Max Colas of CameronTec looks at smarter approaches to information overload and explains how improved management of data convergence can result in greater business insight and edge.
Every day Twitter delivers 300 million messages, 4% of which are actual news. Every 20 minutes, 3 million messages are published on Facebook and 10 million comments are added. Such mind-blowing numbers would be anecdotic if they did not highlight a trend – perhaps even a threat – that is also relevant in the trading world: information overload.
As usage of FIX grows globally and firms increasingly rely on their trading platform to contribute to their business edge, the risk for FIX users is that they focus on the wrong snippets of information, or miss the truly relevant trends. Addressing those challenges becomes a differentiator for FIX technology providers.
Previous generations of monitoring systems focused on displaying information, for instance by adding value in the shaping of data or user-friendliness of the interface like displaying logs with FIX tag/value expansion or showing “conversation views” that gathered together relevant messages. The mostly static log formats even allowed vendors to claim some degree of compatibility across FIX engines. Although useful, such systems are inherently flawed for two reasons:
1.They assume that FIX operators should approach information linearly, and
2.They expect all information that is relevant to a business to be contained in the logs.
Neither assumption proves true in today’s environment.
When algorithmic trading is involved, it is not unusual for FIX logs to grow by 10,000 lines per second for each session. When data flows converge from a number of FIX nodes across a pan-European topology, the dataset size can increase by multiple orders of magnitude. We are way past the display of logs on a screen. Gone is the linear approach to FIX data; gone is the time of perusing pages of logs one after another, of X-term windows scrolling slowly on a screen.
In fact, the only approach that remains at this point is to expect monitoring systems to deliver on two channels: “I tell you in advance what I am interested in and you notify me when it occurs” and “I tell you what I am interested in and you bring me the relevant results”. These approaches are not new: in the outside world, they are called Google Alerts and Google Queries. Technologies developed to implement this paradigm in the financial industry, such as California-based Splunk, have been in use for a few years. They all tend to gravitate around the convergence of data into one central repository to broaden the breath of searches. This, too, is an industry trend that is highly relevant to the FIX world, with a peculiar edge that is worth analyzing.
Annie Walsh of CameronTec spoke to FX users to better understand the topical issues and challenges facing the OTC Foreign Exchange market and the central role FIX can play in addressing these challenges.
Undoubtedly the capital markets in 2011 will be remembered for many history-making moments including some of the largest currency moves the market can remember. We have witnessed the global foreign exchange market — the most liquid financial market in the world with an average daily turnover in the vicinity of USD4 trillion — bear the brunt of one political crisis after another, causing widespread volatility and difficult to pick currency moves.
Currency friction in Europe and between the US Administration and China will no doubt remain a prominent feature of the global economy for at least the next 1 – 2 years. On top of this remains uncertainty of government, particularly in Europe, and the implications for continuity of fiscal and monetary policy.
Many investment banks too in their search for alpha have been left wondering ”where did the black box get it wrong?” following lack lustre P&L performance, almost industry-wide over recent months.
Without a formal open or close, the FX market presents a true ‘follow the sun’ global market, with inherent levels of opportunity and risk.
Against this uncertain backdrop, the FIX Protocol has great potential to centrally feature in what is undoubtedly the single greatest threat (opportunity, if you prefer) facing the global OTC FX market. That is of structural uncertainty compounded by impending regulatory change to be ushered in, courtesy of Dodd Frank, and MIFID II and III.
With no unified or centrally cleared market for the majority of trades, and little cross-border regulation, due to the over-thecounter (OTC) nature of currency markets, these are rather a number of interconnected marketplaces, where different currencies’ instruments are traded. Inevitably OTC FX will move, however grudgingly, away from its long-standing (self-serving) model of self-regulation, toward greater levels of transparency, regulatory oversight (either directly or indirectly) and centralised clearing.
A Two Speed FX Market
As currently drafted, spot, outrightsand swaps are to be exempt from Dodd Frank’s requirement to be traded via Swap Execution Facilities (SEFs) and be centrally cleared; FX options, Cross Currency (CCY) swaps and Non-deliverable Forwards (ND Fs), however, are not. A perhaps unintended consequence of this two speed approach is the potential for jurisdictional arbitrage, product/financial re-engineering and further fragmentation of execution venues and liquidity.
In the short term, it also means that the sell-side needs to fundamentally reconsider strategies for design, development and deployment of Single Dealer Platforms (SDPs). Multi asset class SDPs will now necessarily evolve to become simultaneously both an execution venue as a destination and a gateway to a SEF, depending on the instrument traded.
The Vienna and Ljubljana Stock Exchanges comprehensive FIX upgrades reinforce the continued global trend for reliance on FIX over an alternate proprietary technology. Annie Walsh, Chief Marketing Officer for CameronTec, examines a case for FIX.
2010 was a pivotal year that saw many local exchanges fending off new, unfamiliar competition in what for many regions have traditionally been non-competitive market places. With competition continuing to intensify and once cozy monopolies progressively being dismantled, the stakes have rarely been higher. If regional consolidation was 2010’s buzz, then 2011 will be characterized by structural reform, increased central clearing and the emergence of a host of new players that will be ushered in as a result of Dodd-Frank and EU legislative equivalents.
The paradigm shift has been good for FIX. Looking back it was the emerging new trading venues that first demonstrated considerable appetite for FIX. Their motivation was driven by an acknowledgement that FIX could provide ease of entry into markets and a competitive edge for attracting liquidity away from the traditional exchanges. Exchanges can no longer operate in isolation within segregated vertical markets. Their consolidation due to mergers and the emergence of alternative trading venues has escalated the importance of technology around the trading lifecycle. Latest figures indicate just how much liquidity the new marketplaces are attracting. Volume for BATS, Chi-X, Pure Trading and Alpha ATS, to name a few, show significant levels of liquidity shared by a broad number of different venues.
Field-leveling regulations such as MiFID and Reg NMS have also put the spotlight on technology with a growing focus on reducing latency that has implicitly changed the exchange business model. Competition for exchanges is about performance and cost, with the highest performing and lowest cost marketplaces attracting the most liquidity. Now, more than ever, the need for a more uniform API has become a critical consideration, and this is one area where investments in technology are being made. Exchanges today recognise the considerable benefits of an exchange compliant FIX interface on a number of fronts.
The FIX Protocol is increasingly providing the level playing field for many market participants, while encouraging exchange market differentiation across more value added service areas, such as Straight Through Processing (STP), latency, trading platforms and strategies, corporate services and increased data offerings. FIX enables exchanges to take advantage of economies of scale and provide broader access as well as generate the additional revenues the business requires.
The Vienna and Ljubljana exchanges are two marketplaces within the CEE Stock Exchange Group (CEESEG), now using a cutting edge FIX API for trading access, order routing and market data. CEESEG’s decision to offer this to members is in response to participant support for the protocol over any proprietary alternative. On the business side, leveraging FIX across CEESEG’s exchange members provides a more flexible and cost efficient solution.
The appetite for the fastest possible interface will always be present and FPL’s continuous, collaborative work with the exchange community, evidenced with a number of working groups, has resulted in improved latency, making FIX messages more suitable for high speed trading. Through FIX 5.0, for example, exchange clients will find it easier to implement a more flexible, faster connection to the exchange. Exchanges are increasingly taking advantage of the latest advancements in FIX and using it to establish points-of-presence in major liquidity venues worldwide — thereby providing local connectivity for local customers, which in itself significantly reduces cross-regional connectivity costs.
The cost of defining a new protocol is considerable and these costs continue for the lifetime of the product. Every new software release must include additional regression tests based on very demanding performance tests. This will ensure performance gained is real and constant. Benefits are intrinsically about the additional flow bringing revenue that the exchange attracts, either from competitors as a result of the speed offered or from new flow that is created due to this speed. This cost calculation for customers is also important. The customer will be looking for measureable benefits and/or lower costs. If the binary interface uses FIX the cost of developing and using the interface may be lower. If the data types are common with FIX, the integration with existing OMS systems may be easier.