Tania Caldow, FIX Product Manager for IRESS, explains how Australian traders use FIXbased platforms to achieve onshore best execution and provide new infrastructure for offshore investors.

For some time now talk of the imminent introduction of alternative trading venues, such as new exchanges and liquidity pools, has been changing the profile of Australian electronic trading at a rapid rate.

The Australian Securities Exchange’s (ASX’s) current role as Australia’s single, centralised market is changing. The beginnings of a new regulatory regime are already in place, with the responsibility of market regulation moving from the ASX to the government run Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) in August 2010.

Market participants are helping drive this change to see a more open marketplace, in-line with other key global markets, which will bring increased competition along with other benefits such greater liquidity, market innovation and ideally lower overall execution costs. However, fragmenting liquidity across multiple trading venues also brings about complexities that market participants are beginning to address in preparation for these changes.

Whilst the actual details of ASIC’s best execution policy remain unclear, we expect Chi-X Australia to be the first alternative exchange to compete with the ASX. Being part of Chi-X Global, an international firm who has successfully launched the Chi-X platform in Europe, Canada and Asia, Chi-X Australia is readying its trading platform for the Australian market.

This imminent change presents a number of challenges to local brokers. Ideally, exchange connectivity when trading across multiple venues is most efficient if consolidated into a single encapsulated layer. Whilst primarily streamlining best execution, this layer handles the particulars of each exchange and provides consistent, uniform access to all execution venues. Internalisation also becomes important, whereby a broker attempts to maximise opportunities to cross with other in-house flow before routing to a preferred exchange. The current situation, where a broker may have multiple trading applications all accessing the ASX independently, becomes inefficient.

Historically, the adoption of routing orders electronically to the market for many firms has been approached in an ad-hoc fashion. Flows such as algorithmic and systematic trading, direct market access, live market data tools and FIX have been taken up only when required and often implemented independently of each other. The emergence of global exchange connectivity, whether via an Order Management System (OMS) or by a dedicated network, was also thrown into the mix, adding a new layer of complexity. It would be fair to say that the uptake in Australia has been slow and cautious. Firms, especially those at the larger end of the scale, often invested heavily in their own proprietary OMS’s. At the time, it seemed a straightforward decision to make and gave firms a competitive advantage by owning their own proprietary system. But as things started to change, connectivity between systems and exchanges became a difficult issue to address.

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