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 | 2020-01-15T23:28:20+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|

Ranking of Select US Option Market Makers

"The book of nature is written in the language of mathematics." - Galileo Galilei As we prepare to turn the page on a new year, and consider what we may want to accomplish during that year, derivatives are on the priority list. Why? Options are important for many reasons from risk management to computational rigor and signal generation. And, if you had been paying close enough attention over the course of this year, you might have noticed that each of our case studies have touched, in one way or another, on options. Now, given that Alphacution is committed to its research providing new pictures to ponder, I wanted to drop the following chart on you with little additional commentary for this go 'round - except to say that the plan right now is to dedicate a full case study to the key players in options trading during 2020. Stay tuned... Until next time...

By | 2019-12-05T12:23:52+00:00 December 5th, 2019|Alphacution Feed|

Balyasny’s Book: Hiding in Plain Sight

“Even though the transformation of energy, in all of its various forms, is the very basis of all economic activity, only a tiny fraction of economists have even studied thermodynamics. And only a handful of individuals inside the profession have attempted to redefine economic theory and practice based on the energy laws.” - Jeremy Rifkin, The Third Industrial Revolution With this Feed post, Alphacution adds Balyasny Asset Management, LLC (BAM) to its growing roster of modelled trading firms. BAM is a multi-strategy multi-manager investment firm who is often compared to the likes of Millennium, Point72, and Citadel. We might go a bit further to add Two Sigma and AQR Capital Management to a broader description of other large hedge fund managers that operate in the active management zone of our ecosystem map. To more specifically define BAM's core strategy genre as statistical arbitrage is likely to go a bit too far on the active and automated strategy spectrum, as its material reliance on fundamental analysis would more accurately put it [...]

By | 2019-12-01T21:51:16+00:00 December 1st, 2019|Alphacution Feed|

Want Better Markets? Try a Herfindahl Kiss

"Enough is a feast." - Buddhist Proverb While many of us are ramping up to gorge ourselves on the annual tryptophan bacchanal, perhaps lubricated by an appetizer of American football where - in the likely case of far fewer of us - we will watch my hometown Detroit Lions perform their annual holiday impersonation of a major league sports franchise, and I will watch my 91-year old father behave as if they haven't been disappointing him for lo these past 53 years since the birth of Super Bowl I. Yes, it is the holiday season again and it probably borders on being little crass to talk shop on a coveted day away from whatever salt mine in which you have chosen to toil. But then again, I thought it might prove useful to offer a short bromide to accompany whatever you are feasting on today... Concentration risk, not of positions but of the increasing dominance of tech-wielding leaders on listed market inventory, is like a locomotive with no apparent mechanism [...]

By | 2019-12-19T14:26:53+00:00 November 28th, 2019|Alphacution Feed|

A Message From Citadel…

Success in any endeavor requires single-minded attention to detail and total concentration." - Willie Sutton, bank robber Alphacution has been writing untold stories about the most secretive, mythological and successful trading firms, hedge funds and asset managers in the history of the global markets ecosystem for the past couple years. What originated as our "Hiding in Plain Sight" series has come to life based on an accidental cocktail of messy data and an experiential overlay made up of a maniacal curiosity for puzzle solving, the joy of storytelling, and a potent dash of personal circumstance. Dozens of these companies have found themselves in our sights, many of them the subject of these Feed posts - some more than once - and, many of them modeled but yet to be written about. And, since there is so much secrecy around proprietary trading strategies - and rightly so - most folks have responded without responding, except for their ongoing readership, and the network effect. Yes, a small minority of our subjects have [...]

By | 2019-11-21T22:31:29+00:00 November 21st, 2019|Alphacution Feed|

Citadel Punks Blackstone – Part 2

"What is to give light must endure burning." - Viktor Frankl “The backbone of surprise is fusing speed with secrecy.” – Carl von Clausewitz   UPDATE 11/21/2019 (bottom of post) Why is it coming out now, apparently months after the talks took place, that Blackstone inquired about buying a stake in Citadel? There are a few reasons we can think of for monetizing coveted equity - or, at least showing enough leg to solicit an updated "mark" on the assets - but, the most likely one has been the same for years: Ken wants to become an investment bank. Ok, so what does Citadel need to become an investment bank that it doesn't already have? Well, given leadership - and, occasional dominance - in listed equity-linked markets by Citadel, the next beachhead for investment banks-in-training is fixed income. And, Citadel-like prowess in fixed income may require lots of technology and smart folk, but the one thing it definitely needs is balance sheet. The next question, then, is: Do you build [...]

By | 2019-11-23T14:57:21+00:00 November 21st, 2019|Alphacution Feed|