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Taking Aim At Misconduct

Greg Yanco, Senior Executive Leader of Market and Participant Supervision, ASIC looks at the electronic trading environment in Australia and where regulation can play a role.
ASIC is Australia’s corporate, markets and financial services regulator. In relation to its responsibilities supervising markets, ASIC believes that well-regulated, transparent and well-functioning capital markets are the engine room for economic growth: matching companies that wish to raise capital to grow their businesses, with investors that wish to place their funds for a return in a liquid market.
ASIC constantly monitors changes in global equity markets and draws on the surveillance experience of other regulators. It is clear that technology has increased the speed, capacity and sophistication of trading. Along with the new opportunities that this presents for participants, it also poses new regulatory challenges for ASIC.
Flexible Advanced Surveillance Technologies (FAST)
In the May federal budget, the Australian Government announced a commitment to invest in new technologies to enhance ASIC’s capabilities in market surveillance and enforcement. The $43.7 million over four years will allow ASIC to plan for a future that includes greatly increased message traffic, new trading technologies and techniques, increased competition between trading venues, and the increasing globalisation of capital markets.
The funding allows ASIC to provide four key deliverables. Firstly, it allows for the replacement of ASIC’s market surveillance system – a system which was originally designed for a single market and for which the contract expires in 2013. ASIC’s new system will continue to use the existing FIX specification. The upgrade will add capacity and capability, and enable the system to cope with both a multi-market environment and the increase in high frequency trading (HFT) and algorithmic trading. It will also allow for real-time surveillance of futures markets, which is currently post-trade. The new system will provide the capacity to handle the dramatic increase in messaging, with the ability to handle up to one billion messages per day.
Secondly, the system will allow for advanced analytics; for analysts to search data records and identify suspicious trading by connecting patterns and relationships. This will be crucial for greater levels of detection of insider relationships, and will also allow for the development of post-trade surveillance capabilities to identify market trends, patterns of trading behavior and repeated or systemic behavior. These capabilities are common in other comparable markets.
Thirdly, the new system will also include a portal for market participants to connect with ASIC. This will allow for the enhancement of efficiencies in dealing with ASIC, and enable participants to electronically lodge certain material in accordance with their obligations. Fourth, the development of a workflow system will help ASIC improve the management of cases from the moment ASIC receives an alert, complaint or enquiry, to the end of an enforcement action.
With Australia having some of the highest levels of share ownership globally, this funding is crucial in allowing ASIC to strive towards one of its strategic priorities of confident and informed investors and financial consumers. This is achieved through markets operating with integrity and efficiency which, in turn, helps to achieve another strategic priority: fair and efficient financial markets.
The funding costs will be smoothed and recovered over 10 years to minimise impact. In our view, the cost will be outweighed by the medium to long-term benefits of competition and of well regulated, fair and efficient markets. These costs also reflect the additional costs of supervision due to the increased speed and complexity of trading and dispersed trading venues, including dark pools. As a percentage of market turnover, the cost of market supervision remains favourable to comparable jurisdictions.ASIC is committed to the project representing value for money, which means the process needs to be thorough. We will put in place strict evaluation procedures and will ask vendors to demonstrate competency in a range of functionalities important to ASIC and the market.
ASIC is acutely aware of the size of the IT project and build, and has hired experienced technical staff that have the requisite skills.
Electronic and Automated Trading
Technology has increased the speed, capacity and sophistication of trading. This has opened the door for new types of market participants that bring innovative trading strategies and an increase in platforms where orders can be matched.
Two regulatory challenges that ASIC is particularly interested in relate to the increased use of dark liquidity and HFT. ASIC has recently established internal taskforces to specifically consider these areas.

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