Asia’s market structure creates demand for increasingly granular trading information – as Kent Rossiter, Head of Asia Pacific Trading Allianz Global Investors and Michael Corcoran, Managing Director ITG discuss, FIX can help.
Asia Pacific faces different liquidity challenges to other regions, particularly given that spreads are often much wider and are therefore an even more significant contributing factor to overall trading costs (See Chart). As the trading environment evolves in the region and the focus on managing costs grows, the requirements for transparency and feedback on trading increases. This is happening in parallel with the evolution of new trading venues in the region, particularly dark pools. Buy-side traders now want a greater level of detail on their dark pool fills to help them understand the behavior of their orders and manage their execution venues proactively to get the best trading result.
Kent Rossiter heads up the Asia Pacific trading desk of Allianz Global Investors, and is constantly looking for ways to improve the efficiency of their process and minimise the costs of trading. From his perspective, while post-trade TCA is now well-established, a particular growth area is the requirement for more detailed data on a shorter timeframe. He explains “We as buy-side traders are now trading an increasing amount of our orders ourselves using the electronic tools available, and when we do so we want more granularity and data fed back to us: which venues are our orders being executed in, at what price, and how aggressively. We want information that helps us adjust strategies on the fly for better trading outcomes, or quickly review the results so we can manage our future performance.”
One result of this is new demand in the region for analysis of maker/taker indicators on orders so that a trader can identify how often they are crossing the spread to find liquidity. Allianz Global Investors has been working with ITG and other brokers in the region to implement support of maker/taker analysis to help the trading desks improve their insight into market conditions and get more transparency into the behavior of their orders in dark venues.
Understanding Maker/Taker Understanding whether an order is making or taking liquidity is important, particularly in wide-spread environments such as many of the Asian markets. Michael Corcoran, Managing Director of ITG, says “Traders want to know instantly whether they are providing liquidity or taking it, instead of retrospectively needing to compare fills and timestamps manually against what the market was trading at. This can be very useful information to help them adjust the trading strategy in real-time to the market conditions and the liquidity available. It can also help determine what kind of ‘throttle’ they should put on their strategy or their algo to find the right level of aggressiveness for the orders they are working. In addition to that it can also be a very valuable tool for sell-side firms, helping to refine the development and rules of algorithmic strategies and improve strategic ideas that will work for certain clients or order types.”
This is of growing relevance in a multi-venue environment, for example in Asia where over the past few years a lot more broker dark pools have been developed. Many buy-side firms now choose to use a dark aggregator to help improve their efficiency in accessing multiple venues, and here some kind of maker/taker liquidity analysis can be a helpful data point for assessing the type of outcome a trader is getting in those pools. Corcoran explains “Both ITG as a dark aggregator, and our buy-side clients themselves, want to understand whether orders are consistently making or taking liquidity in a specific dark venue so that the impact can be assessed – for example if our client’s orders always take liquidity in a certain venue we would review that to understand why. If we can pass that data directly back to the clients they can then make a decision about whether they want to be removed from that venue or change the distribution of their order flow across different pools. Likewise, if we see orders taking liquidity then see an unexpected change in the stock’s trading profile, this can be a useful warning indicator about the participants in a specific pool.”
FIX Tag 851 – a Potential Solution A specific FIX Tag, 851, or Last Liquidity Indicator, has been developed by FIX Protocol Ltd (FPL) as an identifier of maker/taker behavior. The US appears to have the most established support of liquidity-indicating tags with exchanges able to pass the data back to brokers and most of those brokers able to pass that on to clients. In Europe, likewise the large exchanges and brokers can support this, although there is less among the mid and smaller brokers.
However, in Asia the tag is sparsely supported, if it all, by the exchanges, alternative lit trading venues and many of the broker dark pools. Firms therefore have to come up with interpretive solutions and workarounds to give their buy-side clients a higher level of detail and transparency on their trading, particularly in dark pool aggregation.
Rossiter would prefer an industry-wide approach to improving transparency and the availability of maker/taker data which includes vendors, brokers, and most importantly the exchanges “Typically the actual FIX tag for this information is supposed to be generated by the exchange or trading venue, and it is passed to the brokers who need to be able to identify and accept that tag and then pass it into the vendor EMS or OMS platform that the client is using. So there are a number of parties within the workflow who are affected and they need to collaborate to bring in changes. An industry-wide adoption of the relevant FIX tag would definitely be a good solution”.
Daiwa Capital Markets’ David deGraw catalogs the movements of Japanese markets in 2011 and discusses the various approaches Japan could take with regard to dark pools and High Frequency Trading (HFT).
Volume and Liquidity in Japan Right now, contagion from Europe and the turmoil from the United States have depressed equity transaction volumes across the globe. Once a recovery starts to gain steam, Asia will be the driver for growth and Japan will be a quality play. Due to the perennial underweighting of Japan, I expect volumes in Japan will quickly surpass pre-crisis levels in such a scenario. With exchange volumes being so low, non-traditional liquidity is playing an increasingly important role. We have seen transaction volumes on our nondisplayed liquidity pool as well as PTS volumes continue to grow relative to exchange volumes. We are trying to bring the benefits of crossing to as many client types as possible and our unique position as a principal domestic investment bank enables us to access semi- to non-professional liquidity sources, such as corporate and religious entities, educational endowments, quasipublic institutions, agricultural cooperatives, and retail investors.
Role of PTSs in Japan The role of PTSs has increased steadily since the start of this year and has accounted for as high as 7-8% of market share. The success of SBI Japannext and Chi-X Japan PTS shows that the market is rewarding innovation and efficiency that is created as a result of increased openness and competition. Conversely, the closing of Kabu.com shows that a PTS’s revenue model may not be sustainable over an extended period of low trading volume. Therefore it is critical for participants to carefully evaluate the viability of a venue so that the large upfront technology investments are not wasted.
The implementation of centralized clearing through JSCC was critical for the existing PTSs to rapidly and dramatically expand their share in 2011. However, since August, growth has slowed somewhat along with the rest of the market. Having said that, there are still very good reasons to expect future growth in PTS market share. Both PTSs are working aggressively to on-board new participants and Chi-X has recently announced the introduction of liquidity rebates in Japan. Chi-X have a successful record of growing their market share in Europe with liquidity rebates, and such economic incentives are sure to be strong drivers for growth in Japan as well. In fact, it should open the door for a totally new class of venue fee arbitrageurs to trade Japanese equities. Furthermore, domestic institutions are expected to allow smart order routing to PTSs once regulations are amended to exempt PTSs from the 5% TOB rule.
Daniel Ciment of J.P. Morgan details the development of Brazilian algos and outlines the most effective strategies for trading in Brazil.
Using Algos in Brazil Already accustomed to trading with algorithms or using algorithms to trade strategies in different markets around the world, as international buy-side traders look to Brazil, they want to trade there in the same way they have traded elsewhere. Even though having just one exchange makes the data feed more streamlined, because of the low liquidity profile of certain stocks in Brazil, you cannot use algorithms to trade all stocks electronically. For the more liquid names, many traders are using benchmark algorithmic strategies, like VWAP, percentage of volume, or arrival price. Most algorithmic strategies are based on benchmarks for now, as buy-side traders seek to replicate the methods they use elsewhere, while obviously taking into account the intricacies of the market structure. In the end, if they trade with algorithms in the US, Europe and Asia, they want to trade with algorithms in Brazil as well.
Infrastructure and Volume Spikes This is one of the challenges that we face as an industry. As you are building electronic infrastructures, you have to build for growth and not just for where we are today. When we look at a market, whether it is Brazil or more developed markets like the US, Europe or Asia, we know what we are trading today, but we have to build to accommodate what we will trade in a year, two years and what we think the peak might be. Just because a market trades a couple of hundred million in a day, or in the US, 8 billion shares a day, it does not mean you build your plan to support 8 billion shares a day because a year from now, that figure might be 20% higher.
More so, if a major event happens next week, then that figure might double, so you need to build sufficient headroom. Right now, we can handle a lot more than what we manage on a daily basis, but that is on purpose to make sure that at times of stress we are there for our clients and that they can trade through us with full confidence.
DMA or Boots-on-the-Ground? To be successful in a market like Brazil, brokers need to have people on-site who know the local investor community and know the local financial community. J.P. Morgan has a major trading presence in Sao Paulo, and that is just one piece of the offering in Brazil. For small firms who want access, outsourcing is a realistic option, but if you are going to be big in a market, especially in a market like Brazil, an in-country trading team is required.
Technical Challenges Reliable trading requires market data and telecommunications systems, which are present in Brazil, along with data center space and algorithms that are tuned to the local market and market structures. This tuning includes the liquidity profiles of the stocks as well as the rules and regulations of the exchange; you cannot apply the same algorithms from one region to another and expect them to work. We spend a lot of time and effort, fine tuning our algorithms, testing them on our desk and then rolling them out to clients. It is not just copy-and-paste.
BNP Paribas Dealing Services Asia’s Francis So opens up about their new structure, how they use Transaction Cost Analysis (TCA) and their preferences regarding dark pools and High Frequency Trading (HFT) flow.
The Hong Kong dealing desk has been restructured as an externalised/outsourced dealing desk for the buy-side. As a result we are now independent of the asset management group and belong to BNP Paribas Securities Services. Our current name is BNP Paribas Fin’AMS Asia Ltd but this will soon change to BNP Paribas Dealing Services, better reflecting the services we provide. BNP Paribas Securities Services provides middle and back office outsourcing services for buyand sell- side, as well as corporate clients. This new dealing service allows us to provide a full suite of front to back office solutions to meet the needs of the clients. The trend has been for the outsourcing of back office activities and I think it is only a natural progression to consider front office activities. Given the market environment, cost reduction is a key element for asset managers/asset owners. Outsourcing the dealing activity can help reduce cost but more importantly allows the asset manager to focus on delivering greater value to their clients. Our Paris office has been very successful in attracting external clients and in Asia we plan to ramp up activity in 2012.
We treat BNP Paribas Investment Partners (the asset management company of the Group) as one of our most sophisticated clients and as such must ensure that the services provided to them are kept to the highest standard. This will be the same for new clients as one of the keys to attracting and maintaining new client relationships is our ability to provide tailor made solutions and services. Clients can range from new start-ups to existing asset managers that already have a dealing desk. We offer flexibility to asset managers such that they can choose the asset class and/or geographical region they want to outsource. For example, some asset managers that already have dealing capabilities in their home market may decide to invest in overseas markets or new asset classes. They need to ask themselves whether it makes sense from a cost perspective to create a new dealing desk where initial volume is expected to remain low.
We have the knowledge, the expertise and the global reach. We have locations in Europe and Asia to cover all asset classes globally. We also serve fund managers located in different geographical regions.
It is important to stress that we are in no way competing against the sell-side. Our clients keep their contractual and daily relationships with brokers. We act as an agency-only trading desk and we do not have any prop flow or take any positions.
We work together with the portfolio manager to determine what benchmarks best suit their needs. They are able to send orders to our global Order Management System (OMS) with a specific benchmark. By doing so, we can measure our execution performance using their specified benchmark, be it Implementation Shortfall (IS), VWAP or a specific measurable benchmark.
RCM’s Head of Asia Pacific Trading, Kent Rossiter, unmasks the Asian trading scene, sharing insights into how RCM navigates the unlit landscape, identifying the effects of dark liquidity and highlighting ways brokers can facilitate better buy-side decision making.
FIXGlobal: What are the main benefits of dark liquidity in Asia?
Kent Rossiter, RCM: One of the major challenges in Asia has always been accessing liquidity without other parties in the market taking advantage of your position and your need to complete the order. In cases where liquidity is scarce, knowledge that a relatively large order is being worked can expose investors to various risks. In such situations, it is advantageous for knowledge of the deal whilst it is being worked to be discreet until the order is filled. In dark pools run by brokers we can get priority on our orders through queue-jumping.
Dark pools support such an approach as they allow large block orders to be worked without showing size. In this way, trading in dark pools allows a trader to access a broker’s own internal order flow, without being gamed by the market that would otherwise risk non-fulfillment or less efficient pricing. As a result, size trading becomes the norm in dark pools and a trader gets to see blocks that may never have been available otherwise. With no information leakage we are not disadvantaged by the fading you see on lit venue quotes. From a personal perspective, the challenges that arise from dealing across a number of venues and the resulting increased use of technology make the role more exciting and satisfying.
FG: How do you limit information leakage in dark pools?
KR: With the exception of broker internalization engines, the trade sizes found in dark pools are often multiple of what they are on the exchange. So having fewer, but larger prints reduces information leakage, and in many cases we can get done on our size right away. Minimizing the number of times a print hits the tape reduces the chance of this footprint being picked up and working against the balance of your order. That said, broker internalization engines do their part well, keeping any spread savings among the two broker’s clients instead of giving it up to the general market.
FG: If you decide to seek dark liquidity, how do you decide between broker internalizers and block crossing networks?
KR: The type of dark venues being used for various trades (i.e. between block crossing networks and brokers) are different. As I mentioned, brokers for the most part are matching up little prints that otherwise would have been time-sliced in the general market, and when using these venues the goal is often to save a few basis points along the way while you work an order. You are not often micro-managing each fill, but through the process we are getting spread capture and price improvement. The type of stock you are often trading in these internalization engines are often larger, more liquid stocks; the type of orders often worked by algos.
Block crossing networks on the other hand, while still matching up electronically, are probably more confidential, and take up the function of what brokers still do upstairs - putting blocks together - so size is the real focus here. Both types of dark pools use the primary market for price sourcing since the vast majority of trades get printed at or within the best bid and offer. As the primary markets become too thin, it can cause price formation problems.
While it is not specific to the consideration of dark pools as an extra execution venue, we have to consider potential increased book out costs if we do use dark pools (except via aggregators, since we would only be using one counterparty), just as we have had to for years when deciding whether to execute a block with a single broker versus multiple counterparties. As dark pools proliferate there is an increased chance that we may not have part of our order in that pool at just the right time to take advantage of flow that may be parked there. Dark pool aggregators are aiming to provide the buy-side solutions to this.