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.
“Does your firm use TCA to measure execution performance and if yes, how effective a tool do you find it?”
Ian Firth, Aviva Investors, responds
Aviva Investors both subscribes to and supports the use of Transaction Cost Analysis (TCA). We acknowledge there are limitations, both with available systems and market data. We aim to identify trends and ways to improve our trading strategies, and we have spent a great deal of time and resources to continually improve the process we operate. The key to efficient TCA is accurate data and efficient time stamping. This will demonstrate where within the cycle of the order there are inefficiencies. All of our equity trades are subject to review, although a small number may fall out due to the fact specific markets and benchmarks in those markets are not provided/supported.
Trades are loaded on a daily basis and there is commitment from dealers and our in-house execution analyst to ensure that as much information as possible is attached to clearly identify specific trades. Regular reports with details and exceptions are sent to portfolio teams and management to monitor the ongoing performance of dealers, brokers and execution venues. We compare against various benchmarks, with Implementation Shortfall (IS) being our primary benchmark. There is greater discipline in recording all attributes, whether price limits, volume restrictions or direction from the fund manager, in order to identify exceptions and where appropriate identify these trades.
We have seen, and continue to see, an improving trend to our execution capability. We are able to easily identify outliers and explain the reasons for these. Improving results have helped with our profile and we have been able to distribute the results of our trading capability to end clients. We have received positive feedback from our clients, both direct and end, due to the results and the knowledge applied to explain said processes and results.
Brian Mitchell, Gartmore, responds
Yes; Gartmore’s monitoring and analysis of dealing efficiency is aimed at helping to reduce trading costs, identifying potential deficiencies and helping to ensure that our investment processes are in line with the highest market standards for buy-side best execution.
As part of our effort to ensure cost effective execution, we perform detailed TCA and within that we focus, amongst other things, on both the explicit and implicit costs of trading. Explicit costs include equity commission rates, ticket charges and local taxes. Implicit costs, which can account for more than 85% of overall implementation costs, include: (i) market impact (the cost of the bid/offer spread plus the price movement in excess of the bid/offer spread needed to trade the required volume immediately); and (ii) opportunity cost (the performance impact of not instantaneously completing the execution of an order).
While we use broker-led TCA offerings, (across our cash equities, PT and Algo business flows), we do not solely rely on them, given the potential lack of impartiality. It is also difficult to compare trades transacted by competing brokers, as most will inevitably use differing methodologies. We currently use an independent TCA service to help analyse in detail the true impact of equity trade implementation on client accounts and to analyse Broker / Dealer performance, sending them all trade data from our OMS on a weekly basis.
We participate in an anonymous peer group TCA database, to review our rankings on a wide variety of metrics and, as such, this is an effective tool for comparative work. We can compare our trading costs at the aggregate and/or regional level with others on a more realistic, difficulty adjusted basis.