Setting the Pace in Brazil

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By Daniel Ciment, Keidy Sakamoto
Daniel Ciment of J.P. Morgan details the development of Brazilian algos and outlines the most effective strategies for trading in Brazil.


Using Algos in Brazil
Already accustomed to trading with algorithms or using algorithms to trade strategies in different markets around the world, as international buy-side traders look to Brazil, they want to trade there in the same way they have traded elsewhere. Even though having just one exchange makes the data feed more streamlined, because of the low liquidity profile of certain stocks in Brazil, you cannot use algorithms to trade all stocks electronically. For the more liquid names, many traders are using benchmark algorithmic strategies, like VWAP, percentage of volume, or arrival price. Most algorithmic strategies are based on benchmarks for now, as buy-side traders seek to replicate the methods they use elsewhere, while obviously taking into account the intricacies of the market structure. In the end, if they trade with algorithms in the US, Europe and Asia, they want to trade with algorithms in Brazil as well.
Infrastructure and Volume Spikes
This is one of the challenges that we face as an industry. As you are building electronic infrastructures, you have to build for growth and not just for where we are today. When we look at a market, whether it is Brazil or more developed markets like the US, Europe or Asia, we know what we are trading today, but we have to build to accommodate what we will trade in a year, two years and what we think the peak might be. Just because a market trades a couple of hundred million in a day, or in the US, 8 billion shares a day, it does not mean you build your plan to support 8 billion shares a day because a year from now, that figure might be 20% higher.
More so, if a major event happens next week, then that figure might double, so you need to build sufficient headroom. Right now, we can handle a lot more than what we manage on a daily basis, but that is on purpose to make sure that at times of stress we are there for our clients and that they can trade through us with full confidence.
DMA or Boots-on-the-Ground?
To be successful in a market like Brazil, brokers need to have people on-site who know the local investor community and know the local financial community. J.P. Morgan has a major trading presence in Sao Paulo, and that is just one piece of the offering in Brazil. For small firms who want access, outsourcing is a realistic option, but if you are going to be big in a market, especially in a market like Brazil, an in-country trading team is required.
Technical Challenges
Reliable trading requires market data and telecommunications systems, which are present in Brazil, along with data center space and algorithms that are tuned to the local market and market structures. This tuning includes the liquidity profiles of the stocks as well as the rules and regulations of the exchange; you cannot apply the same algorithms from one region to another and expect them to work. We spend a lot of time and effort, fine tuning our algorithms, testing them on our desk and then rolling them out to clients. It is not just copy-and-paste.

 
Keidy Sakamoto, Itaú BBA
With regard to the electronic market in Brazil, we have seen much technological development over the last few years. At the beginning of 2007, we had just a few vendors offering systems for electronic trading using algorithms. The exchanges Bovespa and BM&F were still separate companies and the FIX Protocol was considered but a promising technology.
Since then, Bovespa merged with BM&F, considerable investment was made in technology and electronic trading using algorithms became feasible for all institutional players. We witnessed consistent growth of local and foreign vendors in the country, bringing with it new trading solutions that let us move a bit closer to the level of American and European markets.
Brazilian brokers are doing important work to accelerate this process, introducing new technologies and players to meet the new requirements to push the market towards a more developed scenario. As a result of the investments thus far, we expect a significant increase in the BM&FBovespa’s technological quality for the next few years. Algorithmic traders who are already trading in Brazil are becoming more advanced, making this market more aggressive each day.