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May 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Déjàvu all over again?

Posted by Richard Bentley

Richard.bentleyIt is fair to say that High Frequency Trading (HFT) is a divisive subject at the best of times; for every expert claiming that it benefits markets in the form of liquidity provision, tighter spreads etc, you can always find another who claims that it poses significant dangers and creates a 2-tier market. Whatever the truth, it appears that there are an increasing number who subscribe to the latter point of view, with the aim of excluding HFT from the market altogether.

I wrote previously about recent declines in trading volumes as an indicator that the HFT “backlash” is having effect. HFT is the unpopular kid in the class no-one wants to sit next to. Witness the recent spate of announcements of new venues that explicitly exclude or penalize HFT and its practitioners. In the FX space we’ve heard about

Mako FX’s plan to build what it calls the fastest trading platform in the wholesale FX market, and more recently the launch of a new venue called FXSpotStream backed by 6 major FX banks who will also be the primary liquidity providers. 


This all gives a real sense of déjà vu, bearing in mind that the EBS FX market was started by a bunch of banks to provide a private inter-bank market, before they let the sharks in and ruined the party. It seems that EBS themselves are now having second thoughts. This highlights something I’ve been saying for some time with regard to HFT; namely, that the market is well equipped to take corrective action if participants care enough, without knee jerk recourse to poorly thought-through regulation. Commercial imperatives will force balancing actions once the pendulum swings too far. This trend is not confined to the FX markets – see CA Chevreux’s launch early this year of Blink, a Dark Pool for European Equities that excludes HFT.

Besides excluding or penalising the HFTs, another "balancing action" I'm seeing is the rapid rise of smart FX execution algos. Our customers have been using traditional VWAP and Percent of Volume style Algos with our Progress Apama FX eCommerce solution for some time, but more recently customers have been telling me how they've had to adapt these algos and build more sophisticated variants, to avoid signalling risk and defeat the HFTs.

This trend to smart algos follows closely what we've seen in the equity and exchange-traded futures markets previously. If it seems like we're re-treading old ground here than that's hardly a surprise - fashions come and go.

But right now it certainly seems that HFT is rapidly running out of friends to play with.

Tune in to our P&L Webinar  “FX Aggregation without the Aggravation” tomorrow to hear more. If you're attending P&L's 2012 Readers’ Choice Digital Markets Awards and Hall of Fame dinner in NYC on Thursday May 31, stop by the Progress Software table to learn more about the Apama FX eCommerce solution. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Rat Race to Regulate High Frequency Trading

Posted by John Bates

John Bates


The following is an excerpt from Dr. John Bates’ recent commentary on Huffington Post, whch discusses the current state of high frequency trading regulation.


As Aerosmith famously sang: "Rats in the cellar... losin' money, getting no affection." Lately, HFTs have been compared to everything from rats in a granary to highway robbers intent on stealing Granny's pension. Bashing high frequency trading firms has become the latest sport in the financial services industry. So much so that the Futures Industry Association has publicly taken exception to the "emotive language" being assigned to HFTs.

"For example, many people don't realize that market abuse -- as well as being morally reprehensible -- comes at a hefty price for the market. So principal trading firms such as our members have a very real economic incentive to fight market abuse and back regulatory reform," said FIA European Principal Traders Association chairman Remco Lenterman. He noted that the industry's critics chose to overlook the value that principal trading firms add to the real economy in terms of lower transaction costs and greater liquidity, according to Finextra.

Read the full post from Dr. Bates here


Friday, May 11, 2012

Automated trading restrictions: are they a presumption of guilt?

Posted by John Bates

John BatesAnyone who’s seen the news in recent months will know that High Frequency Trading is facing a sharp increase in the number of regulatory challenges, with some tough measures suggesting that it has been presumed guilty until proven innocent by many. ESMA, implemented in Europe in May 2012, is the latest set of regulatory guidelines around the systems and controls required in an automated trading environment. But are these regulations fair?

It seems clear that, with the ever-increasing volumes of data that firms need to manage and monitor in order to catch abuse, Europe has decided to take a firm stance on automated trading. But is all this a case of, as my colleague Richard Bentley suggests, using a sledgehammer to crack the nut?

Shutterstock_48500095Clearly, increasing red tape will place a significant burden on firms and may, if we’re not careful, lead to a situation of regulatory arbitrage, or lock those without deep pockets out of the market. Perhaps a better answer is to adopt a three-layered approach to surveillance where the brokers, trading venue and regulators all have a different role to play will help stamp out abuse without necessarily stubbing innovation?

On a recent visit to London, I met with Phillip Stafford at the Financial Times Trading Room to discuss EU market abuse regulations as can be seen in the video here.


Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Today in Event Processing

Posted by The Progress Guys

In “Cracking the High Frequency Trading Nut”, Richard Bentley discusses the effectiveness of the new guidelines from the European Securities and Markets Authority.  He compares the guidelines to a sledgehammer, questioning if such extreme measures are necessary to regulate HFT.  Would a more precise approach, which targets specific issues with HFT and offers real-time surveillance, better regulate automated trading? Find out in yesterday’s post