Raymond Russell, of the FIX Inter-Party Latency (FIXIPL) Working Group and Corvil lays out the use cases for the FIX Inter-Party Latency standard and the functionality of Version 1.0.
Goals for FIXIPL
The principal goal of the Inter-Party Latency Working Group is to ensure interoperability between different latency monitoring vendors. Interoperability is essential because latency monitoring is vital to running a low-latency service, therefore the people building systems need confidence that they can start with one vendor and still migrate to another. What we have seen through the proliferation of latency monitoring systems across the trading world, whether DMA providers, market data providers or trading desks, is that often the problems in managing latency within an environment happen between the cracks. Most firms have a good handle on latency in their own environment because they have engineered it well, but when they connect into a counterparty, it gets tricky.
A trader who sees a slowdown in response time will want to understand why they have missed trades or why their fill rates are low, but there are multiple places where that latency could have occurred. One place is in the exchange matching engine, which in some respects is unavoidable. If there is considerable interest and activity in a symbol at the same time, those orders will have to queue in the matching engine, purely as a result of market activity. The latency might also have occurred in the exchange gateway. It is common practice for exchanges to load balance across multiple gateways to accommodate high volumes, and you might have hit a slow gateway. Perhaps the service provider you connect through may have oversubscribed their network and you could be caught in cross traffic unrelated to trading. We have seen all these things happen, so the ability to see where the latency is occurring requires a consistent set of time stamps across the architecture.
Most exchanges already employ latency monitoring in their own environment, and inter-party latency and the sharing of time stamps, while less important within the exchange, enables them to work with their members to identify areas of latency. The benefits unlocked through interparty latency are somewhat biased towards the end traders, but they also extend to brokers and market data providers, who receive better quality execution feeds and market data speeds, respectively.
For exchanges, the need for latency transparency is becoming a standard requirement as latency has become a competitive differentiator. To the extent that exchanges are comfortable with their own infrastructure and are ready to compete on their latency, they will want to share their latency measurements with members. In my experience, venues and brokers are no longer as reticent to share their latency figures as they were before.
Version 1.0 Rollout
Much of the work that we have done with Version 1.0 involved deciding how to produce a standard that on one hand is simple enough to be easily implemented, while ensuring it can still perform in all the basic use cases. Version 1.0, due out in December 2011, is clean and simple and emphasizes the core capability to publish time stamps. We have agreed on the technical scope and it is now going through the formal review procedures required to be standardized by FPL, including a public review. The other important part to be done before it is real is to get two different implementations. There are a number of things that will be ready in a few months’ time, such as distribution through multicast and the ability to automatically group several measurements together across the trade, which we will include in the next version later next year.
RCM’s Head of Asia Pacific Trading, Kent Rossiter, points out some of the good and bad of Indian SOR and reflects on Hong Kong market structure.
Are Smart Order Routers (SORs) in India working well?
SORs sure are working in India. I am not sure what is more of a raging success in the Asian equity SOR world, India or Japan, but the cost savings estimate numbers we are hearing are evidence enough to suggest that Indian SOR development is a big plus.
For ages, there have been two meaningfully big markets; the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and National Stock Exchange (NSE). Up until a year ago, when Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) opened the playing field up, investors who wanted the liquidity of both had to do so by manually monitoring their screens. This was painfully labor intensive and with the thin displayed liquidity of bids and offers, difficult to actually execute. You would often find fills from one exchange or another being executed at inferior prices to the other as a dealer had their eyes off the ball. Those executions were inevitably followed by a conversation with a dozen excuses. I would be told what I was seeing on my screen was not the real situation, but a latency delayed picture.
For the most part we are only using brokers with SOR for our Indian executions, and these brokers co-locate servers so latency is no longer a concern. We are getting fills at the best prices available and from two pools of liquidity where we may have only had one in the past. Only if the order is really small would we limit ourselves to one exchange in an effort to save on ticketing charges.
SOR is just the most recent visible step in the broader trend of the evolution of markets. Accordingly, the buy-side and sell-side traders have to educate themselves and keep up.
What are the issues with Indian SOR?
It is the lack of interoperability at the post-trade clearing level that has limited the true savings many investors would have benefited from otherwise. This is a challenge that SEBI continues to address. The lack a central clearing counterparty for the NSE and the BSE causes settlement costs to be about twice what they would be if only one exchange were used, and this is a consideration for most institutions when deciding whether or not to use two exchanges. If the exchanges and SEBI could reach a solution in terms of interoperability arrangements for SORs, the cost savings and benefits of SOR usage could be passed to the end users. Until then, its true potential remains yet to be uncovered.
Citihub’s Paul Chew and Richard Donaldson lay out the latest in Asia Pacific latency reduction and discuss how firms should prioritize their technology investments.
No one in AsiaPac used to care much about latency. However, when the Tokyo Stock Exchange (TSE) launched arrowhead in 2010 reducing their matching engine latency from 1 second to 5 milliseconds (a 200 fold improvement) it created a paradigm shift in the trading landscape by eliminating the exchange as the chief cause of latency and shifting the focus back onto market participants.
What’s more, this was not an isolated event – August 2011 will see the culmination of a US $200m investment by the Singapore Stock Exchange (SGX) to create the world’s fastest matching engine (SGX REACH) with average response times of 90 microseconds. The Australia Stock Exchange (ASX) invested US $35m to drive down their latency from 30 milliseconds to 300 microseconds; at the end of this year the Hong Kong Stock Exchange (HKEx) is expected to launch its new matching engine reducing average order response times from 130 milliseconds to 9 milliseconds (a 15 fold improvement).
At the same time, volumes are rising. TSE’s daily average equity order volume jumped 22% to 8.239 million orders in 2010 after the launch of arrowhead. Even before the proposed latency improvements by HKEx, they recorded a 41% increase in volume during the same period.So how will increased volumes and a reduction in exchange matching latency impact buy/sell-side firms? Surely it’s a benefit to doing business? Actually, with market participants now contributing to the majority of order processing latency, it creates both a challenge and an opportunity.
Increased stress will be placed on market participants’ trading systems because message volumes are growing and the time interval between messages from the exchange is falling. Conversely, market participants that can support growing volumes and drive down their own latency will create a competitive advantage. So what will this really mean for market participants and where should they target their limited investment dollars?
eTrading Platform Maturity
Our industry experience in Asia Pacific across buy/sell-side firms and vendors indicates a broad range of capability and focus. This is evident from contrasting client feedback and has given rise to what we have termed eTrading Platform Maturity:
Tier One: Platform Stability – “We care about stability, availability and reliability, not latency.”
Tier Two: Instrumentation – “We care about platform latency but we need to improve the way we measure and analyze it.”
Tier Three: Platform Optimization – “We don’t care about absolute latency as long as we’re first on the order book.”
Fundamentally, latency is one of the key barometers of system health. Significant increases in measured latency are indicative of a stressed platform which can lead to outages impacting reputation and resulting in lost revenue. We believe all firms should first establish a reliable platform that copes with daily business demands with predictable and consistent levels of latency before chasing the next tier of eTrading Platform Maturity.
Of course this is all a balancing act, often requiring business and technology teams to prioritize stability over new product development and increased functionality. Smart investment in platform stability can be achieved through simple measurement and analysis of latency to target improvements providing these are supported with the appropriate post-implementation controls.
In order to address the balancing act of how and where to invest we have defined the Latency Framework (see Figure 1) and Instrumentation Capability Curve (Figure 2). These frameworks are used to determine the impact of volume and latency on platform stability and performance, to relate instrumentation to capability maturity and also to establish where to target platform improvements for greatest impact. For example, a key to determining the inherent capacity and performance of a system is through statistical profiling of changes in latency as volumes increase to the point at which the system becomes unstable.
FIXGlobal Face2Face forums were born of a desire to move away from salesfocused conferences, and towards real dialogue within the industry. The events are about education, experience sharing and critical assessment, of the development of electronic trading on a local, regional and global level. This month Face2Face hit Shanghai, and judging by the lively Q&A sessions that followed a full day of expert speaker sessions, China is more than holding its own in the electronic trading debate.
Another invitation to another conference pings into your inbox. The speakers have fabulous titles and an alphabet of letters after their name. The event promises to change the way you look at global markets, regional markets, and everything has a China angle. And yet, how many conferences end up feeling like sales pitches. And, in the spirit of honesty, how often, have we all witnessed a guest speaker’s presentation which has had a pretty solid chunk of sales-speak at the beginning, middle and end? Fast forward to Shanghai where, earlier this month, approx 180 people from the local and international financial community gathered together to debate the role of electronic trading in China at the FIXGlobal Face2Face. Almost two thirds of the vocal audience was from the buy and sell-side of the trading industry.
Don’t throw the protocol out with the vendor Kicking off with an up-to-the-minute review on electronic trading trends and innovation were Citi’s Grace Lin and HSBC’s Gavin Williamson and Alan Dean. Of particular interest was the perspective of the speakers on the key drivers for asset manager, brokers and exchanges looking to develop or upgrade their electronic trading and FIX capabilities. A flurry of questions followed, with one brave individual suggesting the FIX messaging was too slow for the current high frequency – low latency environment. Alan Dean provided the most categorical answer… “Then you need to re-look at your vendor, as with FIX we are talking low micro-seconds.” Nothing like being put straight!
View from the Exchanges Next up was an update on the development and implementation of FIX STEP/FAST at the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE). CTO of the SSE, Bai Shuo described the protocol as a variant of FIX, adapted for the local market. This streamlining – taking out aspects not relevant to the local market and adding in those the industry wanted – were essential to promote the protocol effectively to its users. A look at performance data of FIX STEP/FAST left other delegates in no doubt that Shanghai was poised to provide scalable capabilities that would attract a broad range of market participants.