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The future vision for trading

At the Deutsche Bourse Open Day for IT, I chaired a panel comprising senior figures from Eurex, the International Securities Exchange and IBM.

The focus of the panel was the future of trading technologies, and was a wide ranging discussion covering everything from dark pools to high frequency trading (HFT).

Questions were abounding, such as:

Question:

Is HFT good or bad for liquidity as it gives large players an unfair advantage over small to mid size players and allows market abuses such as flash orders and front running?

Answer:

As long as everyone has equal access to the markets, then it is no issue. The fact that some traders cannot afford the technologies to deal in flash orders is not an unequal market perspective; it’s just that some are better at doing this and can afford the systems to do it. There is no barrier to entry however.

(BTW, I totally disagree with that view)

Question:

At these speeds, is it technically impossible to do compliance? For example, Barclays Capital are just one illustration of the markets becoming more difficult to manage when they are fined for not even being able to get the timing right on a trade execution.

Answer:

Yes, this is more difficult but time stamping trades is an essential core competence of any trading house. The issue lies with low latency and how a broker deals with order flow. If you cannot time stamp effectively when an order is received, filled and executed throughout the trade flow then you are not delivering on that core competence.

This happened recently with TD Securities who were accused of front running trades, and yet how do you prove you weren’t front running when everything takes place in a microsecond? TD Securities fought off a recent investigation to prove they were not front running by being able to demonstrate timings through their order flow, and so yes, keeping time is a basic requirement today.

Question:

What about the whole aspect of the changing regulatory regime with the new rules being developed by the G20, the de Larosiere report, the confirmation that there will be a MiFID II, etc. In fact, MiFID II, according to a speech by Charlie McCreevy in Dublin recently*, will incorporate OTC Derivatives in its next iteration. What does all of this mean for trade execution and technologies?

Answer:

The markets are ready for more regulation although it is interesting that most regulation creates unintended consequences. For example, the law of intended consequences is demonstrated by MiFID where the aim of the regulation was to have more transparency and openness and what did we get? More opaqueness, price fragmentation and a growing off-exchange trading environment using technology to create dark pools. This is the key to the technology used in the trading environment- to create arbitrage, risk and profitability for the client.

Meanwhile, everything will move towards real-time reporting. For example, Eurex is already able to provide real-time clearing at trade execution.  Firms will move towards this model for real-time trade reporting and real-time risk and liquidity management.

Question:

What about Social media & Twitter? Don’t these tools support insider trading? Do we end up with all traders being searched for personal communication devices before they enter the trade floor?

Answer:

No, you don’t need to go to that extent. Facebook and Twitter are electronic communication tools however, so they need to be brought under the controls and disciplines of compliance regulations or be blocked and, if a trader is found in contravention of such in-house policies, then it’s a disciplinary dressing down and possibly termination of employment. But you can do things about these areas. For example, research into this area (download report) clearly shows that the US regulatory rules apply just as much to tweets as they do to email. And there are tools you can implement to monitor such activities and store and forward such information, which is the right approach to take.

Question:

How do you see the development of Cloud Computing in the trading markets?

Answer:

In the US, we have seven major exchanges and I can see the world developing into one where those seven exchanges all place their servers in a massive server farm, co-located with market makers and brokers, so that the systems can deal in real-time. That’s where we are almost at today and certainly will be moving in that direction more and more over time.

The answers above were my own take on the discussions by the way, and not quotes from the panellists, but you get the idea of the flow.

We finished with a vision of the future of trading which I will sum up as being a world where each continent has a massive data centre of co-located servers representing the main trading venues of each economy.

The European data centres will naturally locate in London, Paris and Frankfurt; America’s will be in New York, Chicago and possibly San Francisco; Latin America’s in San Paolo and Buenos Aires; Asia’s in Mumbai, Tokyo, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Australia; and Africa and the Middle East will be based in Johannesburg and Dubai (or Bahrain or Qatar dependent upon how the region’s financial centres compete for dominance).

Fourteen massive data centres with mirroring and backup for each other.

Effectively a massive cloud of trade execution.

And yes, that’s where we move towards – a secure global cloud computing environment, all linked by dark fibre between fourteen massive data centres.

The data centres house the world’s exchanges and their broker dealers.

They can transact in microseconds within exchange and, thanks to terabit lines, can send a trade execution around the world in under a millisecond.

Lightning dealings in order flows through smart order systems that allow billions of offers and bids to be matched in a millisecond.

All of this liquidity flow being watched under a traffic light system of liquidity risk and market monitoring, such that market abuses are visualised and captured during the trade flow in real-time.

The G20 agreements on co-located data centre environments dealt with that one after the financial crisis of 2013, when the dark fibre smart order routers allowed Goldman Sachs to front run …

Aw shucks, now I’m just getting cynical again aren’t I?

* In his speech to the EU Public Affairs Ireland Conference on 18th September 2009, Charlie McCreevy, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, stated:

“There appears to have been a significant migration of share trading transactions from the more regulated MIFID venues to the unregulated over the counter broker dealer venues where substantial unregulated dark pools of liquidity have built up. This gives rise to questions as to whether there are unfair commercial advantages for the operators of these venues and whether the trend undermines price discovery, market integrity and efficiency for the market as a whole. The MIFID review will address this issue.”

*

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About Chris M Skinner

Chris M Skinner
Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, the Finanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal’s Financial News. To learn more click here...

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3 comments

  1. Add Mumbai to your list of Datacentres.
    Mumbai is already host to half a dozen plus exchanges who are in the Global top 10 in the number of trades. And this when Algos and HFT are yet to pickup.

  2. Too true Abhijit and I thought I had Mumbai on the list – must have been deleted when I ran the spell check …

  3. Excellent as usual Chris. It certainly adds some insight to the claim of 10% successful traders to 90% losers and exposes the true culprit – emotion. If you can trade without emotion (like a computerized system) you should be among the winners. That said, it is emotion that brings the little guy to the market. It always will (new money is required to continue the game) – I wouldn’t waste time speculating what would happen if all the individual traders pulled out (like a run on banks). Interesting scenario though, letting all the computers fight it out. I liked your comment about equal access to the markets. Sure, “There is no barrier to entry”, but let’s say there were no barrier to entry to professional football, for example. How do you think the average guy off the street would fare in a pro game? In sports as in the markets, the top talent is discovered, recruited and developed at the highest of levels. The rest of us are left to watch the game on weekends or play in an amateur league.

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