While some of these shifts have been mainly related to the still-evolving current global economic situation – leading to the disappearance or restructuring of some of the biggest names in finance – others have centred around newlyintroduced regulation, with the arrival of new types of execution venues and cross border clearing venues being among the most obvious and significant.
These changes have created some huge challenges (and it should be said equally huge opportunities) for market participants, whether they be the large broker dealers having to connect to all the new trading venues in search of liquidity, or a pension fund simply trying to understand what the “Best Execution” he has been promised actually means.
Each of the incumbent Exchanges, the new Multilateral Trading Facilities (MTF), and the growing number of Dark Pools or Crossing Networks provides an alternative USP for execution of equity orders, and each operates with a slightly different business model - both pre and post trade. This has understandably stimulated competition for order flow liquidity, introducing alternatives in the post trade space, and leading to a major shake up in fees. Not surprisingly, this has also irreversibly fragmented liquidity. However, this fragmentation is an evolving process; the picture is far from complete or even stable, and can be expected to go through several consolidation and subsequent fragmentation phases before the next “Big Bang”.
Opening up the European equity markets With new entrants into the execution space, Europe’s equity market is opening up for investors from across the world. FIX-compliant technology is enabling easier connectivity to the new venues and providing an opportunity for a wider range of firms to get access to venues over and above the incumbent. In Vol 2 Issue 8 December 2008 of FIXGlobal, John Palazzo of Cheuvreux stated “FIX affords every broker the ability to get into these markets at an unprecedented pace” – at Equiduct we certainly agree, but there are still some considerable challenges.
How, for example, do “sell-side” firms determine whether they should connect to these new venues? How do they then prioritise which to connect to? How do they choose where to actually send their order? Also, how do “buy-side” investors understand which venues their brokers should be connected to, if they are to ensure them the mythical Best Execution? What price should they be using to markto- market at the end of each day and for intraday position risk purposes?
At Equiduct, we’re hoping to provide some of the answers to these important questions. We hope to be able to shed some light on the situation and show how to achieve best execution on the various available platforms with a range of analytical tools. Uniquely, the toolset includes a Pan-European aggregated feed.
Ensuring execution on the most appropriate platform Firms across the trading spectrum, whether small or large, are increasingly using sophisticated smart-order-routing solutions and algorithmic trading systems to “slice” orders and to determine where they should distribute the pieces across the Dark Pools, MTF and Exchanges. However, in order for these systems and indeed an individual trader to start to effectively predict the future, it is important to understand the present and the past. Information providers such as Markit or Fidessa with their Fragmentation Index can confirm the common knowledge that liquidity fragmentation is a reality once a trade has been executed. However they do not have the ability to see how the market should have performed by examining the pre-trade order and price information that was available at the time of trade.
At Equiduct we have been collating all visible pre-trade information (Level II data) for the top 700 shares across Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK from the major European venues (BATS, Chi-X, NYSE Euronext, London Stock Exchange, Nasdaq OMX, Turquoise, Xetra) since April 2008. Yes, a significant percentage of order flow has moved away from the incumbent exchanges but what is not such common knowledge is that trades are still not always executed on the most appropriate platform. Indeed our analysis shows that in April 2009 a significant proportion of trades executed on the incumbent exchanges should have been transacted on an alternative venue, and approximately 35% of executed trades are still not transacted on the best price venue. Significant price improvement could have been achieved if this had happened. (See Diagram 1)
Can there possibly be a silver lining in the current financial meltdown? John Knuff of Equinix, argues that now is a time to upgrade your investment, allowing the Asia Pacific region to catch up with its US and European peers.
While the global financial crisis has inevitably had an impact on investment, most commentators seem to agree, that the Asia Pacific market will see on-going development, particularly as it continues to invest in the infrastructure and technologies, that will allow it to match its US and European counterparts, in key areas such as execution speed, easier market access and direct data feeds.
Analysts such as Celent see the current downturn as a significant opportunity for Asia exchanges, even suggesting in a recent report that Asian exchanges have the potential to overtake their US colleagues in the near future. Before this can happen, however, there needs to be sustained investment in the technology, skills and processes that will enable lower latency, easier access and faster data feeds across the region.
One of the key challenges remains the diversity of the region. While the geographical diversity, and vast distances involved, will always make it hard for traders to gain low latency access to multiple market centers, the added complexity of local regulations and last mile access make region-wide performance goals even more difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, factors such as direct market access, the increasing presence of alternative trading systems and the introduction of crossing networks, will have a tremendous impact shortly after local regulations ease.
Investing to close the gap with other global markets To assume that the different markets in the Asia Pacific region will progress seamlessly together towards a more deregulated and open environment would be unrealistic. The global financial crisis is already leading some Asia Pacific exchanges and regulators to be more defensive in their outlook. However, it also provides an opportunity, for more traditional venues, to develop and implement their own alternative trading strategies to compete, more favourably, with new market entrants as conditions improve.
It is this imperative to remedy the handicap of limited bandwidth and slower trading platforms, that is driving Asia Pacific financial institutions to continue to update their technology infrastructure. As many of the incumbent exchanges re-tool their matching engines and foster technology partnerships, with global leaders like NASDAQ OMX and NYSE Euronext, the broker / dealer communities are quickly positioning themselves to be the partner of choice for many of their US and European counterparts.
Given this background, we believe it’s important for Asian market participants to ensure they are making the right infrastructure and connectivity choices today, to allow them to compete more effectively tomorrow.
A world of more end points and more trading venues In an Asia Pacific market driven by the continued growth of automated and algorithmic trading, the emergence of new liquidity opportunities and increasing numbers of order destinations and market data sources, we’re increasingly going to see financial firms trading a much wider range of asset classes and instruments across broader geographies.
In those countries, where the incumbent exchanges still handle the majority of trading, these new market developments will have a significant impact as local traders who, limited by their current choices, increasingly send order flows to more accessible and transparent electronic markets. All this translates into more end points and execution venues, and is driving demand among financial services firms for a greater choice of networks with low latency/ high bandwidth capabilities to enable these higher message rates and optimise throughput.
With the landscape of the Asia Pacific market's different trading centers evolving so quickly, it’s becoming increasingly apparent that a strong element of foresight, and much broader connectivity options, will play as important a role as proximity, when it comes to making location decisions across the Asia Pacific region.
Making the right technology decisions This is important given the highly volatile and competitive nature of today’s financial markets. Trading volumes are shifting dramatically, new entrants are changing the market opportunities, and there’s a continued growth in automated, algorithmic and alternative trading strategies. At the same time, many markets are fragmenting away from their traditional single venue exchange-based structure, while major players continue to join forces in line with the trend of globalization and consolidation.
Whatever your line of business, there’s a pressing requirement for a stable, global infrastructure that assists you in achieving your market goals. Whether you’re an asset management firm or a hedge fund, you depend on the ability to access continuous streams of global market data, messaging, news, history and analysis to ensure successful execution of your trading strategy. Or you could be an exchange that needs to be able to quickly connect to participants or clients, receive orders over a range of different financial extranets and broker connections, post or match the orders almost instantly, and respond in milliseconds (or increasingly microseconds).
Is the financial turmoil of recent months driving change in the brokerage model faster than ever? ITG's Ofir Gefen believes the role of the broker is changing in an irreversible way, and that geographic differences are becoming less relevant to the brokerage model as the more pressing concerns of high volatility and trading costs, counterparty risk and business ownership come to the fore.
Recent turmoil in the financial and investment banking industry at a global level is pushing sweeping changes to the brokerage model across the board. Despite fundamental differences in market structure and buy-side behaviour between the US electronic trading world and that of Asia, the financial crisis is now creating convergence at a quicker rate than anticipated. Both buy and sell-side are being forced to adapt, prioritise and focus on costs, risk and efficiency. As the role of the broker changes, market boundaries are deemed less relevant as trading costs, volatility and counterparty risk move centre stage.
Having spent many years working in both product development and sales in the US, when I moved to Asia I expected to encounter similar challenges to those we had already gone through in the US. I soon realised it is easy to underestimate the issues created by the diverse market structures, regulations, cultures and trading behaviours across the Asia Pacific markets. As such, I prepared myself for a relatively slow evolution before the buy-side here would use brokers in a similar way to their US counterparts. The US market was characterised by a highly diversified range of electronic trading tools, mechanisms and providers, where the market had evolved in response to a range of demands from the buy-side, but operated within a homogenised market structure.
In Asia the range of brokers and the services they offer have generally been less differentiated, with markets gradually opening up to DMA and the adoption of algorithms, crossing networks and alternative trading venues still in the comparatively early stages. A 2007 Greenwich Associates report focusing on the US market looked at the evolution of electronic trading in response to sophisticated segmentation of liquidity, while at the same time talk in Asia was more at the mechanical level of developing connectivity and adoption of electronic trading.
As we move towards the second quarter of 2009, similar reports have a very different tone. The December 2008 TABB group study ‘US Institutional Equity Trading: Crisis, Crossing and Competition’ states: “These are tumultuous times… Trading becomes a treacherous affair, with all previous metrics of volatility and transaction costs going right out the window. Both asset managers and brokerage firms are in uncharted waters. The implications for the relationship between the buy-side and sell-side are far reaching and many of the assumptions we hold about that relationship will be overturned”. This is as true for Asia as it is for the US.
Moving beyond old-style equity execution The traditional value of the sell-side broker has often been intrinsically linked to the provision of stock research, access to IPOs and capital commitment. In an environment where markets are swinging wildly based on high level economic and social factors, IPO pipelines have dried up and capital commitment is now too risky to offer, the traditional sell-side brokerage model is called into question. This has been compounded by the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the acquisition of some large investment banks and the recategorisation of others to commercial banks. Some asset management firms and hedge funds are now stuck trying to reclaim commission credits from the bankrupted Lehmans and counterparty risk is no longer just the concern of compliance officers. Its effects are now directly relevant to the buy-side trading desks. Simply put, asset managers are needing to move beyond the old methods of equity execution and reduce their dependency on traditional counterparties, wherever in the world they are trading.
In Asia Pacific, the variety of market structures, the lack of any common regulatory framework and the logistical challenges buy-side trading desks have faced in establishing trading across the region have dominated the evolution of electronic trading. Traders have often experienced different challenges in finding liquidity than their US counterparts. Nevertheless, buy-side adoption of DMA, algorithms, dark liquidity and crossing has been steadily growing, helped by the commitment of firms with different types of brokerage models to bringing new electronic options to the region. In the past few years, not only have the investment banks invested significantly in developing electronic trading tools for the region, but innovative agency brokers, crossing networks and, imminently, MTF-like structures have brought new opportunities to the market.
Few markets can boast the growth numbers seen in the South Africa trading community over the past five years. Technology provider, Peresys, has championed the development of electronic trading and FIX during this period. Ashley Mendelowitz, CEO of Peresys, looks at what other emerging markets can learn from the southerly nations experience.
The adoption of the FIX Protocol and concomitant growth in electronic trading in South Africa has been nothing short of prodigious. A little over five years ago the local trading environment had the characteristics of your typical turn of the century emerging market – comparatively low volumes, telephonic orders, paper based order management and error strewn post trade administration.
Half a decade later, and the picture has altered in dramatic fashion. The value of cash equities traded on the local exchange has sky-rocketed to US$34.6 billion in October 2008, from US$6.6 billion five years earlier, an impressive 424 percent increase. Offshore originated electronic trading accounts for up to 25 percent by value traded, while upward of 90 percent of local institutional orders are now routed electronically. Capping the meteoric growth, South Africa now has the largest single stock futures market in the world, by number of contracts.
None of this would have happened without the FIX Protocol.
The seeds were sown as far back as 1997 when the top two or three buy-side firms began to explore options in terms of taking their equity desks electronic. It quickly became clear that the barriers to automation were high and wide. These included:
Non-existent order management systems on the buy-side and sell-side
Telecommunications monopoly and exorbitant bandwidth costs
Reluctance of traders on either side to change their work flow
Lack of open application programming interface (API) to the exchange matching engine or broker trading systems
Virgin territory insofar as a globally accepted messaging and session management protocol for pre-trade and trade messaging
Lack of local or international vendor appetite to invest in building a workable solution that addressed all of the above barriers.
Breaking Down Barriers It took some five years to gradually knock down or climb over the barriers above, through cash and resource investment, constant evangelising the benefits of electronic order routing by the converted (including our firm) and, critically, the buy-in and backing of a buy-side champion. The first buy side champion in South Africa not only committed its firm to the concept, but also made it clear to its sell-side counterparties that the telephone would be phased out within twelve months.
In 2003, the implementation of a first buy-side to ten brokers began, as well as the selection of a FIX engine provider flexible enough to price their product at ‘emerging market’ levels. Within three years, the first FIX hub had established a South African footprint spanning eight of the top ten buyside firms, the top thirty five broker members of the local exchange and a large chunk of local and international hedge funds trading SA equities.
Once Direct Market Access (DMA) was allowed on the SA equities exchange, the ability for brokers to receive orders via FIX played a key part in the exponential growth in DMA trading volumes originating from outside the country. Multinational investment banks and hedge funds could leverage their existing FIX infrastructure to trade into SA in a cost effective, reliable and high speed manner.
Today all the barriers to electronic trading have been removed:
Local and offshore vendors have successfully rolled out FIX compliant OMS products
Local telecom competition and the decision to connect the local Hub to any global FIX network based on demand has translated into cheap connectivity
Traders have seen the financial benefit of increased order flow through electronic messaging
The exchange implemented a comprehensive and well documented API
FIX has addressed all user concerns about a global standard for messaging formats, workflow and session management
Electronic trading pioneers paved the way for other buy-side/brokers/vendors to follow in offering products that exploit FIX, including hubs, order management systems, algorithmic trading and IOIs
Appetite for risk has never been lower and liquidity has never been tougher to identify. The downstream effect is impacting every part of the electronic trading business and culture. Quod Financial's Ali Pichvai examines where he sees the sea change in trading skills and style.
We are at the midst of a structural, and subsequently cultural, change in the capital markets. Firms’ appetite for risk is shifting and counterparty risk is now high on the agenda. This trickles to each function and aspect of investment and execution; from investment decision making, to risk management, and the mechanics of the electronic trading. In addition, liquidity is increasingly fragmented across a multitude of pools and is affecting how electronic markets are evolving. So how does this landscape impact how firms will trade?
Changes on the buy-side and how the future will look are still uncertain. The hedge fund industry, the great innovator investor class, has in large part been discredited and its model will need to drastically change. The quasi-demise of this large segment will leave a void that needs to be filled. It seems that the future lies in more transparent, better risk-managed, low-cost listed products, which respond to the appetite of global multi-asset investment and execution strategy of the investors. Furthermore it is now clear that liquidity and solvency are intimately linked, and evaporating or volatile liquidity creates systemic risk on solvency. This will, without doubt, have a large impact on future capital market structures.
The buy-side transformation will inevitably accelerate the pace of the current secular trends of more electronic trading on centrally cleared liquidity venues and competing global or regional multi-asset liquidity venues. NYSE Euronext, as a global multi-asset liquidity venue, seems to be the role model for all other market participants. The liquidity fragmentation, as observed today, will certainly be greater and more complex going forward. It also seems we have entered a second age of liquidity fragmentation, with three phenomena which have appeared, or been reinforced, in the current turmoil.
Liquidity is becoming ever more dynamic. As competition increases price wars are becoming more frequent, and pricing models are being altered to attract more and more liquidity. For instance, the rebate model for passive orders (i.e. by resting a passive order, you can receive a fee) has often been used as an effective marketing tool for new alternative trading systems. Clients are therefore moving their execution on a realtime basis from venue to venue, as pricing evolves within a competitive landscape, making liquidity ever more dynamic.
Liquidity is decreasing transparency. As new dark pools and brokers internalisation profligate, with the US equities having achieved 17% of execution in these dark venues, the level of transparency is decreasing. This creates a massive trading challenge. Transparent liquidity is important since it creates an efficient price discovery model, which then disappears into a non-transparent execution model.As transparency decreases, in addition to market data sourced from the different displayed prices, there is a need to move to real-time post-trade analysis, to rebuild a more intelligent picture of liquidity.
Volatility increases fragmentation and increases execution risk. The current intraday volatility, and an even lower period volatility, is much greater than at any other time, and bigger than the impact of incurred costs. As seeking liquidity becomes more important, fragmentation will increase. The result is a new type of risk which needs to be mitigated; the execution risk. This means that the investment case can be fully redundant if the execution in a highly volatile market is not properly performed. This risk evolves from the inability to execute down to execution too far away from the investment decision. Another obvious effect is that the widespread algorithmic trading engines, which were built to limit for low volatility markets, have become obsolete. Nowadays, in an averagely volatile day, it is not uncommon to have 300 basis points of volatility, which dwarfs a single digit basis point cost impact. That means that the next cycle of investment in algorithmic trading needs to be redirected towards liquidity seeking algorithmic trading (also called smart order routing - arguably a misnomer, since it is simply routing rather than delivering a real-time decision making process).
What a lot can change in a year! Since the last FPL Canada conference, held in May 2008, Canada has been drawn into the liquidity crunch along with the rest of the world. Yet Canada has a risk and regulatory model that is different from many of its established trading partners, most notably the US and the UK. Can the world learn lessons from the Canadian experience?
With only weeks to go until Canada’s leading electronic trading event, it is still hard to pick what the credit crisis and regulatory environment will look like on June 1st, the first day of the conference. What we do know is that there will be increased regulatory involvement, particularly in areas that were previously not subject to scrutiny. In the run up to the event, we asked a range of experts to comment on what they feel will be the hot topics at this year’s event.
Conference Hot Topics
(A) Market Volatility Market volatility has certainly changed trading patterns. The increasing reliance on electronic trading, leveraged through Direct Market Access/Algorithmic Trading or a portfolio trading desk, is directly connected to the growing need to manage risk, volatility and capital availability. We have seen a dramatic uptake in these services/tools, as there has not only been a focus on how electronic trading is conducted, but also on the expectations of trading costs involved versus benchmarks. The greatest impact has been a higher use of electronic trading strategies relative to more traditional trading and a shift in the types of electronic trading strategies employed.
From a single stock perspective, many traders were loath to execute at single, specific price points due to the potential for adverse percentage swings in the high single to double digits. Algorithms have been employed on a more frequent basis, to help traders participate throughout intervals on an intraday basis, managing risk around the volatility. The violent intraday swings also create significantly more opportunities in the long-short space. Quantitative execution tools have became more of a focus, to take advantage of these opportunities on an automated basis.
What the industry is saying: “In terms of disruptions relating to market volatility, the Canadian trading infrastructure generally held up admirably. Most dealer, vendor, and marketplace systems handled the massive increases in message traffic and activity with little noticeable impact on performance. This is proof positive that the investment in capacity and competition was well worth it and is now paying dividends.” Matt Trudeau, Chi-X Canada
“Electronic platforms using FIX and algorithmic routers handled significant market fluctuations with no impact to performance. Speed to market for orders made it possible for traders to minimize exposure to huge swings in pricing and to capitalize on opportunity.” Tom Brown, RBC Asset Management
“Many traditional desks were shell-shocked and did not know how to respond to the volatility combined with the lack of capital. Electronic trading tools like algos enabled people to manage extremely volatile situations with great responsiveness. They were able to set the parameters for their trades and let the algo respond as market conditions warranted. Trading of baskets/lists made having electronic execution tools critical. You couldn’t possibly manage complex lists in real-time without very sophisticated electronic front-end trading tools.” Anne-Marie Ryan, AMR Associates
“The recent volatility spike means that risk will likely be scrutinized more in the future than in the past. Post-trade transaction cost measurement systems generally do not consider risk but instead focus on cost. To properly align the interests of the firm and the trader, performance measurement systems will need to reflect both cost and risk considerations.” Chris Sparrow, Liquidnet Canada
Jenny Tsouvalis of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) sees a need for effective integration of investment management and trading processes. “On-line, real-time electronic trading systems provide quick access to liquidity and when coupled with real-time pricing embedded into blotters, identify the effect of market changes on the portfolios and the effect of trading decisions.”
“Electronic trading has been successful because of its ability to be adaptive, so it is likely to change in reaction to current issues.” Randee Pavalow, Alpha Trading Systems.
“We’ve seen an increase in the use of algorithms and over the day orders as volatility has increased. The ability to smooth orders over a longer period limits the exposure to price swings during the day. VWAP, TWAP and percentage of volume, seem to be the algos of choice for many these days.” John Christofilos, Canaccord Capital
(B) Algorithms and Smart Order Routing
Smart order routing is still relatively new in Canada; however alternative trading systems and exchanges are now becoming part of the trading landscape. While the technology solutions are there, effectively deploying them in Canada requires further development. Presentations at the conference will focus on methods to source liquidity at the primary exchange and via the five alternative trading venues.
What the industry is saying: “Significant progress has been made in multiple market connectivity and smart order routing capabilities during the past six months, but there is still a lot of distance to make up compared with other jurisdictions. Participants need to have greater flexibility and control when it comes to order routing.” Matt Trudeau, Chi-X Canada
“The inability of secondary trading venues to accommodate volumes and provide liquidity during primary market disruptions, raised questions as to secondary providers having sufficient connectivity to all market participants and the lack of price discovery transparency.” Tom Brown, RBC Asset Management
“Algorithmic trading technology really proved itself during a primary market outage. Clients were able to execute their strategies on Canadian inter-listed stocks seamlessly. Orders were posted in the United States, and if better prices were available in Canada, the algos grabbed them. However, few clients were willing to post bids and offers in alternative markets when no one else was.” Lou Mouaket and Graham Mackenzie, CIBC World Markets
“Electronic Trading, like traditional trading, is at the mercy of the exchanges being able to post bid and offers and execute orders on a timely basis. Once that connection is disrupted, the ability to order route to other markets through a “Best Market Router” becomes more important. Within a multiple market environment, the ability to execute client orders on other markets has become a must for dealers and clients.” John Christofilos, Canaccord Capital
Despite the rapid advances in sophisticated trading tools, Bank of America Merril Lynch’s Anthony Victor argues that in times of volatility a knowledge of the basics has never been more important.
While market structure and technologies may have transformed, basic trading skills are still critical to success.You do not succeed in any career unless you learn the basics and build a solid foundation in the fundamentals. For a role in electronic trading, the basics include understanding trading mechanics, market structure and technology, as well as the platforms that clients use to trade. Those old monochrome Quotron machines that were prevalent on trading floors when I started my career are now on the trash heap, replaced by state-of-the art technology, including touch-screen order management systems and workstations that supply news, market data, and analytics.
Since 2000, there have been some very dramatic changes in market structure such as decimalization, the advent of Reg. NMS and an increasing number of liquidity pools. Some of these changes resulted in a reduction of bid/offer spreads and a decrease in average trade size, which in turn, pushed market participants to use more advanced trading technology and ultimately algorithmic trading.
Algorithmic trading strategies, initially used by Portfolio Desks to manage large baskets of stocks, were eventually rolled out directly to the buy side. Trading no longer required multiple phone calls with instructions to execute an order. With a mere push of a button, these instructions could be sent electronically and trading goals could be efficiently realized. However, use of these tools still requires a good understanding of the basics and a team of support professionals that understand the nuances of how algorithmic strategies operate in the marketplace.
Within the last five years, Electronic Sales Trading (EST) desks have emerged on Wall Street to support the clients' electronic trading activity. Unlike traditional sales trading, which focuses on what clients are trading, electronic sales trading puts the emphasis on how they are trading. Most EST desks have evolved from a pure internal support role into a client-facing, direct coverage role that assesses a client’s performance via real-time benchmark monitoring and post-trade transaction cost analysis. Electronic Sales Traders need to understand market structure and their firm’s algorithmic offering (and that of the competition) to successfully support the trading platform.
While market structure, trading tools, and trading desk responsibilities have all evolved over time, basic trading skills are still critical to success. Part of that skill set includes the ability to maintain a disciplined approach to trading amidst a barrage of news, overall market fragmentation, and a huge volume of market data. Algorithms have assisted the buy-side coping with the complexity of the marketplace, but the choice of strategy ultimately belongs to the trader.
In Q4 2008, when volatility (the amount of uncertainty or risk about the size of changes in a security's value) peaked and preyed upon market participants’ emotions, many traders moved to more aggressive electronic trading strategies. In that tough environment, traders migrated away from passive strategies, like VWAP and lowparticipation algorithms, to more aggressive liquidity-seeking strategies, including an increased use of ‘dark pool’ aggregators. In a more volatile environment, traders felt pressure to make a stand or risk higher opportunity costs.
However, sometimes intuitive approaches do not work as expected. When analyzing the effects of the volatile market and looking at the slippage, or the difference of the execution price versus the price at time of order receipt (arrival price slippage), these aggressive strategies proved less successful than passive strategies, primarily due to the effects of volatility on spreads and depth of book. During that period, our research shows that S&P 500 spreads widened an average of 72% and book depth decreased 42% compared to Q1. Wide spreads and decreased book depth created a treacherous environment for aggressive, liquidity-seeking strategies, but favored more passive strategies.