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Finding solutions – Now in its 5th year, the FPL conference in Canada tackles the tough issues

What a lot can change in a year! Since the last FPL Canada conference, held in May 2008, Canada has been drawn into the liquidity crunch along with the rest of the world. Yet Canada has a risk and regulatory model that is different from many of its established trading partners, most notably the US and the UK. Can the world learn lessons from the Canadian experience?
With only weeks to go until Canada’s leading electronic trading event, it is still hard to pick what the credit crisis and regulatory environment will look like on June 1st, the first day of the conference. What we do know is that there will be increased regulatory involvement, particularly in areas that were previously not subject to scrutiny. In the run up to the event, we asked a range of experts to comment on what they feel will be the hot topics at this year’s event.
Conference Hot Topics
(A) Market Volatility
Market volatility has certainly changed trading patterns. The increasing reliance on electronic trading, leveraged through Direct Market Access/Algorithmic Trading or a portfolio trading desk, is directly connected to the growing need to manage risk, volatility and capital availability. We have seen a dramatic uptake in these services/tools, as there has not only been a focus on how electronic trading is conducted, but also on the expectations of trading costs involved versus benchmarks. The greatest impact has been a higher use of electronic trading strategies relative to more traditional trading and a shift in the types of electronic trading strategies employed.
From a single stock perspective, many traders were loath to execute at single, specific price points due to the potential for adverse percentage swings in the high single to double digits. Algorithms have been employed on a more frequent basis, to help traders participate throughout intervals on an intraday basis, managing risk around the volatility. The violent intraday swings also create significantly more opportunities in the long-short space. Quantitative execution tools have became more of a focus, to take advantage of these opportunities on an automated basis.
What the industry is saying:
“In terms of disruptions relating to market volatility, the Canadian trading infrastructure generally held up admirably. Most dealer, vendor, and marketplace systems handled the massive increases in message traffic and activity with little noticeable impact on performance. This is proof positive that the investment in capacity and competition was well worth it and is now paying dividends.” Matt Trudeau, Chi-X Canada
“Electronic platforms using FIX and algorithmic routers handled significant market fluctuations with no impact to performance. Speed to market for orders made it possible for traders to minimize exposure to huge swings in pricing and to capitalize on opportunity.” Tom Brown, RBC Asset Management
“Many traditional desks were shell-shocked and did not know how to respond to the volatility combined with the lack of capital. Electronic trading tools like algos enabled people to manage extremely volatile situations with great responsiveness. They were able to set the parameters for their trades and let the algo respond as market conditions warranted. Trading of baskets/lists made having electronic execution tools critical. You couldn’t possibly manage complex lists in real-time without very sophisticated electronic front-end trading tools.” Anne-Marie Ryan, AMR Associates
“The recent volatility spike means that risk will likely be scrutinized more in the future than in the past. Post-trade transaction cost measurement systems generally do not consider risk but instead focus on cost. To properly align the interests of the firm and the trader, performance measurement systems will need to reflect both cost and risk considerations.” Chris Sparrow, Liquidnet Canada
Jenny Tsouvalis of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS)
sees a need for effective integration of investment management and trading processes. “On-line, real-time electronic trading systems provide quick access to liquidity and when coupled with real-time pricing embedded into blotters, identify the effect of market changes on the portfolios and the effect of trading decisions.
“Electronic trading has been successful because of its ability to be adaptive, so it is likely to change in reaction to current issues.” Randee Pavalow, Alpha Trading Systems.
“We’ve seen an increase in the use of algorithms and over the day orders as volatility has increased. The ability to smooth orders over a longer period limits the exposure to price swings during the day. VWAP, TWAP and percentage of volume, seem to be the algos of choice for many these days.” John Christofilos, Canaccord Capital

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