FIXGlobal speaks with the buy-side in China about the prospects for China’s equity market, IPOs and how new technology and competition will improve domestic trading.
GDP and Trading Volumes The property market might continue to cool down in 2012, but it is not reasonable to expect the Chinese economy to shrink significantly this year because the Chinese government will allocate resources to other sectors of the economy. Because of the Lunar New Year effect, it looks as though Chinese Consumer Price Index (CPI) is heading upwards. Based on adjusted CPI, the property asset bubble is a political issue rather than an economic one. The Chinese government has pledged to continue monitoring property prices, and its strong fiscal position gives them various options in terms of how they address this situation. Trading volumes are expected to be much the same as 2011 and inflation should be heading downwards.
Major Driver: IPOs or Economics? There has been a rapid increase in the number of IPOs in China, but the regulators are questioning the quality of some of the IPO companies. Of those companies newly listed in 2011, valuation declined quite significantly. Investors used to think an IPO was like a lottery – buying new shares virtually guaranteed a profit. Many investors did not consider the actual valuation and quality of the company, and many are now realizing that not all investments are worth their list price.
The Chinese equity markets are in a transition stage; they are moving from being somewhat amateur to being much more economic and investor-driven. There were instances of listed companies in one industry that changed industries after the IPO (often moving into property development) and occasionally changing the name of the company, leaving investors uncertain about their strategy and focus.
Listed companies used to have considerable power, but the market is changing in a positive direction. However, we do not know how quickly the market will become transparent and trustworthy. The regulators, media and institutional investors are now more serious about issues of valuation, transparency, corporate governance, etc. The regulators should consider increasing Qualified Foreign Institutional Investor (QFII) and ways of improving the dissemination of information to investors in order to set a good example in the domestic market.
A primary focus of the Chinese Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) this year is insider trading. Addressing this matter will improve the quality of listed companies and give investors greater protection. The regulators are working on improving access to information for investors and institutional funds will benefit significantly from this transparency. Regulators are concerned with addressing both the difficulty of access to information and the quality of information about IPOs, and it is quite likely that they will be able to improve both aspects.
Applying New Technology The biggest technology upgrade implemented in the past six months has been algorithmic trading. Most Chinese buyside use their brokers’ algos, but in China, domestic mutual funds are not allowed to route orders to brokers. So what many dealing desks have done is to install the brokers’ algo engine on their side, so for every algo they choose, they go through their server and send the order to the exchange. In this way, dealers achieve efficiency in their algo usage because they do not use any brokerage; as a dealer, they are almost like their own broker. Algo trading also provides the buy-side with more precise post-trade analysis; specifically, the ability to analyze how much alpha has been captured and the transaction costs involved.
The primary benchmark used by most Chinese buy-side traders is Implementation Shortfall (IS), which is used to generate information to help the fund manager improve their investment strategies. For example, it might provide data about the delay cost created by an investment decision made an hour after the market opens, showing the fund manager that if the decision had been made earlier they could have saved a certain amount on the investment.
Guosen Securities’ Shen Tao reveals the latest trends in algo usage by Chinese asset managers, domestic mutual funds and Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors (QFIIs).
Who are the primary customers for algorithmic products in China? Algorithmic trading started in the Chinese A share market some time in 2007. In 2005, the first commercial FIX engine went live to accommodate the execution needs of the Chinese A share market of Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors, or QFIIs, as part of the plan by the Chinese government to allow regulated capital market investment by foreign investors. After an initial experimental phase of FIX connectivity with global trading networks, the local FIX trading platform became solid enough to interface with a real algo engine. In 2007, some leading global investment banks (predominantly, QFIIs from the sell-side) began to offer algorithmic trading facilities for their clients and their own proprietary trading desks. Most of these facilities were located offshore (e.g. Hong Kong) and connected to the Chinese brokers’ FIX gateway via a financial trading network such as Bloomberg.
The earliest providers and users of algo trading in the Chinese market were solely QFIIs and their clients. In 2008, although the global market was in turmoil and many infrastructure budgets were cut across the international financial community, there were still some firms seeking expansion opportunities for the future. Among them, some global banks with local brokerage joint venture subsidiaries began to build their onshore algo facilities. At about the same time, some leading purely local brokers also started their efforts in algo development, Guosen among them. We started in March 2008 and also targeted QFII investors for algorithmic trading, however, we understood the future of algorithmic trading in the Chinese market would rest on the domestic mutual fund industry. In late 2009, the Guosen algo platform was almost ready and the aforementioned onshore algo facilities run by the sell-side joint ventures of global banks also went live. The day of the algo had finally arrived for China.
In 2010, with support from a leading buy-side OMS vendor Hundsun; Guosen and UBS began their efforts by offering an algo solution for local mutual fund companies. In November 2010, UBS won its first success with two Beijing-based mutual fund companies, with Guosen securing a third six months later. Since that time, more than a dozen mutual fund companies have started using algorithms from UBS and Guosen. 2010 was the first year of the algo, from a local perspective. Currently, the momentum of mutual fund companies adopting algo platforms continues. We estimate that by the end of 2011, in terms of assets under management, over 40% of the local mutual fund industry could be covered by broker-provided algo services.
In retrospect, QFII investors were the founders of the market, but soon, the local mutual fund industry will become the primary user of algos. In addition, we foresee insurance companies adopting algo trading soon.