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The periodic table

I read with interest, and some dismay, Sam Agini’s great piece in Financial News yesterday about Marcus Ferber writing to ESMA be-moaning periodic auctions. Perhaps the most asinine comment attributed to Mr Ferber is that some such mechanisms are a “blatant attempt to undermine the Mifid II provisions aiming at having a larger share of trading in the light”. It is... Read More

ESMA’s first Heisenberg moment

Anyone who has watched the cult TV series Breaking Bad knows that Heisenberg was the clandestine alias adopted by the show’s chief protagonist, Walt White. The ‘original’ Heisenberg was, of course, the brilliant German theoretical physicist who developed his famous Uncertainty Principle. Simply stated it says that one can know either the position of a particle or its... Read More

Storm in a tea cup

As Storm Eleanor literally howled across the UK last night I woke up wondering if it was some portent to today – Jan 3rd – MiFID II go-live day. But here I am, sat at my desk, and everything seems pretty normal. No one seems to expect huge volumes today though, as traders gently blip the throttles of their new MiFID compliant trading machines. But, now the day has come, two... Read More

Loophole lunacy

According to the Collins English dictionary a loophole is defined as “a small mistake which allows people to do something that would otherwise be illegal”. The same dictionary offers an alternative American definition as “a means of evading or escaping an obligation”. Both these imply that anyone benefiting from such a loophole is either explicitly breaking the law or at... Read More

Why you’ll never be ready for MiFID II

I attended Institutional Investor’s excellent Trader Forum in Barcelona last week. Basically it brings together the senior executives from the buy-side, the sell-side, venues and technology firms to debate and make sense of our industry. Naturally much of the conversation revolved around the new conditional dark pool venues, periodic auctions and Systematic Internalisers that... Read More

The shape of block liquidity

Now we are all back from summer hols it seems like everyone is getting ready for the final push that will propel our industry into its post-MiFID II future. Much still needs to be done, not least of which by ESMA in telling us what all the rules actually mean and what game we are supposed to play as a result of them. This is particularly true in the case of block liquidity which... Read More

So that’s nice and clear…

According to a few reports I read this week we should all be thankful to the European Commission for clearing up the “loophole” that existed in the current Systematic Internaliser regime. Well that’s a relief – except for two small points – first they haven’t and second they seem to have missed the whole point. A commission official has clarified that SIs will not... Read More

Relocation, Relocation, Relocation

Almost every day another story appears in the ongoing tug-of-war between Europe and the UK over euro clearing. And, of course, the story is given extra poignancy when viewed through the varifocal lens of Brexit. But in this instance what exactly does “relocation” mean? Especially when we are talking about a global currency like the euro. Listening to the politicians, it sounds... Read More

MiFID II – the best thing that ever happened?

So, if you’re planning to attend any kind seminar on what you need to do for MiFID II over the next few months, forget it and go to the movies instead. You’re simply too late and whatever plans you have (or have not) put in place will just have to do as there are only 6 months left to go. The more important questions concern how regulators will interpret and enforce the new... Read More

Be careful what you wish for

Those of us who remember the good old days will recall the industry debate as to how much dark liquidity was really in existence. In one corner were the exchanges who, through FESE, claimed that the amount of malevolent dark trading going on was unacceptably high. In response the brokers claimed through their trade body, AFME, that actually it was pretty low. And, as we all know,... Read More

Thomas in Blockland

Thomas the crossing network wasn’t happy. For years he had enjoyed helping his friends buy and sell things amongst themselves. Sometimes he would even step in directly and agree to buy or sell something himself, especially if there was an awful lot of it. But now he had a tricky choice to make. The ruler of the land, The Regulator, had been convinced by the Exchanges that... Read More

Mince pies and MiFID

I spent the holidays diligently researching the best brand of mince pies in order to settle a pre-Christmas debate here at Fidessa Towers. Naturally my criteria included a number of factors including (but not just) price and, perhaps surprisingly, the winner was Tesco’s in-house bakery. Back at work, my attention turned to my other favourite M word – MiFID II – as... Read More

I’m afraid of Americans

It’s always cool when two different things come together to make you think. That’s exactly what happened on my commute this morning as I listened to David Bowie’s much-underrated album, Earthling. Just as I read another piece about the US election, my ears were treated to the classic track “I’m afraid of Americans”. I will leave you to listen to the song yourself,... Read More

Anyone for MiFID 3?

I was chatting with the Reg folks here at Fidessa Towers yesterday and the spectre of MiFID 3 came up. Before you all jump off the window ledge there is no official notion of this yet, but when will the regulators feel that their work really is done? The direction of travel has been clear for a while – dismantle the current industry and replace it with something that is utilitarian,... Read More

Mexico blues

Back from a couple of weeks in Mexico where it seemed the whole world was going steadily insane (or maybe that was just the tequila). Anyways, it was reassuring to start the week with another “wow is that what they really meant?” moment whilst gorging on the never-ending box set known as MiFID 2. This time it’s about the obligations on brokers to report annually their... Read More

Brexit hangover

I was out fairly late last night at an industry function and almost forgot that I had an internal Brexit briefing here at Fidessa Towers this morning. As the memories of the fine Barolos I’d been served rescinded, I engaged with my dear friend and colleague Dr Voigt on what the whole Brexit thing might mean for our industry. Christian made some good points as usual, including... Read More

Brexit blues

Interesting to read over the weekend that London’s mayor Boris Johnson has decided to throw his charismatic and not inconsiderable weight behind the “NO” campaign. Most agree that this shifts the possibility of a Brexit from remote to now distinctly possible. I wonder, therefore, what this means for all the rules we are in the midst of implementing as part of MiFID,... Read More

Chinese Checkers

I was listening to a debate on the radio yesterday morning about the Chinese authorities’ inability to keep their financial markets in check. Amidst all the discussion on manufacturing indices, circuit breakers and the like, everyone on the show seemed to be missing the real point. Chinese financial markets are the perfect melting pot for capitalism and communism. Nothing... Read More

The train on platform MiFID 2 is delayed by one year

Not surprising to see that it now looks odds-on that we’ll get a full one year delay on the implementation of MiFID 2. This will embarrass the politicians who don’t want to be seen as going soft on those “reckless” bankers, but I assume Jo Public will have forgotten all about this by the time they’re up for re-election in 2019. It’s worth bearing in mind,... Read More

Can’t see the wood for the regulatory trees?

When you are immersed in an industry it’s sometimes difficult to see how it’s really changing. Global financial markets are a good example of this as the populist headlines can easily miss the subtlety of what is really going on. The polemic against misbehaviour by some market participants is obviously deserved (estimates of the total in fines and related costs are approaching... Read More

BATS auctions off the block problem

There has a been a lot of talk about how to trade blocks that are smaller than the LIS waiver but that are still too big to go to regular lit markets. The debate has been ratcheted up by the 4 and 8% dark pool caps that are part of the MiFID II spectre looming above us all. One approach, of course, is to chop your block into smaller pieces with an algo but this is becoming increasingly... Read More

Blockchain – the saviour of global finance?

At a recent event I was asked to pick three technologies that could really upset the capital markets applecart. Blockchain, the distributed ledger technology that underpins Bitcoin, was one of those that I selected. The best way to think about Blockchain is that it solves for the trust problem when two parties wish to transact with each other. It achieves this by distributing the... Read More

Time to sort RFQs?

I was reading my colleague’s blog today on RFQs and it looks like this could be another aspect to the slow motion car wreck otherwise known as MiFID II. The problem this time is that the regulators have completely redefined the whole RFQ model. Imagine I ring you up and ask you to make me an offer for a watch I am thinking of selling. Because we have traded lots of watches... Read More

The Tomorrow People

Josh was in high spirits, trading had been good that day. He had downloaded an algo app overnight that allowed him to arb Google dollars against Apple iCoins. It was no longer any use, of course, as by now everyone else had downloaded it too. But his edge had been that his simulator had processed it faster than anyone else. This was required by the regulator to check it contained... Read More

Too big to fail or too big to succeed?

Interesting to see that Martin Wheatley, head of the FCA, is siding with the largest asset managers in their push back against the Financial Stability Board. The basic idea is that because of their size, global regulators want to deem them “systemically important” and so encumber them with greater liquidity requirements and other controls. This seems like fairly contrarian logic... Read More

Having your regulatory cake and eating it

This morning I read with interest a colleague’s blog post on the delay to the publication of the ESMA technical standards from July back to September. Whilst I appreciate that these things are complicated, it seems hard to understand how this won’t delay the implementation date without potentially increasing the very risks the regulations are trying to prevent. Building software... Read More

Backdoor Unbundling

I was relaxing on my way home on the 7.02 from Waterloo last night when I came across Nick Goodway’s excellent article in the London Evening Standard on the impact of unbundling and research procurement. As everyone knows, ESMA wants to make sure that transparency rules the day when it comes to how investment managers use client money, especially when it comes to paying for... Read More

Why the Daleks and Vogons were right about financial markets

An interesting debate broke out here at Fidessa Towers this morning concerning the infamous Sci-Fi phrase “resistance is useless”. Should it be attributed to Dr Who’s nemesis, those metallic, warbly-voiced Daleks, or to the slug-like, green-skinned Vogons that appear in Douglas Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy? Anyhow, whilst folks furiously searched... Read More

Last minute shopping in Europe

Imagine you are doing the last of your Christmas shopping – all that’s left to get is a large chunk of your favourite stock. Because you generally buy in bulk, you know to avoid the brightly lit but expensive retail stores, and instead shop at one of the big wholesalers. But, there’s a problem. Somebody has passed a law capping the amount that any one of those stores can... Read More

Back in Block

On the way in this morning, I was listening to my favourite AC/DC album and thinking about the challenges of block trading. The problem is well known – a combination of multi-market trading, algos and DMA have created a vicious cycle that continues to shrink order sizes. This is compounded by regulators who insist that lit is better than dark and that the best way to demonstrate... Read More

Clear danger ahead

As the regulators push us towards centralised clearing for OTC derivatives they may actually be making the world distinctly less safe. At face value it makes obvious sense; if one party defaults the CCP steps in. As always, though, the problem lies in the detail but this time not too far below the surface. The first problem concerns the efficient use of margin. As CCPs start to... Read More

The Future of Best Execution

I was chatting with a few work colleagues last Friday about best execution and derivatives. They confidently asserted that without real fungibility (i.e. the ability to trade the same instrument on different venues), price comparison is not possible and so any notion of best-ex was pretty meaningless. By coincidence, I was later looking at the wording in the best-ex policy of... Read More

If it ain’t broke, break it

I was hoping to enjoy the last few weeks of summer in relative peace, but it seems that another regulatory storm is brewing. This time it’s over the unbundling of research and it all stems from ESMA’s interpretation that, under MiFID II, research is an “inducement to trade” and therefore cannot be paid for out of commissions. This threatens to completely derail the economics... Read More

An eye on the ‘new normal’

Our latest video looks at the key trends that characterise the ‘new normal’ in financial markets and how the most innovative firms are already adapting.  Read More

How was it for you?

I bumped into an old industry friend last week. We got talking about the state of the industry generally and agreed that everyone is having to take the whole concept of best execution a bit more seriously these days. Certainly in the UK the FCA has kicked off its “thematic review” and a number of fines are being doled out too. Best execution was the central plank in the original... Read More

The Watchman’s Rattle – financial regulation in 2014

In her excellent book, ‘The Watchman’s Rattle’, Rebecca Costa explains the tendency to substitute belief for science when problems become too complicated. The first sign of this is a cognitive threshold, or gridlock, where problems are just passed down from one generation to another with an increasing emphasis on treating short-term symptoms rather than underlying root causes.... Read More

Dumb and (even) dumberer

I wrote earlier this week about Financial Transaction Taxes and why the regulators’ ‘rationale’ for these taxes is either misplaced or disingenuous. An even more extreme example, however, was pointed out to me the other day concerning that other controversial topic, dark pool trading. As part of our regular analysis we pointed out that European dark pool trading had... Read More

Dumb and dumberer?

Not surprisingly, the recent political elections in Germany have brought the question of financial transaction tax (FTT) back to the fore. Basically, the Social Democrats (SPD) are making it a condition of participation in a European banking union. The reason for this, they claim, is that: “For the SPD, it’s important that taxpayers in the future are no longer liable for... Read More

FTTs and ET – a dangerous combination

There has been a lot of talk recently about the introduction of Financial Transaction Taxes (FTTs). This has even extended to speculation here in the UK that we should tax those naughty HFT practitioners too. Seemingly everyone has a view on this and whether such taxes actually punish the banking community or the end investor. But the real point is that such taxes just won’t work,... Read More

Not even wrong

Gently easing my way back into the daily grind after my annual vacation I came across the report that MPs in London are proposing to tax HFT. They must have been drinking more sangria than I have over the past few weeks. For a start, any tax aimed at changing behaviour needs to be very clear about what behaviour it is targeting and the preferred outcome it is trying to achieve.... Read More

Where’s my TV remote?

The recently proposed cap on European dark trading has caused quite a stir. It also illustrates how MiFID II policy-making has descended into almost Eurovision song contest levels of farce. The basic idea is to put a cap (currently proposed at 8%) on the level of trading that occurs away from lit markets. The rationale for this is to protect the regulator’s precious price... Read More

A question of life and SEF

There has been a lot of debate around the role of SEFs in the global derivatives market. Some commentators are even claiming that the whole concept is dead and buried before the rules have even been finalised. But debating the viability or otherwise of SEFs is completely missing the point. The right question is how will standardised and custom derivatives contracts trade and clear... Read More

“It’s fragmentation, Jim, but not as we know it” – why Dodd-Frank won’t work

Interesting last week to see that GFI has applied to the CFTC to become a futures exchange. This follows on from ICAP’s purchase of Plus Markets (now ISDX) and so it surely can’t be too long before the other IDBs follow suit and execute their own regulatory hedges too. What they are worried about is that the regulatory regime around swaps seems to favour futurisation rather... Read More

No tax please, we’re British, Italian, French…

The debate about Financial Transaction Taxes (FTTs) seems to roll on and on. Italy’s FTT is due to come into force this Friday and two democrats in the US want to introduce an American FTT. Even EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Semeta says a global tax on financial transactions eventually should be a reality. All of this got me thinking about what the real purpose of such a tax is... Read More

HFT (High-frequency Taxing)

It’s always seemed like the wrangling over regulation in Europe’s capital markets was, in many ways, a proxy for the broader political debate raging across the region. No surprise, then, that on the eve of today’s speech by David Cameron we saw that the European finance ministers have agreed the creation of a vanguard transaction tax bloc that will implement its... Read More

What can we learn from Apple, Microsoft and London taxis?

Three stories in the FT today showed how different firms are positioning themselves to meet the changing competitive landscape. First, Apple announced that it was shaking up its senior ranks after the maps fiasco on its latest iPhone.  Is this the first sign of unrest at Apple since the demise of the inspirational Steve Jobs? And, more to the point, would he really have condoned... Read More

In defence of derivatives

FragVision Episode 7 looks at the common misconceptions about the derivatives industry and the likely impact of some of the new regulations that it is having to get to grips with. Click here for the full list of FragVision episodes. .wistia_embed { height:364px !important; width:640px !important; }  Read More

Is the time up for HFT?

Few can have missed the fact that Germany is set to go it alone on curbing HFT, although it looks like the rest of Europe won’t be too far behind. The proposed European legislation will insist upon a minimum resting time for orders before they can be amended or cancelled. This has sparked a fair amount of discussion here at Fidessa Towers on how it will (or probably won’t)... Read More

Beanz Meanz MiFID

Imagine I ask you to go to the shops and buy me something simple – let’s say 5 tins of beans. You go to the local shops, return with the goods and I pay you for them, together with a tip to compensate you for your efforts. If you do a good job in terms of price and getting all 5 tins quickly, then I might well ask you to do my shopping on a regular basis. But if I discover... Read More

Whilst my breath is still warm

Good to see that the HFT community is finally starting to educate the regulators and policymakers. As we all know, the debate hinges on whether these firms are really acting as electronic versions of traditional market makers and, if they are, whether they should be subject to some of the same formal market making obligations. In particular, regulators have been gnashing their teeth... Read More

Clearly better?

An interesting few days in London last week at the annual derivatives bash, IDX. Naturally much of the debate and discussion was on the impending collision of the OTC and exchange-traded worlds that Dodd-Frank and EMIR are determined to orchestrate. Unlike equities, the worlds of OTC and exchange-traded derivatives have gone merrily down parallel, but separate, tracks. The regulators... Read More

A night at the museum

Episode 6 of FragVision looks at how the sell-side is adapting to the new market conditions it faces. Click here for the full list of FragVision episodes. .wistia_embed { height:364px !important; width:640px !important; }  Read More

Still hacking away at HFT

Had a distinct sense of déjà vu at TradeTech in London last week. Seems like much of the debate and chatter was the same as it was last year – HFT, ill thought through regulation, etc. It struck me, though, that maybe the regulators should let the market decide what is good or bad for us rather than agonising over these issues on our behalf. Take HFT for example. Whilst... Read More

The attraction of OTC clearing

Had an interesting week in the sunshine at the FIA annual conference at Boca Raton, Florida. Not surprisingly, the main topic was the move to bring the worlds of exchange traded and OTC derivatives together. This has been mandated by politicians/regulators on both sides of the Atlantic and will lead to the creation of a multitude of electronic platforms known as SEFs in the US and... Read More

Alternative venues play waiting game in Japan

Just back from an interesting week in Japan where I was presenting at the annual GMAC conference, Japan International Banking & Securities Systems Forum. The impact of Japan’s alternative venues (known as PTSs) was a particular area of discussion, especially now that Chi-X has set up in Australia and with Korea looking to introduce a multi-market structure too. It’s been... Read More

And another thing Europe can’t agree about

Two stories this week demonstrated that Greece isn’t the only thing Europe has to disagree about. Together they both help highlight the problem regulators have worldwide with HFT. The first story, by the FT’s Jeremy Grant, describes how Italy’s Borsa Italiana is bowing to Consob pressure and introducing a fee structure that will charge participants more depending... Read More

NYSE/DB – why Brussels got it wrong

Not much surprise at this week’s news then, but the rationale for blocking the deal seems odd. Firstly, and whatever they may claim, Brussels did take an overly Eurocentric view. Just call the CME in Chicago and ask where Liffe and Eurex appear on its list of major competitors. Secondly, the Commission claims that LIFFE and EUREX themselves compete but, in fact, they are effectively... Read More

Tobin, or not Tobin – that is the question

Well at least it is in France, as reports seem to confirm that its finance minister is enthusiastically pushing ahead with a unilateral Tobin-style tax on equities, bonds and derivatives trading. It’s a shame that the proponents of such a tax don’t seem to have done even a basic amount of homework. The original idea introduced by Nobel Laureate economist James Tobin was conceived... Read More

Poachers turned gamekeepers

Interesting to read the venerable Leo Melamed’s open letter in the FT this week on HFT and regulators. The CME’s chairman emeritus certainly makes a good point when he says that trying to stifle innovation is both wrong and inevitably doomed to failure, but I am not sure he’s completely right in a couple of areas. First, whilst it’s true that algorithmic or HFT players have... Read More

All I want for Xmas is exchange consolidation/competition (delete as appropriate)

Despite all the announcements, press briefings and other hullabaloo it looks like the BATS/Chi-X deal is the only one that’s actually going to get done this year. SGX/ASX and LSE/TMX are just two of the higher profile casualties in the global game of exchange Monopoly. Add to this the conversations and negotiations that never reached the public domain and you have a dazzling array... Read More

And the good news is….

Feels like it’s a pretty tough time to be in global banking right now.  If it’s not falling volumes then it’s layoffs or, worse still, actors like Bill Nighy bleating on about the need for a Robin Hood tax hitting the headlines. And on both sides of the Atlantic we have regulators that seem oblivious to the damage they leave in their wake as they dream up yet more ways... Read More

Too early to tell?

Hope you like the new dedicated Australia page on the Frag website. Even if you’re not directly interested in antipodean fragmentation, Australia will provide a particularly pure data set for what is fast becoming a global phenomenon. This is because (right now at least) there is only one primary and one alternative venue. It’s too early to draw any meaningful conclusions... Read More

MiFID II – 10 key takeaways that will give you indigestion

Just back from a two week trip around Asia and Australia that took in dark pool seminars in Hong Kong and Singapore and attendance at the FPL conference in Sydney. In my absence, it seems like the Eurocrats in Brussels have been busy as the official version of the widely leaked MiFID II proposals came out last Thursday. For a good roundup of the general themes look no further than... Read More

Market data and the prisoner’s dilemma

The prisoner’s dilemma is an aspect of game theory that shows why two individuals might not agree, even if it appears that it’s best to do so.  In its simplest version, two prisoners have to decide whether to assist or betray one another. If they co-operate then they both receive relatively light punishments, whereas a betrayal by one prisoner means that the other is severely... Read More

FragINSIGHT – taking a closer look at Asia Pacific

Welcome to the September issue of FragINSIGHT which provides an in-depth study of the Japanese market and an update on developments in Australia, together with our regular analysis of fragmentation across the USA, Canada, Europe and Japan. Also included on page 4 is a useful at-a-glance summary of the global regulatory spectrum. Download your copy here. Thanks to everyone for their... Read More

Divided we stand, united we fall

To say that it has been a turbulent time in global equities markets is something of an understatement, but the European picture provides some interesting pointers to the bigger geopolitical debate that’s going on. A couple of events in particular caught my attention. First, there was the ban on short-selling in banking stocks imposed by France, Italy, Spain and Belgium and the... Read More

Australia joins the global fragmentation movement

I was a guest last week to mark the opening of the Australian Liquidity Centre which is not, as you might think, the latest trendy Sydney nightspot. Instead it’s the name chosen by ASX for its impressive new co-location facility and represents the exchange’s latest move to meet the imminent opening up of equities trading Down Under. The transfer of market supervision from... Read More

The R word

In Episode 4 of FragVision we look at the R word – Regulation. Pretty much whatever your role in financial markets these days you will be faced with a wall of regulatory noise that needs to be interpreted and acted upon. This episode looks at how the original intentions of some of these proposed regulations have been hijacked by the politicians and who is likely to be better off... Read More

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