Paul

About Paul Rowady

Paul Rowady is the Director of Research for Alphacution Research Conservatory, the first digitally-oriented research and strategic advisory platform uniquely focused on modeling and benchmarking the impacts of technology on global financial markets and the businesses of trading, asset management and banking. He is a 30-year veteran of the proprietary, quantitative and derivatives trading arenas with specific expertise in strategy research, risk management, and techno-operational development. Contact: feedback@alphacution.com; Follow: @alphacution.

Virtu Financial: Musical Chairs

"No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible." - Frank Zappa   On Tuesday, February 11, Virtu reported Q4 and full-year 2019 financials. What follows are a few thoughts and charts on the latest data: Net trading income came in at $228.7 million for Q4 - not great, not terrible - based on a QoQ uptick in core equities; some weakness in global FICC, options and other (whatever that is) relative to Q3 2019; and, flat execution services revenue relative to Q3 and Q2 2019 (basically since the ITG acquisition closed last March). The chart below visualizes an historical quarterly decomposition of net trading revenue components relative to the ratio of SPX realized to implied volatility for the 24 quarters beginning Q1 2014 and ending Q4 2019 to emphasize the importance of unexpected volatility spikes in the grand scheme of profitability for market making and execution firms. When the other components of Q4 2019 NTI became available, we will circle back [...]

By | 2020-02-13T00:47:29+00:00 February 13th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

AQR Capital Management: The Ominous Shapes of Strategy

"The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek." - Joseph Campbell   For 12 straight years beginning Q4 2001, AQR Capital Management, LLC (AQR) - one of the great and legendary quant hedge funds of the current era - grew equity positions until peaking at 2,346 (long equity) positions by Q4 2013. Since that time, AQR's long US equity book has found an ominously consistent plateau averaging 2,140 positions. Here, in what would normally seem to be a benign factoid, lie the seeds of the story for why AQR has been suffering performance challenges of late; and, apparently, performance challenges for the foreseeable future according to co-founder and front-man, Cliff Asness. We start that story with the exhibit, below, where Alphacution presents the full 72-quarter record of total 13F (long) positions for the lineage of AQR Capital Management entities beginning Q4 2001 and ending Q3 2019. With these first shapes, we want to highlight that stocks are the dominant product class, thereby implying that there is little [...]

By | 2020-02-10T11:27:23+00:00 February 9th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

AQR: The Shape of Strategy (Teaser)

For 12 straight years beginning Q4 2001, AQR Capital Management, LLC (AQR) - one of the great and legendary hedge funds of the current era - grew equity positions until peaking at 2,346 (long equity) positions by Q4 2013. Since that time, AQR's long US equity book has found an ominously consistent plateau of about 2,050 positions. And, in what would normally seem to be a benign factoid, lie the seeds of the story for why AQR has been suffering performance challenges of late - and apparently, for the foreseeable future (according to co-founder, Cliff Asness). Hold that thought. More (very) soon...

By | 2020-02-06T00:36:47+00:00 February 6th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Barclays Succumbs, Flips Options to GTS

"Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine." - Alan Turing One by one, those willing to stand and make markets in options are - uh - taking a knee. Back in December (2019), Barclays became the latest in a long string of players - big and nots-so-big - to punt their options trading business to a willing buyer before any more value evaporated. So, we thought to take a closer look at what patterns or signals might exist, if any, to detect moves like this. Here's the setup: It turns out that in a Feed post entitled, "Goldman Sachs and the Long Arc of Hull Trading," we have some useful benchmarking to draw from to frame Barclays' ultimate decision. In the chart, below, Alphacution presents total 13F options position counts for parent entity, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., over the 45-quarter period beginning Q2 2008. Note: The vast majority of these position reside in the broker-dealer entity, Goldman Sachs [...]

By | 2020-02-06T00:39:31+00:00 February 5th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Tom Brady, Louis Bacon and the Game Changers

“From the point of ignition to the final drive, the point of the journey is not to arrive.” - Neil Peart   New clues are emerging on the nature and pace of change... Here's the setup: Unlikely and unexpected virtuosity often serves as the catalyst for a dynastic run of success. Moreover, legend has it, that it's usually the will over and above the skill that fuels the initiation and duration of that run. While skills eventually decay, it's the will to keep finding a way to win - to distinguish oneself or team relative to the competition - that's the defining factor. Of course, whether it be a football field or a market landscape, like a moving sidewalk, everything happens as the ground is constantly shifting below our feet. What happens to Tom Brady next, I'm not here to predict. He is merely a reliable hook to drag your attention to this point in the story because the debate about whether his game has changed to favor running, mobile [...]

By | 2020-01-23T23:47:41+00:00 January 23rd, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Implications: 2019 Payments For Order Flow Flat vs. 2018

"Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it." - Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow   With three quarters worth of financial reports for calendar 2019 long in the bag, it is not much of a courageous leap for us to deliver an estimate for order routing revenue - otherwise more notoriously known as payment for order flow (PFOF) - for the full year. And, with the quarterly earnings season coming in the month ahead, it won't be long before we are able to test the accuracy of this estimate. In the chart below, Alphacution extends our prior analysis not only to include 2011 and 2012 but also, more relevantly, to include the year just completed; thereby extending to nine years from six our focus on five of the primary players in retail order flow for US equity markets who also disclose order routing data: TD Ameritrade (soon to be acquired by Charles Schwab); E*Trade; the [...]

By | 2020-02-04T12:38:03+00:00 January 15th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

2020 Musings: In For A Penny, In For A Pound

Somebody may beat me, but they are going to have to bleed to do it." - Steve Prefontaine "Study the art of science. Develop your senses - especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” - Leonardo da Vinci   Renowned columnist and author, Thomas Friedman often talks about unintended and unpredictable outcomes when tinkering with big systems. I am reminded of this thought as I drag myself, kicking and screaming, to write this next post. The source of my reluctance is this: I don't want to be in the prediction business mainly because the timing of the catalyst that dramatically alters the trajectory of prevailing themes is a fools errand. And, because we may be standing at such a consequential point in history that the events that await us along the journey in the months and years ahead are unimaginable. However, I do think it's important to start the year by reflecting out loud about the year ahead while leveraging what we have learned about those themes from [...]

By | 2020-01-08T23:57:42+00:00 January 8th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

A Blockbuster Year: Alphacution’s Top Stories For 2019

"Judge of a man by his questions rather than by his answers." - Voltaire To be exceedingly more terse than usual, it was a pivotal year. Thanks to so many of you who spent some of your precious attention with this work during 2019... The following Alphacution Feed posts are what you - our "congregation" - valued most during 2019 (as ranked by pageviews): Top 100 Players in US Listed Market Structure - By a factor 2x, this post from February captured the most attention initially and throughout the year. The eye candy likely didn't hurt... What Bloomberg Misses About Citadel Securities - If Alphacution's year produced anything that could be called "viral" this one might be it; coming in 2nd place for the year after being published only 2 weeks ago on December 18th... Optiver, IMC and a Shout Out to AmsterdamTrader -  Who would have thought Alphacution's readership was craving such news from the Netherlands? Rest assured that 2020 will be featuring much more of the overall European [...]

By | 2020-01-02T14:02:46+00:00 January 1st, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

What Bloomberg Misses About Citadel Securities

"You can have all the transfer orders that you want, but you have to ask me nicely." - Col. Nathan R. Jessup, "A Few Good Men" On December 11, 2019, Bloomberg News editor Tom Maloney publishes an unusually illuminating article on Citadel Securities, "Ken Griffin Has Another Money Machine to Rival Hedge Fund," citing specifically that the market maker earned $3.5 billion of revenue in 2018 and "handles more than 1 of 5 shares traded in the US each year." Of note, the article includes two charts, the first of which ranking net trading revenue in 2018 for a selection of bank and non-bank market makers; and the second of which showcasing the shifting market shares of US retail equity wholesalers. Given that Alphacution has followed this and other firms in this space as closely or moreso than any others - for example, we are not aware of any other research and advisory group publishing a comprehensive case study on Citadel Securities - I wanted to add a few thoughts [...]

By | 2019-12-19T14:52:33+00:00 December 18th, 2019|Alphacution Feed|

Ch-ch-changes: A Subscription to “Charles Ameritrade”

"If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time." - Steve Jobs "Speak in extremes. It'll save you time." - David Bowie   "Less than 10 bucks a month..." This statement - or, some algorithmically-sanitized equivalent - is the next destination to which we're headed in the retail brokerage saga, where in our last episode, all the major players in the space appear to sacrifice hundreds of millions of dollars of commission revenue in order to copy (and therefore, prevent) the insurgent, Robinhood, and a few roboadvisors from disrupting their incumbency with zero-commission trading (as showcased in our subtly-titled post, "Schwab and Others Confirm Status as Casinos, Purveyors of Financial Opioids"). So, that development seemed like a good opportunity to refresh some data, make some new pictures, and tell a story based on those pictures. Of course, normally among the foremost fixations on our Feed has been on who is paying and receiving on the basis of order flow, and how much. Most recently, Alphacution has detailed [...]

By | 2019-12-24T15:48:02+00:00 December 17th, 2019|Alphacution Feed|