Tag Archives: best execution

payment-for-order-flow-rebates

Yale University Wonks Blast Exchanges’ Payment-For-Order-Flow Schemes

In a July 18 NYT op-ed piece “Wall Street Profits by Putting Investors in the Slow Lane” submitted by Jonathan Macey, a professor at Yale Law School and David Swensen, the chief investment officer of Yale University, the spirit debate topic of payment-for-order-flow schemes, aka rebates paid by the various stock exchanges to retail brokers that route orders to those platforms is once again brought to a public forum. MarketsMuse curators and editors have profiled this issue more than once during the past years, and each of those posts have earned us lots of visitor traffic from Washington DC outlets, academics and a multitude of sell-side firms that are loathe to let it be known they are getting paid a kickback for routing orders to exchanges, but not feeling obliged to share those rebates with their retail customers.

Mssrs. Macey and Swensen frame the issue in what is arguably a clear, crisp and straight forward manner:

Institutional brokers are legally obliged to execute trades on the exchange that offers the most favorable terms for their clients, including the best price and likelihood of executing the trade. The 12 exchanges, most of which are owned by New York Stock Exchange, Nasdaq and Better Alternative Trade System (BATS), along with the Chicago Stock Exchange and the Investors Exchange (IEX), are supposed to compete to offer the best opportunities.

But that’s not what is happening. Instead, brokers routinely take kickbacks, euphemistically referred to as “rebates,” for routing orders to a particular exchange. As a result, the brokers produce worse outcomes for their institutional investor clients — and therefore, for individual pension beneficiaries, mutual fund investors and insurance policy holders — and ill-gotten gains for the brokers.

Although the harm suffered on each trade is minuscule — fractions of a cent per share — the aggregate kickbacks amount to billions of dollars a year. The diffuse harm to individuals and the concentrated benefit to Wall Street create yet another way in which the system is rigged, justifiably eroding public confidence in the fairness of the financial system.

That said, MarketsMuse takes this view: The regulation of “market structure” falls on the SEC. Well before anyone even envisioned the notion nightmare of a Trump-led US Government administration, it has always been the SEC’s mandate to ensure PUBLIC investors are treated fairly and properly. Somewhere along the line, the moral compass got lost by the boy scouts and girl scouts at the SEC, or maybe they never had one considering the legacy of that failed agency. After all, it was  Joe Kennedy, Sr. who was appointed to be the first person appointed to run that agency when it was established in 1934. But, whether or not Kennedy Sr.’s  DNA was stuck to the walls of that venerable institution and has permeated ever since, the fact is that the securities industry and its lobbyists have served as the Oz Behind the Curtain for decades.

If you’ve got a hot insider tip, a bright idea, or if you’d like to get visibility for your brand through MarketsMuse via subliminal content marketing, advertorial, blatant shout-out, spotlight article, news release etc., please reach out to our Senior Editor  or email: cmo@marketsmuse.com.

As technology evolved and ‘innovation’ came to the stock markets, brokerage firms found themselves suffering from having to offer increasingly lower commission schemes in a ‘race to zero’. Whenever industries evolve to point where services provided become nothing more than a commodity, it should be no wonder to anyone that creative folks will step in and figure out how to remake those business models and monetize new models. Hence, the existing payment-for-order-flow market structure that permeates throughout the US equities markets (and now emulated by players in other product areas) should be of no surprise to anyone. After all, few who work within the financial services sector could not survive if they don’t embrace Gordon Gekko’s decree that Greed is Good. Don’t believe that? Well, this ‘blog post’ would extend for tens of thousands of words and hundreds of links to news articles profiling the travails of financial industry gurus that got ‘busted’ for playing hide the banana with their customers. Tens of Billions of Dollars in Fine Payments have been made by the Industry for misleading, duping, defrauding and cheating customers–many of whom were innocent, unsuspecting and not completely stupid; they were simply cheated by folks who are too slick for their socks. (Editor note: To Donald Trump, Jr.–this article didn’t envision referencing you, but that last comment seemed applicable, if only as a metaphor.)

It boggles the mind of this industry veteran when observing that the topic profiled by Yale’s Macey and Swensen has yet to be addressed by regulators. In fact, those regulators have consistently enabled the ever-more-sophisticated schemes that its industry constituents have devised. (Can you spell M-a-d-o-f-f?)

In an informal survey of 100 retail investors conducted by MarketsMuse, 70% of those individuals had ‘no clue’ that their brokers were receiving kickbacks from industry platforms that pay those brokers to receive the respective customers’ order flow. The remaining 30%  were “somewhat aware” and when the issue was framed for them, they were unanimously vexed by the fact the brokers charged them a commission and also earned a kickback from someone else.  When asked to review statements, those same folks took out a magnifying lens and located the small print, but all asked rhetorically, “Why don’t I get a piece of that kickback? After all, its MY order!”

OK, those same individuals did acknowledge that commission rates for executing stock orders have come down sharply during the past 10 years. “Hoorah to that ‘progress'” say those who love Schwab, Fidelity, eTrade and TD for offering “Only $5.99 to trade 1000 shares!”,  but when pendulums swing so far, something is awry. Then again, when the likes of FB, LinkedIn and the thousands of other platforms that offer something for seemingly nothing are chastised for ‘selling customer data to advertisers’, perhaps the guiding principle should be- If its too good to be true, it isn’t.

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doj-investigates-citadel-griffin-

Citadel and KCG Targets of DOJ

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal authorities investigating the market-making arms of the $25bil hedge fund Citadel LLC and broker KCG Holdings Inc, are looking into the possibility that the two giants of electronic trading are giving small investors a poor deal when executing stock transactions on their behalf.

The Justice Department has subpoenaed information from Citadel and KCG (formerly known as Knight Capital Group) related to the firms’ execution of stock trades on behalf of clients, according to people familiar with the investigation. FBI Director Jim Comey, the top cop for the US DOJ will ultimately oversee the investigation, as he does for all other DOJ matters. Prior to his current role as FBI Director,  Comey worked as the General Counsel to Westport, CT-based Bridgewater Associates,  the world’s largest hedge fund with $150bil (RAUM) and owned mostly by the firm’s Founder Ray Dalio, a trading guru who is known to have a particularly intense personality. But, that comes with the territory if you’ve built a personal fortune estimated at $15bil.  Chicago-based Citadel is steered by billionaire hedge fund manager Ken Griffin, whose estimated net worth of  $7bil is half of what Dalio purportedly has, but does include multiple luxury residences, whose total value is nearly $500 mil, and includes a $200mil NYC penthouse that he purchased in Q3 2015.

Intermission from news flash: For followers of Showtime’s drama-parody of the world where hedge funds cross paths with regulators aka Billions, you’ll get the joke. Meaning, the notion that a guy who first appeared as a rising federal prosecutor, working all the way up to White House level roles, then, by virtue of administration revolving doors, he finds his way down the yellow brick road into the private sector, where he manages to land a sweet job at a defense contractor and takes in $6mil after 5 years and then,  he finds Jesus [in Westport CT],  who is located at the peak of Hedge Fund Mountain. This is where  he makes nearly $10mil –pretty good pay for a former Elliot Ness–in less than three years as top lawyer to of all folks, the world’s biggest and most secretive hedge running $150bil (RAUM) for institutions and sovereign governments.  Wait! Now flash forward two seasons; that same guy is now the FBI Head who, in Season 2, Episode 1 goes after Apple Inc and threatens to waterboard Tim Cook unless he pries open the back of an iPhone belonging to a self-acclaimed follower of Daesh .  And now, Season 2, Episode 2,  our top cop is now going after a billionaire hedge fund manager who happens to swim in the same “billionated” pool of HF sharks as his former partner!  Memo To: Andrew Ross Sorkin–Are you writing this sh*t down?? P.S. New phrase above ie. ‘billionated’,  also pronounced billion-ated. Means: to be full of billions, to be inflated with material possessions that cost billions, to have your brain inflated with thoughts of self aggrandizement   because you are full of billions. Not to be confused with “Billionator”, which is the finance industry equivalent to “Terminator”…but we digress… back to the main story…citadel-fbi-marketsmuse

Authorities are examining internal data concerning the firms’ routing of customer stock orders through exchanges and other trading systems, to see whether they are giving customers unfavorable prices on trades in order to capture more profit on the transact

sec-audit-system-catch-me-if-you-can-marketsmuse

SEC Proposes System to Catch Market Manipulators

In effort to thwart the “Catch Me If You Can” crowd, the SEC has proposed a new audit system that will purportedly allow regulators to track every bid and offer submitted to stock and options exchanges in effort to catch market manipulators.

(WSJ)–U.S. market regulators on Wednesday proposed a massive data repository that will eventually allow them to sift through billions of daily trading records to detect market manipulation and probe bouts of extreme market disruption.

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s consolidated audit trail will,enable regulators to track 58 billion daily transactions submitted to stock and options exchanges, as well as private-trading venues maintained by brokerage firms. Plans for the CAT, as it is called, were spurred by the May 6, 2010, flash crash, when more than 20,000 trades were executed at clearly erroneous prices and nearly $1 trillion in equity-market value was wiped out before prices rebounded.

The project has taken years to get off the ground, as industry groups have disagreed over its scope, costs and governance. Regulators believe the system will become a powerful means of quickly investigating excessive volatility and could be harnessed for other purposes, such as detecting insider trading and whether brokers are getting the best price for their clients.

sec-kara-stein
Kara Stein

“This will help us to fully understand the trading that is occurring in our markets within a matter of days, instead of months,” SEC Commissioner Kara Stein said at a meeting where the agency unanimously approved the plan. “The need for the CAT has unfortunately been proven over and over again.”

According to one market structure expert who spoke with MarketsMuse, “Another intriguing idea brought forth by a bureaucracy that has proven it has no fluency in technology and no real ability to implement policy that might infringe on the interests of Wall Street. They’ll be talking about this pipe dream for another four years, then spend 3x the amount budgeted and then discover the system is flawed.”

The proposal also sets several deadlines to ensure the system is fully operational within four years. The SEC must take final action to approve the CAT within six months. Exchanges would have to begin reporting trading data to the system by late 2017. Large brokers would have to comply by 2018, and small brokers would have until 2019 to report their activity.

Regulators still have to choose who will build the system, a decision that could come late this year or early in 2017. A selection committee has narrowed the choice to three bidders—the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Fidelity National Information Services Inc. unit SunGard and Thesys Technologies LLC.

The project’s supporters say it would have been useful last August, when huge price swings triggered more than 1,000 trading halts in stocks and exchange-traded products. It took the SEC nearly six months to issue a paper explaining the factors that influenced the barrage of trading halts on Aug. 24.

For the full story from the WSJ, click here

best-execution

Best Execution Wack-A-Mole Aims at Wholesalers

When it comes to gauging best execution, that exercise is akin to a game of whack-a-mole when calculating in the role of wholesalers aka over-the-counter market-makers whose business model includes leveraging maker-taker rebate schemes. MarketsMuse credits below excerpted observations from TabbForum and courtesy of Stanislav Dolgopolov, Decimus Capital Markets, LLC

(TabbForum) Compliance with the duty of best execution is typically focused on customer-facing brokers, but the stringent standard of best execution may pop up several times in the transactional chain. One critical issue already getting—and deserving—more attention is the extent to which the duty of best execution applies to off-exchange market makers, commonly referred to as ‘wholesalers’ or ‘internalizers,’ and whether conflicts of interest are keeping them from meeting these obligations.

One illustration of potential conflicts of interest is monetization of maker-taker arrangements for certain types of orders – typically, nonmarketable limit orders – by off-exchange market makers through secondary routing, which may potentially come at the expense of execution quality, given that a substantial portion of orders directed to them consists of such orders. Furthermore, a typical major player in the wholesaling segment is in the spotlight to demonstrate the adequacy of execution within its affiliated dark pool(s), given a bevy of concerns, such as toxicity, slowness, or leakages of customer order information. Yet another consideration from the standpoint of the very definition of “best execution” is whether there are self-interested or otherwise avoidable delays counter to the requirement of prompt execution.

Finger-pointing in connection with achieving and maintaining execution quality is not necessarily an easy task. Compliance with the duty of best execution is typically focused on customer-facing brokers, as illustrated by the level of scrutiny of retail brokerages, including lawsuits, in connection with payment for order flow and maker-taker arrangements. At the same time, the stringent standard of best execution may pop up several times in the transactional chain. One critical issue already getting—and deserving—more attention is the extent to which the duty of best execution applies to off-exchange market makers, commonly referred to as “wholesalers” or “internalizers.”

This assumption of the duty of best execution may be rooted in contractual arrangements—sometimes called “order handling agreements”—between off-exchange market makers and customer-facing brokerage firms. Pursuant to the applicable agreement, an off-exchange market maker may in fact discharge agency-based functions in addition to trading in the principal capacity. By contrast, market making on securities exchanges has been “de-agentized” in the sense that designated market makers have been relieved of their traditional agent-like duties to investors. In fact, some order handling agreements specifically mention the best execution standard. Even when this standard is not spelled out, the scope of the applicable relationship is likely to bind that off-exchange market maker as a true “executing broker” subject to the duty of best execution.

To read the entire article, please click here

bond etf liquidity

Calling for Clarity: Corporate Bond ETF Liquidity

There continues to be a call for clarity with regard to the topic of corporate bond ETF liquidity and where/how corporate bond ETFs add or detract within the context of investors ability to get ‘best execution’ when secondary market trade in underlying corporate bonds is increasingly ‘illiquid.’

This not only a big agenda item for the SEC to wrap their arms around, it is a challenge for “market experts” to frame in a manner that resonates with even the most knowledgeable bond market players.

MarketsMuse curators noticed that ETF market guru Dave Nadig penned a piece for ETF.com last night “How Illiquid are Bond ETFs, Really?” that helps to distill the discussion elements in a manner that even regulators can understand.. Without  further ado, below is the opening extract..

“Transcendent liquidity” is a somewhat silly-sounding phrase coined by the equally silly Matt Hougan, CEO of ETF.com, to discuss the odd situation in fixed-income ETFs—specifically, fixed-income ETFs tracking narrow corners of the market like high-yield bonds.

But it’s increasingly the focus of regulators and skeptical investors like Carl Icahn. Simply put: Flagship funds like the iShares iBoxx High Yield Corporate Bond ETF (HYG | B-68) trade like water, while their underlying holdings don’t. Is this a real problem, or a unicorn?

Defining Liquidity

The problem with even analyzing this question starts with definitions. When most people talk about ETF liquidity, they’re actually conflating two different things: tradability and fairness.

Tradability is actually a pretty simple concept: How well will the market let me get in or out of an ETF? And for narrow fixed-income ETFs (I’m limiting myself to corporates, in this analysis), most investors should be paying attention to the fairly obvious metrics, e.g., things like median daily dollar volume and time-weighted average spreads. By these metrics, a fund like HYG looks like the easiest thing to trade ever:

On a value basis, the average spread for HYG on a bad day of the past year is under 2 basis points. It’s consistently a penny wide on a handle around $80, with nearly $1 billion changing hands on most days. That puts it among the most liquid securities in the world. And that easy liquidity is precisely what has the SEC—and some investors—concerned.

Fairness

But that’s tradability, not fairness. Fairness is a unique concept to ETF trading. We don’t talk about whether the execution you got in Apple was “fair.” You might get a poor execution, or you might sell on a dip, but there’s no question that your properly settled trade in Apple is “fair.”

In an ETF, however, there is an inherent “fair” price—the net asset value of the ETF at the time you trade it—intraday NAV or iNAV. If the ETF only holds Apple and Microsoft, that fair price is easy to calculate, and is in fact disseminated every 15 seconds by the exchange.

But when the underlying securities are illiquid for some reason (hard to value, time-zone disconnects or just obscure), assessing the “fair” price becomes difficult, if not impossible.

If the securities in the ETF are all listed in Tokyo, then your execution at noon in New York will necessarily not be exactly the NAV of the ETF, because none of those holdings is currently trading.

Premiums & Discounts

In the case of something like corporate bonds, the issue isn’t one of time zone, it’s one of market structure. Corporate bonds are an over-the-counter, dealer-based market. That means the iNAV of a fund like HYG is based not on the last trade for each bond it holds (which could literally be days old), but on a pricing services estimate of how much each bond is worth. That leads to the appearance of premiums or discounts that swing to +/- 1%.

To read the full article, please click here

agency only executing broker

Agency-Only Executing Broker: What Does Best Ex Mean?

MarketsMuse dip and dash department frequently prefers spotlighting altruists and do-gooders, including Agency-only execution firms in the brokerdealer sphere who, unlike “principal trading desks”, do not take the contra side to institutional customer orders as a means of making a profit; agency-only firms merely execute those client orders via the assortment of major exchanges and dark pools that traffic in equities and equity options. Today’s spotlight is on Dash Financial; the only position they purportedly take is a business model position by promoting the fact they act as a conflict-free agent only representing the best interest of their institutional brokerage clients in consideration for an agreed-upon commission.

The phrase “Best Execution” is therefore popular jargon among agency-only firms and implies that customers are receiving ‘the best” execution. What that means is a function of who you ask, particularly when considering the brokerdealer community has proven uniquely adept at capturing hidden revenue via rebate schemes in consideration for orders routed to those respective venues for execution. These schemes are aggressively promoted by the nearly two dozen major exchange and dark pools that facilitate trading in equities and equity options.

Courtesy of our friends at FierceFinance, today’s altruist of the week award goes to equity and options market agency brokerage Dash Financial, who asserts that being a broker in today’s fast-paced market is about being a technology expert and a consultant on clients’ execution objectives.

Below is the extract from FierceFinance’s interview with Dash Financial’s CMO:

David Karat, Dash Financial

“Everything is a tradeoff,” said David Karat, chief marketing officer for Dash Financial. “Every action you take to minimize fees, you risk losing liquidity, and for every technique to maximize liquidity it will cost you more money because it will be less relevant which venues you go to get that liquidity. It’s that balance we sit on top of and consult with our clients on.”

To that end, Dash Financial aims to help clients achieve what it calls on best net execution – execution that incorporates exchanges fees and all other associated costs.

“If there is liquidity in multiple places we are going to capture that liquidity based on the cheapest economics for the client,” Karat said. But Dash Financial has also designed its tracing architecture to couple its best execution algorithms with a focus on in-depth transparency, Karat said.

“We actually want you to see all the child orders, the millisecond time stamp of which destinations we are going to and what happened,” Karat said.

Looking at an example of a client order to sell 1000 Apple May 106 puts at seven cents, Karat notes that the system not only shows that the parent order was filled, but allows clients to click through to see all the child orders associated with that parent order.

In the Apple example, there were actually 828 contracts available to satisfy the order, divided between two different venues. Dash Financial’s platform is calibrated to account for slight differences in the amount of time it takes for orders to reach different venues, and that calibration readjusts during the day as timing slows down or speeds up. After capturing all 828 orders, the millisecond that the system realized a balance remained, it reversed and posted the balance of the order to Arca, because Arca has the best rebates. The order on Arca was hit immediately.

The Dash Financial interface not only allows clients to see the child orders, but through a tool called Order Trace, clients can view everything including FIX messages sent down to the exchange for a complete audit trail for compliance purposes. In addition, a tool called a Smart Order Router Analyzer allows clients to view what Dash saw on screens at the time or the order.

Dash Financial sees its role as using its tools for visibility into execution to work with clients fine tune trade executions to fit the nuances of their strategy.

“What we do is look at that behavior when they are executing and we might say, in this type of scenario, it might make sense to be a little more aggressive, or a little less aggressive and this is what we suggest,” Karat said. “We will go back and redesign how the algorithm behaves in a certain situation or we will give them another algorithm for a specific nuance, and compare it against existing behavior so we can quantify whether it is worth changing again or keeping as it is.”

 

options best execution

Best Execution Algos for Options Trading: Dash Dares To Be Different

MarketsMuse.com Strike Price section profiles trading systems vendor Dash Financial algorithm-based approach to securing options market “best execution” in the ever-increasing world of options mart fragmentation and the wacky rebate schemes that have proliferated across the electronic options exchange landscape. Below is courtesy of extracted elements from MarketsMedia.com April 20 story “Parsing ‘Best Ex’ for Options Trades”

Achieving best execution in options trading can be far more complex than in equities because of exchanges’ multi-tiered pricing models, which results in hidden transaction fees that may negate the economics of a trade.

That’s according to David Karat, head of sales and marketing at algorithmic trading-technology company Dash Financial.

The equities world is complicated only by fragmentation, because the pricing schedule is based on whether one trades either as principal or agent, Karat explained. “You can go to an exchange and know what price tier your broker is at,” he said. “You know what the maker-taker fees or the rebates are.”

In options, pricing is dependent on a wider range of factors. Orders must be tagged whether they’re a customer, professional customer, broker/dealer or market maker. “All those capacities have different nuances, even the schedules for pricing,” Karat said. “It’s even got down to the point where you’ll have some basket of symbols that, based on certain criteria, if you traded it in a certain time, it will have a different rate structure.”

Dash Financial launched in 2011 to provide technology that would enable traders to gain a greater level of transparency into their orders. “The idea behind Dash was to build a firm that was completely transparent to the client using ‘best-of-breed’ technology and show the client everything that we did all the time,” Karat said. “We have a dashboard that shows every aspect of the routing as it’s happening. As the order trades, they’re seeing where we’re routing it, why we’re routing it that way and everything else.”

Dash Financial has launched Blitz, a trading algorithm focused on aggressive liquidity capture. One of the biggest issues facing the marketplace today is institutional traders’ inability to clear the screens as displayed on order arrival.

To continue reading the entire story from MarketsMedia.com, please click here

expert view

MarketsMuse: This ETF Trading Expert Has This To Say About That…

MarketsMuse.com ETF update is pleased to share an informative perspective about best practices and “best execution” that institutional investment managers, RIAs and others should consider when using ETFs, courtesy of insight from one of the more widely respected members of ETF “agency-only” execution space. Here’s the excerpt of the ETFdb.com interview:

etfdb logoAll walks have come to embrace the exchange-traded product structure as the preferred vehicle when it comes to building out low-cost, well diversified portfolios. Furthermore, active traders have also taken note of the inherent advantages associated with the ETF wrapper, embracing the product structure for its unparalleled ease-of-use and intraday liquidity.

ETFdb.com recently had the opportunity to talk with Mohit Bajaj, Director of ETF Trading Solutions at WallachBeth Capital, about his firm’s role in the industry as well as the evolution of ETF trading in recent years.

ETF Database (ETFdb): What’s your firm’s story? What role do you play in the ETF industry?

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marketsmuse members only

Interest in Buyside-Only Equity Trading Platforms Gains Traction..Again..

MarketsMuse update courtesy of extract from Pension & Investments Feb 23 edition, with story reported by Sophie Baker …MM Editor Note: The notion of buyside-only electronic trading venues for institutional equities (i.e. block trading) is not a new one. Graybeards who have been around for more than 15 minutes will say “First came Instinet, then there was Optimark….”both were spearheaded by trading pioneer Bill Lupien, and while Instinet quickly became the platform for all to trade NASDAQ stocks, Optimark was determined to be a black box for block trading available to buysiders only…and burned through nearly $100 million before it was sent to the wood chipper. Proving that history repeats itself and that innovation doesn’t need to be an original idea, as Yogi Berra would say “ Its Déjà vu All Over Again.”

The development of buy side-owned equity trading venues has attracted interest from long-term investors.

U.S.-based Luminex Analytics & Trading LLC, set to open for business this year, and Europe-based Plato Partnership Ltd. are being developed against a backdrop of increased pressure on costs, regulatory demand for best execution, recent regulatory investigations into the U.S. dark pools operated by banks, and concerns about some participants in existing dark pools.

“We manage our equity exposure largely internally, and we also do the trading internally,” said Thijs Aaten, managing director, treasury and trading, at APG Asset Management, Amsterdam, Netherlands. The firm has €400 billion ($453.3 billion) in assets under management, including the €344 billion pension fund ABP, Heerlen, Netherlands.

“I’m definitely willing to consider new venues that we can trade on. If there is an advantage to it, then it would be silly not to make use of it. It is our fiduciary duty, and if there is a new opportunity, we have to investigate.”

Luminex is a buy side-to-buy side trading venue owned by a consortium of nine money managers, representing a total of about $15 trillion under management: Fidelity Investments, BlackRock (BLK) Inc. (BLK), Bank of New York Mellon (BK) Corp. (BK), The Capital Group Cos. Inc., Invesco (IVZ) Ltd., J.P. Morgan Asset Management (JPM), MFS Investment Management, State Street Global Advisors and T. Rowe Price Group Inc.

Managers declined to disclose their financial commitments.

Plato’s consortium includes two money managers: Deutsche Asset & Wealth Management and Norges Bank Investment Management, manager of the 6.6 trillion Norwegian kroner ($870 billion) Government Pension Fund Global, Oslo. “We believe we will be naming more firms in coming months,” said Stephen McGoldrick, project director, Plato Partnership, in London.

Both venues were created to give long-only money managers and institutional investors back the power they need to fulfill their best execution requirements, and to ultimately save costs for their clients when trading large blocks of securities.

APG is keen to trade with long-term asset holders, Mr. Aaten said. “(That type of trader,) taking a fundamental but opposite view on the same company, is the cheapest to trade with. But finding that long-term trader is difficult. This is what those new, buy side-to-buy side platforms are about — helping to find those long-term asset owners, (which) will lower our trading costs.”

He said the traditional model, where the sell side acts as a go-between for buyer and seller, and high-frequency traders are admitted, is more expensive. High-frequency traders “don’t have a fundamental view on an equity, but trade on information from the order book. Because of technological advantages they have this information before I do … in our experience, they are the most expensive type of trader to trade against,” Mr. Aaten said.

Self-sustaining

“The consortium’s goal is that Luminex will become self-sustaining, offering its clients a low-cost, fully transparent trading venue for large peer-to-peer block orders, preserving as much alpha as possible for the trading partners’ clients,” said Jeff Estella, director, global equity trading at MFS in Boston.

A BlackRock (BLK) spokesman said company officials believe “alternative trading platforms are invaluable execution tools for investors seeking to avoid information leakage and reduce market impact,” and a spokesman for Fidelity said Luminex “will be focused on helping the investment management community more efficiently source block liquidity.”

Excess cash flow will be reinvested in Luminex, rather than making a profit for the consortium.

Being designed as non-profit-making entities for the members of the consortiums is a key point in the platforms’ favor, said sources.

Plato’s consortium members have goals similar to those for Luminex.

“The consortium’s key aims for this project are to reduce trading costs, simplify market structure and to act as a champion for end investors — a vision which we firmly back,” said Oyvind Schanke, Oslo-based chief investment officer, asset strategies, at NBIM.

Buy side and sell side Plato participants will have equal say on key decisions, and the model was developed with an eye on European regulation, said Mr. McGoldrick.

The intention is to open Luminex to other long-only managers, but there are requirements. This new platform will require a commitment from users of a minimum block size of 5,000 shares or a value of $100,000, whichever is smaller, said a spokesman for Luminex.

Execution guaranteed

Should an order be matched, it is guaranteed to execute. Users also can increase the size of their block trade. Hedge funds that abide by the same rules are permitted on the platform, but not high-frequency traders.

Still, liquidity and the likelihood of finding a match are two issues that hang over the success of Luminex and other buy side-to-buy side platforms.

To continue reading the full story from P&I, please click here.

Trade Execution 101: High-Touch is NOT Out-of-Touch-Those Who Disagree Are..

Below courtesy of excerpt from front page article by Dan Strumpf “Markets Keeping Faith in Humanity” in July 29 WSJ Money & Investing section.

wsjlogo“After years of ceding ground to trading via computer programs, buying and selling stock the old-fashioned way—over the phone or its modern equivalent of instant messaging—is holding its own…

“…Last year, about 55% of stock trading by dollar volume took place in a “high-touch” fashion, among human beings communicating one on one and agreeing on the price, according to consulting firm Greenwich Associates, which surveys hundreds of large investors every year. That is still down from the past two years, but only slightly. The figure was 57% in 2012 and 56% in 2011. In 2004, before the introduction of new trading technologies and the proliferation of high-speed trading, the number was 71%….

“…Big money managers cite several reasons for continuing to keep human trading in their tool kits, even though it costs more than computer trading. They include the bewildering spider web of stock exchanges, concerns about aggressive high-frequency traders, and the downturn in volumes that has made it challenging to complete larger trades. And, in many cases, investors say they value the color on how, where and why a stock is trading that only human traders can provide…”

Michael Wallach, CEO WallachBeth Capital
Michael Wallach, CEO WallachBeth Capital

Noted Michael Wallach, CEO of agency-only execution firm WallachBeth Capital, the institutional brokerage specializing in ETFs, institutional options and a provider of independent equity research within the healthcare sector, “The WSJ article underscored important talking points voiced by a broad universe of investment managers who we speak with, most notably their recognition that while screen-based markets provide context, those markets are not only fragmented, but are 1-dimensional when considering the trading landscape is always 3-dimensional.”

Added Wallach, “Managers who position themselves as fiduciaries should require their brokers to conform to best practices, which includes providing both color and navigation skills away from the screen in order to source true liquidity at the best available prices.” Continue reading

Bulge Bracket Veteran Enlists With Veteran-Owned Boutique’s International Equities Execution Platform

Mischler Financial Adds To International Equities Team;

Global Bank Trading Veteran Appointed to Senior Role for 24/6 Agency-Only Platform

Immediate News Release

Stamford, CT July 14, 2014—Mischler Financial Group (“MFG”), the securities industry’s oldest investment bank/institutional brokerage owned and operated by service-disabled veterans announced that Eric Michalisin, a close on 20-year sell-side industry veteran and a recognized specialist in international equities execution has joined the firm’s agency-only trading desk and has been appointed, Director, International Equities Sales/Trading. Mr. Michalisin will be based in the firm’s Stamford, CT office and work directly with Managing Director Rob Livio, who oversees the firm’s 24/6 international equities sales/trading platform.

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Eric Michalisin, Mischler Financial Group

During the 3 years immediately prior to joining Mischler, Mr. Michalisin was Director, International Equities for RBS Securities. During the 7 years prior, he was a senior member of the international equities desk for JP Morgan Chase. Mr. Michalisin began his sell-side career in 1996 as a Far East equities sales/trading specialist for Robert Fleming, Inc and remained with predecessor firm Jardine Fleming Securities throughout 2001.

Noted Joe Digiammo, Mischler’s global head of equities, “Eric’s major firm background, coupled with his unique insight to local market trading, as well as best execution for US-listed ADRs provides our institutional clients with yet another highly-experienced touch-point for those seeking to navigate global equities markets on a 24/6 basis.”

For additional information, please visit the entire news release published today via this link to the Mischler Financial Group website

Finra Steps Up Investigation Of Broker-Dealer Order Routing Rebate Schemes; Conflict of Interest Endemic to Current Market Structure

NYSE CEO Says “Not Good” while appearing before Senate on the topic of equities market structure and Maker-Taker Rebate Schemes.

Bowing to increasing pressure from regulators, law makers and law enforcement officials, Finra, the securities industry “watchdog” has launched its own probe into how retail brokers route customer orders to exchanges, according to recent reporting by the Wall Street Journal’s Scott Patterson.  In particular, through the use of “sweep letters” targeting various broker-dealers, Finra is purportedly focused on whether rebates associated with schemes that brokers receive when directing their orders to specific venues is a violation of conflict of interest rules, given that customers presume they are receiving best price execution when in fact, they often do not.

MarketsMuse, the securities industry blog that has long reported about payment-for-order-flow and the unsavory practice in which customer orders are “sold” by custodians and prime brokers to “preferenced liquidity providers,” who then trade against those customers and profit from price aberrations between multiple exchange venues and dark pools, takes pride in pioneering the coverage of this topic.

Now that main stream media journalists are beginning to “get it”,  a growing number of those following this story hope that WSJ’s Patterson and other journalists will shine light on the even more unsavory practice in which these same brokers imposing egregious fees on customers who wish to “step out” aka “trade away” and direct their orders to agency-only execution firms, whose role as agent is to objectively canvass the assortment of marketplaces and market-makers in order to secure truly better price executions for their institutional and investment advisory clients. Continue reading

Wall St Execs Do The Flip-Flop While Being Grilled In Washington; Payment For Order Flow Exposed

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Conflict of Interest is Of Interest to Senate Panel Members “just learning about” industry-rampant Payment For Order Flow Schemes . Market Structure To Be Re-Structured?

Excerpts below courtesy of The Wall Street Letter’s on the spot coverage of the U.S. Senate investigation of Wall Street’s affection for high-frequency trading aka HFT, and with specific focus on order routing and execution practices, particularly with regard to kick-back inspired payment for order flow schemes, “maker-taker” rebate schemes and likely conflict-of-interest issues within the context of brokers such as Charles Schwab and TD Ameritrade (among others) failing to ensure so-called “best execution,” a role that necessarily precludes receiving payment for directing customer orders to any counter-party other than the one offering the best available price for that sized order at that point in time.

Here’s the WSL story as of 8 pm EST on the first day of testimony from members of the securities industry; no surprise to note certain executives take the ‘walk backwards’ and no longer defending the practices that have enriched their business models:

Market participants commenting in front of Senate’s Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations hearing into ‘Conflicts of Interest, Investor Loss of Confidence, and High Speed Trading in U.S. Stock Markets’ noted that the SEC needs to re-examine or dismiss the maker taker rule and subsequent rebates as they’ve harmed consumer confidence and efforts to provide best execution.

Tom Farley, president of NYSE, noted to Senators Carl Levin, John McCain, and Ron Johnson that the maker taker model has led to a proliferation of sell-side broker dealers executing orders on exchanges that are offering induced rebates to create liquidity, rather than sending orders that offer the best execution. Continue reading

HFT Chapter 3: U.S. Senate To Hear About Payment-For-Order-Flow, Conflicts of Interest and Best Execution

MarketsMuse Editor Note: Finally, the topic of payment for order flow, the questionable practice in which large brokerage firms literally sell their customers’ orders to “preferenced liquidity providers”, who in turn execute those orders by trading against those customers orders ( using arbitrage strategies that effectively guarantee a trading profit with no risk) will now be scrutinized by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in hearings scheduled for this morning.

The first paragraph of this morning’s NY Times story by William Alden regarding today’s Senate hearings frames the issue nicely: “..To the average investor with a brokerage account, the process of buying and selling shares of stock seems straightforward. But the back end of these systems, governing how billions of shares are traded, remains opaque to many customers…Behind the sleek trading interfaces of brokerage firms like TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab and Merrill Lynch lie a web of business relationships with relatively obscure firms that make trades happen..”

MarketsMuse has spotlighted this issue repeatedly over the past several years, including citing long-time trading industry veterans who have lamented (albeit anonymously) that the notion of selling customer orders is a practice that not only reeks of conflict of interest, it is an anathema to those who embrace the concept of best execution. Their request for anonymity has been driven less by “not authorized to speak on behalf of the firm” and more by a common fear of “being put in the penalty box” by large retail brokerage firms who embrace the practice of double-dipping (charging a commission to a customer while also receiving a kickback from designated liquidity providers) simply because these firm deliver the bulk of orders to Wall Street trading desks for execution.

Throughout the same period that this publication has profiled the topic, we have repeatedly encouraged leading business news journalists from major outlets to bring this story to the forefront. In every instance other than one, journalists and editors have suggested the topic is “too complex for our readers” and many have indicated that its a story that their “major advertisers (the industry’s largest retail brokerage firms and ‘custodians’) would be offended by.”

NY Times reporter William Alden described the issue in a manner that is perfectly clear and simple to comprehend; whether the issue of “conflict of interest” is clear enough or simple enough for U.S. Senators to grasp is a completely different story.

The following extracts from Alden’s reporting summarize the issue brilliantly; link to the full article is below: Continue reading

Finally: Debate re High-Frequency Trading Includes A Tangible Solution

tabb forum logo Excerpt courtesy of TABB Forums April 21 submission by Chris Sparrow, CEO of “Market Data Authority” a consultancy that provides guidance within the areas of equities market structure, transaction cost analysis and “best execution.”

MarketsMuse Editor note:  below snippet is a good preview to the most recent “short-form white paper” written by Mr. Sparrow in connection with the ongoing brouhaha re high-frequency trading aka HFT. The submission itself inspired a broad assortment of comments from industry experts..and, having been considered a “market structure expert” in a prior life, MarketsMuse editor says “overlook the ‘techno talk’, its worth hitting ‘read more.’

“Eliminating Unfairness: Creating a Protocol For Synchronized Period Trading”

The goal of this piece is to describe at a high level a protocol that could be introduced to allow for a multi-venue system operating synchronized batch auctions. The motivation for this protocol is to eliminate any advantage from the asymmetric distribution of order book information – i.e., trade and quote updates. No attempt is undertaken to control other types of information that may be relevant to trading.

The protocol should allow for competition of trading venues and not discriminate against any type of market participant. Further, the protocol is suggested only as an option that could be used by venues that want to participate.

A strong motivation for creating the protocol is the perceived “unfairness” that is present in the existing market structure, where some participants may be able to get faster access to trade and quote information than others. The result has been a perceived erosion of confidence in the equity markets. Other externalities that exist in the current system include the need to store vast amounts of data generated from continuous trading and a technological arms race.

Continue reading

Distilling Definition of Best Execution: Expert Says: “High Five’s for High-Touch”

tabb forum logoCourtesy of Matthew Samelson, Woodbine Associates

The trading environment certainly is more complex than ever before. But the experienced trader – not greater reliance on technology – may be the answer to mastering the markets. Big data, advanced algorithms, and even the threat of high-frequency trading may be distractions that don’t really matter.

Talk of automation, algorithms and data in equity trading has reached an all-time high. The sell-side – brokers and technologists – have a tremendous vested interest in complex offerings. Is it overkill? Trading desks at many institutions and hedge funds, as well as service providers, may be squandering valuable resources focusing on issues that don’t really matter.

At base we underestimate the real value of the experienced trader, over-rely on automation, and focus too much on distracting issues that just don’t matter. Maybe we need to go back to basics.

Best Execution and Trading Fundamentals 

The premise of Best Execution has never changed. The fundamental concepts – minimizing slippage or realizing a benchmark while controlling market impact – remain the same, in every market. In the post Regulation NMS era, sourcing liquidity in a fragmented market has introduced new complications. However, this has not compromised the basic tenants.  For the entire article from Tabb, please click here.

Agency-Execution Firm Adds More ETF Experts

February 5, 2014 -WallachBeth Capital LLC, a leading provider of institutional execution services, announced today that program trading expert Thejas Nalval has joined the firm in the newly created role of Director, ETF & Portfolio Strategy.

Mr. Nalval comes to WallachBeth with ten years of industry experience. Prior to his most recent role in the Market Risk group at J.P. Morgan & Co., Naval spent seven years at Goldman Sachs where he was responsible for trade execution and risk management surrounding portfolio rebalances.

According to Michael Wallach, CEO of WallachBeth, “As the universe of institutional clients continues to embrace advanced indexing and customized program strategies, the expertise and insight that Thejas can provide when configuring and executing their strategies will further distinguish the role our firm plays in the marketplace. The addition of Thejas, as well as other recent hires to our team illustrates our commitment to continually evolve our  offerings to help position our clients for growth and success.”

Algorithms & Altruism 101: Big Buy-Side Player Want Better, Going Back Upstairs

wsjlogoTake-away from (2) news articles today profiling proliferation of algorithmic trading strategies: The buyside “gets it”, but they don’t want it..

 Excerpt from WSJ’s Bradley Hope article “Buyside Traders Move Upstairs”: Some of the world’s biggest investors are changing the way they trade in U.S. markets in response to what they say are rising risks for institutions of their size.

The strategies include conducting more “upstairs trades,” in which deals are executed among big institutions, bypassing the broader market, as well as other sophisticated order-routing techniques designed to avoid pitfalls that have become increasingly apparent to investment managers.

Investors say such measures are increasingly necessary because the proliferation of algorithmic trading and other structural issues, including the fragmentation of the market, are hurting their ability to get the best prices and execute large trades quickly.

marketsmedia logo Excerpt from MarketsMedia “Buyside Traders Seek More..”

With algorithmic trading firmly entrenched in the electronic equity landscape, buy-side traders on an eternal quest for alpha preservation are moving beyond algo selection to algo optimization, which entails monitoring and calibrating as the trade is going down.

“The real objective is to get best execution, which often requires not only picking an algorithm but managing the parameters of that algorithm subject to market conditions,” said Michael Earlywine, head trader, North America at $1.2 billion asset manager Ecofin.

One of the more compelling critiques re: above noted topic is courtesy of industry veteran and electronic trading guru Thomas Quigley, Managing Director/Electronic Trading Group for agency boutique WallachBeth Capital,  “The take-away from both articles is a message that we caveat whenever institutional firms reach out to us for guidance; however commoditized electronic trading approaches have become, and however easy it may seem to choose and implement algo-based strategies, the need for consultative and agnostic guidance has never been more relevant.”

Both above-noted news articles can be accessed by clicking on the logo links adjacent to the excerpt.