Tag Archives: David Rutter

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Bond Boy Rutter Adds Tackling UST HFT to List of Axes

Nobody can accuse veteran government bond market broker and fintech poster boy David Rutter of being single-minded. The former Prebon Yamane exec, who later migrated to inter-dealer broker ICAP where he became of head of electronic trading, then did a stint as CEO of fixed income and FX platform BrokerTec, and who more recently has positioned himself as a blockchain empressario via his role as co-founder and head of R3, the industry consortium dedicated to normalizing the use of distributed ledger technology across the financial ecosystem remains determined to set the standard for how UST’s and related futures contracts are electronically traded.  His latest axe is to cut down on the noise and disruption created by high-frequency trading (HFT) tools used by so-called predators that have ‘undermined’ how government bonds are traded in the OTC marketplace.

(Bloomberg) via reporting by Eliza Ronalds-Hannon : David Rutter, the former head of the biggest electronic venue for Treasuries, says his startup will launch a new trading platform called LiquidityEdge Select this week. According to Rutter, a big draw is that it will enable clients to shut off bids and offers from firms they suspect are using hair-trigger algorithms to trade against their orders. He’s enlisted Cantor Fitzgerald to backstop the transactions and signed up about 90 clients, including most of the Treasury market’s 23 primary dealers and several high-speed trading firms.

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David Rutter, Liquidity Edge LLC

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand to fix the inherent disadvantages” on some of the existing venues, Rutter said from his midtown Manhattan office. Going up against certain kinds of speed traders can be “a huge frustration.”

Success is far from guaranteed and there’s considerable debate over whether high-frequency traders, or HFTs, actually do more harm than good. But one thing is undeniable: technological advances and post-crisis bank regulations designed to limit risk-taking are transforming the inner workings of U.S. government debt trading. What’s resulted is a sense of disorder among the more traditional players in the world’s most important bond market.

“The game is changing every day,” said Tom di Galoma, the managing director of government trading and strategy at Seaport Global Holdings. On electronic platforms, the rise of HFTs “concerns anybody else who trades on them.”

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Liquidity Woes

Regardless of who or what is responsible, there are signs U.S. government bonds have gotten harder to trade, even as Treasury Department officials say the $13.7 trillion market is sound and the ability to transact remains robust.

An average of $491 billion of Treasuries have changed hands each day in the past year, down from $600 billion in 2011, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co. The ability to trade without moving prices has also deteriorated, with another measure indicating Treasuries are now 50 percent more sensitive to price fluctuations than they were five years ago.

At the same time, the market itself has become more prone to sudden shocks, with the Oct. 15, 2014, “flash crash” in Treasury yields the most prominent example. While regulators still haven’t figured out what triggered it, they concluded that automated trading firms made the wild ride that much worse.

All these changes have come as regulations imposed in the aftermath of the financial crisis prompted Wall Street banks to retreat from dealing. Computerized firms have swept in to fill the void.

Electronic platforms like ICAP Plc’s BrokerTec and Nasdaq Inc.’s eSpeed now account for almost half the volume in the Treasury market. Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, and its affiliates also provide trading in Treasuries.

‘Phantom Liquidity’

On the main venues that cater to dealers, eight of the 10 biggest firms by volume last year were non-bank proprietary trading firms, according to Greenwich Associates, a financial services consulting firm. Their influence has led HFT critics to blame computerized traders for providing “phantom liquidity.”

That occurs when those firms use their speed to suddenly change the amount they are willing to buy (or sell) once they detect incoming orders. And it can be costly for slower-footed investors who enter the market thinking there’s a certain amount they can trade, only to have it disappear. In some cases, predatory firms use sophisticated algorithms to decipher a counterparty’s intentions and race ahead of its orders.

The problem was underscored by the Bank for International Settlements, which concluded in a January paper that such strategies have the potential to depress bond-market liquidity. According to Greenwich, less than half the trading activity on inter-dealer platforms last year consisted of “true market making,” which the research firm defined as the willingness of firms to buy and sell a specific security on demand.

“A lot of the intermediaries that had balance sheets to absorb risk and trade, they’re gone,” said Ed Al-Hussainy, senior global interest-rate analyst at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, which oversees $460 billion.

Value Proposition

That’s where Rutter comes in. LiquidityEdge is the first of at least four companies that are planning to start trading platforms by year-end.

LiquidityEdge Select differs from traditional electronic platforms in a few distinct ways. First, clients can pre-select counterparties and trade with them using anonymous user IDs, rather than sending an order into a central market that everyone can see. That maintains confidentiality and enables clients to receive bids and offers only from parties they want. Second, the system allows customers to exclude any streams at any time.

Rutter says this kind of self-policing gives non-bank traders a greater incentive to provide firm orders, while weeding out predatory firms that try to game the system.

LiquidityEdge will also use Cantor Fitzgerald as a central clearing counterparty, settling trades via the Fixed Income Clearing Corp. That means trades are guaranteed even if one party fails to deliver on either payment or bonds. The lack of a such an arrangement precipitated the demise of Direct Match, a Treasuries trading startup that shut down in August.

Diminishing Returns

To be sure, a proliferation of trading platforms could potentially harm liquidity more than help it.

New venues may poach clients from the incumbents — BrokerTec, Rutter’s former employer, and eSpeed — but that may just lead to shallower liquidity across more venues and result in a Treasury market that’s more fractured than it is now. LiquidityEdge Select will be the firm’s second trading venue for Treasuries. It will sit alongside the firm’s one-year-old bilateral platform, LiquidityEdge Direct.

“Is it a case of, the more liquidity pools the merrier?” said Anthony Perrotta, global head of research and consulting at Tabb Group, which specializes in market-structure research. “Some would say yes. At the same time, people’s bandwidth is only so great.”

The Treasury market’s two incumbents, BrokerTec and eSpeed, already have plans to launch competing trading venues later this year.

To continue reading the Bloomberg story, click here

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Blockchain Babe Blythe Masters in Repo Deal with DTCC

Blythe Masters, the former grand dame of derivatives for investment bank JP Morgan, who after a less-than-glorious exit from her senior role overseeing credit derivatives for House of Morgan and who reinvented herself as a blockchain babe and leads digital ledger startup Digital Asset Holdings, has proven that every cute cat has nine lives. In a press release issued this week, Depository Trust & Clearing Corp. aka DTTC, the industry-owned utility that processes transactions across the multi-$trillion repurchase agreement and government securities markets has entered into an agreement with the startup to test their blockchain application for use within the $2.6tril repo market sleeve so that lenders and borrowers across the often illiquid repo market can have a more efficient tool to track securities and cash flowing between counterparties.

Digital Asset Holdings, for which Masters is Chief Executive Officer, is considered one of the top 3 fintech companies focused on leveraging digital ledger technologies, the basic foundation of the cryptocurrency bitcoin. R3 Blockchain Group, whose investors include a consortium of 42 investment banks and financial service firms and is led by former inter-dealer broker David Rutter, along with Symbiont, the creator of Smart Securities and sponsored by merchant bank SenaHill Partners, are considered to be the other leading players in the space seeking to ‘institutionalize’ the value proposition of the technology that powers bitcoin.blythe-masters-marketsmuse

(WSJ)-Depository Trust & Clearing Corp., a firm at the center of Wall Street’s trading infrastructure, is about to give the technology behind bitcoin a big test: seeing whether it can be used to bolster the $2.6 trillion repo market.

DTCC said in a statement Tuesday that it will begin testing an application of blockchain, the digital ledger originally used to track ownership and payments of the cryptocurrency bitcoin, to help smooth over problems in the crucial but increasingly illiquid corner of short-term lending markets known as repurchase agreements, or “repos.”

Repos play a critical role in the financial system by keeping cash and securities circulating among hedge funds, investment banks and other financial firms.

DTCC, an industry-owned utility that helps settle trades in the repo market and elsewhere, wants to apply blockchain technology to the market, so that lenders and borrowers can keep track of securities and cash flowing between firms in real time.

To test blockchain’s ability to improve repo trading, DTCC has tapped Digital Asset Holdings LLC, a startup run by former J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. executive Blythe Masters. Earlier this year, DTCC invested in the firm focused on blockchain applications, along with a range of banks including J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., and others.

 

For the full story from WSJ, please click here

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Fixed Income FinTech Chapter 14: More e-Trading Platforms for US Govt Bonds

The US Government Bond Market is set to explode…with more e-trading systems.. MarketsMuse Tech Talk continues its curating of fintech stories from the world of fixed income and today’s update is courtesy of WSJ’s Katy Burne, who does a superb job (as always) in summarizing the latest assortment of US Government bond “e-trading” initiatives. MarketsMuse editor note: The financial marketplace is now littered with electronic trading platforms ostensibly designed to enhance liquidity and address the needs of respective market participants.

The once-revered premise of electronifying old-fashioned, non-transparent OTC markets so as to make them fully transparent and in turn, enhance liquidity in a manner that would inspire institutional investors to increase use of those products has, according to many, morphed into a ethernet rat’s nest. There are now almost as many of flavors of institutional electronic trading platforms as there are ice cream flavors from by Ben & Jerry’s and Baskin Robbins combined. Most if not all are ‘accelerated’ thanks to the innovation of rebate schemes, payment for order flow menus, and of course, high-frequency trading (HFT) applications, which has made the market structure more akin to a continuous “Battle of the Transformers.”

Despite the rising concern  on the part of both institutional investors and regulators as to the impact of market fragmentation (the latter of whom are easily-cajoled by the phalanx of lobbyists and special interest groups),  the Genie is not only out of the bottle, it’s reach continues…and the US Govt bond market is, according to those leading the initiatives described below, ripe for ‘innovation,’  for two good reasons. The first is the widely-shared belief that the rates market, which has been mostly range bound for several years thanks to the assortment of QE programs and lackluster economic recovery. is now anticipating a major uptick in volatility, which is a trader’s favorite friend. Secondly, the role of major investment bank trading desks, once ‘controlled’ the market for government bonds, has become severely diminished consequent to Dodd-Frank and the regulatory regime governing those banks and the financial markets at large.

Here’s the opening excerpt from Katy Burne’s column “Antiquated Treasury Trade Draws Upstarts”..

A host of companies are vying to set up new electronic networks for trading U.S. Treasurys, the latest upheaval in a $12.5 trillion market already being reshaped by some large banks’ pullback and the growth of fast-trading firms.

The efforts highlight the shifting role of banks, and gyrations in the market as the Federal Reserve prepares to lift interest rates in the months ahead.

Traditional Treasury trading is now widely viewed as “antiquated and rigid,” said David Light, a former head of government-bond sales at Citigroup and co-founder of CrossRate Technologies LLC, which is launching one of the new venues. “It simply did not evolve with all the changes in technology and regulation.”

Currently, there are two main channels for trading Treasurys on screens. Banks trade opposite their asset manager and hedge fund clients, with identities disclosed, via either Bloomberg LP or Tradeweb Markets LLC.

The banks then trade with other banks and professional investors anonymously, in exchange-like systems on either BrokerTec, owned by broker ICAP PLC, or eSpeed, owned by Nasdaq OMX Group. The banks trade with other banks in a wholesale market on one set of prices; they trade with customers on another set of prices. Continue reading