Tech Answers The Call To Tackle FX’s Best Execution Dilemma

Over one-third of traders cite ‘best execution’ as their greatest daily trading issue according to a recent report by JP Morgan. The FX industry is looking to all aspects from, exchanges, market infrastructure providers and algorithmic trading to aid them in solving this problem.

The report entitled ‘e-trading trends for 2018 surveyed over 400 institutional traders to gain insight into what they think the main issues and trends will be in the year ahead.

ParFX

ParFX, a spot FX platform has measures in place to improve execution quality such as its unique randomized pause and enhanced trade cycle transparency. The company’s CEO Dan Marcus explained on Bloomberg TV that, “As a venue, what we’ve always tried to deliver is best execution, what you now see is there is more transparency, more surveillance, more systems, more controls, to sure we deliver the best execution that the regulators can see is traded in the market.” ParFX’s measures were put in place to remove the negative impact some high-frequency traders were having on the FX markets. By reducing this negative impact, ParFX has provided traders a fast, reliable and ultimately accurate platform where orders can be carried out efficiently.

Pragma

Traders are also looking to algorithmic trading to improve the quality of their execution. Curtis Pfeiffer, Chief Business Officer at Pragma Securities, believes the rise of algorithmic trading, which now accounts for more than one-third of flows in institutional currency markets, is due to how market prices and execution prices are databased. A database makes it simpler for their clients to carry out analysis of their execution quality and therefore improve their future decision making.

CLS

CLS is also providing tools to aide traders achieve their best execution goals, with the timely release of CLS’s FX Forecast data. This new tool provides subscribers with a forward-looking view of FX markets on an hourly basis, enabling them to quickly detect potential price movements and identify times to trade with greater liquidity, reducing market impact and signaling risk.

Alan Marquard, Chief Strategy and Development Officer at CLS, said: “Our position at the center of the global foreign exchange market means we are ideally placed to provide comprehensive and accurate data insights to market participants. Incorporating our forecast data into trading strategies can provide institutions with a better view of trading capacity, enabling them to optimize and time their trades. It also helps risk teams to more accurately adjust their models to the changing market. Ultimately, this will lead to a safer and more profitable foreign exchange market.”

Where Next? 

In a financial landscape where liquidity seems abundant, new innovative technologies are aiding traders to maximize best execution, however, it remains to be seen whether this will address what is now the biggest concern facing traders today.

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Defining the FX Flash Crash

On the 15th January 2015, the euro crashed 20% against the Swiss franc in a matter of moments, before recovering rapidly. Similarly, on 7th October 2016, sterling plunged in value by over 9% against the dollar, again regaining most of its value minutes later.

These are amongst the most famous examples of the market phenomena know as the ‘flash crash’, but they are by no means the only examples. In fact, according to a study by algorithmic trading technology provider, Pragma, which aims to help monitor and track the prevalence of flash crashes, there were some 69 flash crashes in 2015 and 2016. Almost one a fortnight.

The causes of these market phenomena are unknown. It has been suggested that flash crashes are the result of ‘fat-fingered traders’ or lapses of human judgement. After the pound sterling incident, the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) released a report which suggested technical error as a possible cause.

However, as most research has considered these events as of one-off incidences, drawing generalised conclusions has been difficult. Without other flash crashes to compare, it is not possible to tell which variables in a complex market are contributing to the crash and which were incidental. For example, some commentators have suggested that a principal cause is algorithms overreacting to news events, but further study has found no particular correlation between other flash crashes and news events.

This is where Pragma’s research is vital. It has analysed two years of tick by tick foreign exchange data to identify and catalogue all instances of flash crashes across numerous major currencies between 2015 and 2016. To do this, it has developed a precise, quantitative definition of the flash crash.

Previously, the BIS described a flash crash as a ‘large, fast, V-shaped price move and a sudden widening of bid-offer spreads,’ the V-shape implies a reversion of the price after the initial price move. Pragma’s definition builds on the BIS’s and defines a flash crash as having a:

  • Large price move ( 13x than normal price volatility)
  • Widening bid-offer spread 2x normal)
  • Strong price reversion ( 70% price reversion)

Using this standard, the examined time period had 69 instances of what would be considered a flash crash.

This dataset allows industry analysts and academics to more accurately examine the causes of flash crashes and what effects such as changing technology, regulation and industry practices are having on market quality going into the future.

For now, the causes of flash crashes remain unclear. But Pragma’s research provides an important foundational step in moving the market towards a more full understanding of this market phenomena.

For more information, you can request Pragma’s research report here. You can also read more about the report on Bloomberg and Reuters.

Chatsworth congratulates Pragma and Cobalt on FX Week e-FX Award wins

Leading industry trade publication FX Week has announced the winners of its prestigious e-FX Awards, which included two of Chatsworth’s foreign exchange clients.

The awards recognise firms from across the foreign exchange industry for their excellence and innovation in the world’s most liquid financial market.

Announcing the award winners, FX Week editor Eva Szalay said technology in the market was “booming”, pointing out that “innovation has been extended to small start-ups, as well as the largest players” and highlighted the market’s “genuine desire to become more transparent, more competent and highly innovative”.

Innovation was certainly in evidence from algorithmic trading technology provider Pragma Securities, which was named Best independent algorithmic trading technology provider, and post-trade distributed ledger technology company Cobalt, which was awarded e-FX initiative of the year award.

Pragma

Reflecting on the increasing sophistication amongst the buy-side and the push for best execution in FX, Pragma has seen rapid growth and expansion over the past 12 months.

The company serves banks, brokers and sophisticated buy-side institutions, and identifies its value proposition around transparency and control as differentiating features.

It added a number of new capabilities to its Pragma360 algorithmic trading platform. This includes algorithmic trading non-deliverable forwards (NDFs), which offers traders better execution when investing in popular emerging market currencies.

It has also expanded its international client base through a new connectivity presence at Equinix’s LD6 data centre in London, providing lower latency connection to London based FX matching engines.

Cobalt

Cobalt has a very eye-catching proposition – it uses distributed ledger technology to cut 80% of the costs of post-trade reporting.

Founded by former Traiana executive Andy Coyne, and Adrian Patten, the company is offering to completely revolutionise the costly and time-consuming way in which post-trade FX services are conducted, cutting out duplication by storing records of all transactions on a single distributed ledger.

“I think if we are successful, the biggest impact will be on trading and Cobalt will increase volumes. Post-trade costs are a tax on trading and the idea that you can charge someone 50 cents to a buck for sending an unencrypted message to the back office is ridiculous.

“So if we can reduce those costs by dollars per transaction, that will feed into increasing volumes,” Patten tells FX Week.

The team at Chatsworth would like to congratulate both Cobalt and Pragma on their well-deserved award wins.

London’s post-Brexit future as a financial hub

UK Prime Minister Theresa May finally triggered the formal process for Britain leaving the European Union (EU) on March 29.

While the EU referendum and a post-Brexit scenario may have been something of a blow to confidence in the City, it still has plenty going for it as a financial hub. This year’s Global Financial Centres Index, an international ranking of the world’s leading financial centres, placed London top of the pile.

“London’s rating has been influenced by not knowing what will happen after the UK’s departure [from the EU],” Mark Yeandle, associate director of Z/Yen and author of the report, told The Financial Times. Despite this, London remains top of the list and, over the period which the report tracks, has even recovered some ranking points.

London also remains the world’s biggest FX market by a huge margin, according to the latest BIS Triennial report. While Brexit may result in some jobs being relocated, the industry still believes London will remain front and centre and a key financial hub.

One of the key factors which will insulate London’s FX market is its concentration of trading infrastructure and activity. “When trading becomes concentrated in a particular region and is supported by a comprehensive legal and regulatory environment it develops natural strengths that enable that particular market to function well.” says Dan Marcus, CEO of ParFX, talking to Finance Magnates. “By leaving that pool of liquidity, a firm could disadvantage themselves and their clients.”

This means that, far from vacating the city, many businesses are investing further in London’s future.

Algorithmic trading technology provider Pragma is one such company, with the New York-based firm expanding its equities and FX business to London. “Our investment in the data center at Equinix’s LD6 site offers Pragma360 clients access to state-of-the art technology and the largest ecosystem for foreign exchange trading globally,” says Pragma’s Chief Business Officer, Curtis Pfeiffer.

“Despite the uncertainty caused by Brexit, we are moving forward with this large capital expenditure because London, as the largest FX trading centre in the world, hosts the largest datacentre ecosystem for low-latency FX trading applications and we do not see that changing any time soon,” he explains.

While nothing in the negotiations has been determined at this early stage, the City will also weigh up the potential challenges of Brexit.

Continued access to the European single market through financial passporting and the ability to attract skilled technology professionals from across the EU to work in London top the list for many institutions.

“77% of my staff in London were born outside the UK. We need those people. People are very mobile. I just worry that tough negotiations will send the wrong signal.” Michael Kent, CEO of remittance service Azimo, told Financial News.

In addition, J.P. Morgan has reportedly spent the last nine months weighing up various EU cities as a potential new continental home for their operations, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Looking beyond the headlines, however, the picture is more nuanced. Most of the relocation plans announced over the past few months involve relatively small numbers of staff. For many banks and financial institutions this may be a hedging exercise rather than a wholesale exodus.

Going forward, the UK government is determined to ensure London remains a central part of the international financial landscape, and it’s worth remembering London has a number of strategic advantages which mean it is likely to continue to be the city of choice. It uses the global language of business, English; it is situated in the perfect timezone between Asia and America; and has a legal system that is world-renowned for clarity and reliability.

None of this will change; in fact, it will continue to ensure London remains open and attractive to business.

In search of FX liquidity

Foreign exchange (FX) is one of the world’s most liquid markets, with around USD 5 trillion exchanged across borders every day.

However, there is a perception in the market that liquidity is on the wane.

This is not necessarily true, according to David Puth, CEO of CLS. Speaking to Euromoney, he said “There is a tendency for market participants to believe that liquidity was better in the past. From what we see at CLS, liquidity appears to be very strong. It is, however, different, with liquidity widely dispersed over a number of different trading venues.”

The pessimism may in part be as a result of the increasing difficulty in defining exactly what liquidity means in the modern market, and measuring it accurately.

This was one of the questions which a recent report on liquidity in the Americas from the Bank of International Settlements (BIS) attempted to address.

Traditional liquidity metrics, such as cost metrics, quantity metrics and trade impact, have their uses, but the report finds that none are a perfect way to measure liquidity in the modern market.

This is important because one thing which is clear is that the modern FX market is becoming increasingly complex, making understanding liquidity more difficult.

The market, like many others, is fragmenting as electrification proliferates the number of trading venues and sell side participants put more emphasis on internalising trades.

Whether this fragmentation is having an impact on traders ability to trade, remains an open question.

The BIS report indicates that fragmentation does appear to be having some impact on liquidity measures, particularly when it comes to periods of market stress.

It gives examples such as the 2016 British EU referendum and flash crashes, where traditional liquidity metrics appear to have been impacted across a number of currency pairs, at least over the short term.

Dan Marcus, CEO of ParFX, points out that sometimes individual metrics don’t always give the full picture. “It may be the case that volumes are down from where they were… [However] on ParFX we do not see evidence of a problem with market depth or the ability for traders, who need to trade, fill orders.”

This is in part because, while technology is driving fragmentation, it is also creating opportunities to aggregate liquidity in more efficient ways.

“Buy-side traders have responded [to FX market fragmentation] by turning to algorithms and taking on more execution risk themselves”, says Pragma’s CEO David Mechner.

Liquidity is the lifeblood of the FX market, it is vital that the market can measure it in a way which gives an accurate representation of what it is like to trade. One solution, suggested by Mechner, is a consolidated tape, much like in equities. Until then, the market should think carefully about the metrics used to measure the market and ensure they are fit for purpose.

Pragma launches SmartFix algorithm to improve FX trading performance against WM/R 4pm

Pragma Securities, a leading provider of high performance algorithmic trading tools, has launched a sophisticated algorithm designed to improve average execution performance against the daily 4pm WM/Reuters foreign exchange benchmark fixing.

Following recommendations from regulators in the wake of the FX rate-rigging scandal, in February 2015 the methodology underpinning the WM/R benchmark was changed, widening the calculation window from one minute for the most liquid currencies to five minutes.

In addition, banks have largely shifted their execution of customer fix orders from the spot desk to their electronic desks, where time-weighted average price (TWAP) execution algorithms are often used.

Pragma’s research highlights that together, these changes have created predictable patterns that can be leveraged to improve trading performance using only publicly available data. The full research findings are available via the Pragma Securities website.

Pragma’s new SmartFIX algorithm is built on the firm’s own research, which has identified predictable patterns of trading behaviour around the key FX benchmark.

The algorithm observes only publicly available information, and adjusts its trading rate in a systematic way based on those observations to achieve better execution on average for traders benchmarked to the Fix. In addition, these dynamic adjustments are layered on top of a proprietary trading schedule that achieves lower tracking error against the benchmark than a simple TWAP

David Mechner, CEO at Pragma Securities comments: “For traders that are constrained to match the fixing rate, our algorithm can reduce risk relative to a simple TWAP, and can also improve execution quality for a modest increase in risk. This makes it a good tool for banks servicing customer fix orders whether in a principal or agency manner.”

The new algorithm complements Pragma’s existing foreign exchange platform offering, Pragma360, which includes a suite of execution algorithms, transaction cost analysis (TCA), risk controls, and a next-generation algorithm monitoring system called Panorama. Pragma360 is provided as a broker-neutral trading solution to banks and asset managers.