Alphacution Feed

#Hedgefunds: Is the Capacity of Alpha Unlimited?

Like the financial markets equivalent of "dude", or "bro" or the many satisfying derivations of "F**K," the term "alpha" seems to pepper our market discourse in a way that has few peers. Rightly or wrongly, there isn't an investment or trading context into which it is not shoehorned. We hear it everywhere, at all times, and in numerous forms: Achieving alpha... Delivering alpha... Portable alpha... (A strategy that had its heyday around 2006 and has recently tried to make a comeback.) Tainted alpha... (Not gonna go there right now.) And, my personal favorite (for its level of misguidedness), generating alpha... There are conferences named after it, like the CNBC and Institutional Investor ANNUAL Delivering Alpha Conference, now apparently in its 8th year. And, of course, some of the most brilliant and creative companies of all time have been named after it! - and, I'm not necessarily talking about firms like Visible Alpha or AlphaSense or the defunct quant strategy development platform, Alphacet... To be fair, the list of common usages [...]

By | 2018-09-23T22:12:39+00:00 September 23rd, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

α < ∞ ?

Like the financial markets equivalent of "dude", or "bro" or the many satisfying derivations of "F**K," the term "alpha" seems to pepper our market discourse in a way that has few peers. Rightly or wrongly, there isn't an investment or trading context into which it is not shoehorned. We hear it everywhere, at all times, and in numerous forms: Achieving alpha... Delivering alpha... Portable alpha... (A strategy that had its heyday around 2006 and has recently tried to make a comeback.) Tainted alpha... (Not gonna go there right now.) And, my personal favorite (for its level of misguidedness), generating alpha... There are conferences named after it, like the CNBC and Institutional Investor ANNUAL Delivering Alpha Conference, now apparently in its 8th year. And, of course, some of the most brilliant and creative companies of all time have been named after it! - and, I'm not necessarily talking about firms like Visible Alpha or AlphaSense or the defunct quant strategy development platform, Alphacet... To be fair, the list of common usages [...]

By | 2018-09-20T22:18:00+00:00 September 20th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

Those Fees Are No Laughing Matter!

Image Credit: Arpad Busson and actress Uma Thurman attend the premiere of Zulu during the 66th Cannes International Film Festival  - Hubert Boesl/DPA/Alamy He pressed "record" on the cassette machine, leaned back and took a long, deep drag from a cigarette. "Let's begin," he said with a heavy accent. In a risky break from protocol, and much to the frustration of my partner - Quantlab co-founder and chief scientist, Ed Bosarge - I asked if I could bum one of his smokes. "But, of course," the Frenchman said with a smirk... Scene: Swanky leather-drenched, art-stuffed office, midtown Manhattan, 1998. Arpad "Arki" Busson, then already at 35 a legendary rainmaker for legendary hedge fund managers, like Tudor Investment's Paul Tudor Jones, had agreed to meet with two of the top geeks from a quant trading upstart to pitch their new strategy to his EIM Group, a prestigious fund of funds (FoFs) platform of the era. In a bizarre twist of unacknowledged credentials, it was difficult to pretend to ignore the fact [...]

By | 2018-09-16T22:59:19+00:00 September 16th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

#Algorithm: Benchmarking the Cost of Post-Trade Processing

Patterns...  Preferably, persistent and predictable patterns...  It could be said that history is influenced by a series of pattern discoveries whereby new patterns are discovered with new tools, new technologies or new methodologies. Discovery always starts with variance of perspective, like a new pair of eyes.  And, that kind of trick never gets old - even during an era of hyper-intensive innovation. So, with that bit of philosophy as our backdrop, we arrive at today's lesson:  Alphacution discovered a persistent relationship between assets and headcount for asset managers, which led to new insights about strategy selections, technology spending, and workflow automation among a broad community of asset managers, hedge funds and others. This analysis was presented in its initial asset manager technology spending study, the Context Machine (April 2018). Upon further analysis, it turns out that there is also a persistent relationship between assets and headcount for asset servicers, like custodians and administrators. The significance of this discovery represents the beginnings of our ability to benchmark asset servicing costs and [...]

By | 2018-09-09T22:58:36+00:00 September 9th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

Quant Invasion Continues As Data Infrastructure Overtakes Eyeballs

Clues... At it's core, this is much of what we are ever doing as a research and advisory operation: Looking for clues. Ideally, we are looking for the kinds of clues that recur as patterns. And then, tell the stories from those clues and patterns. (Better yet, if we can devise a mechanism to systematically discover more clues and more patterns with regularity, then we will have developed something quite valuable. But, I digress...) So, it was with great fascination that we discovered one of the next important clues; some evidence of the nature of transformation in the trading and investment world - and that which is indicative of so many other sympathetic movements in the broader financial industry. This is the falling of dominoes that we often refer to. Here's the gist: Quantitative methods are set to pervade much more of the traditional asset management community and a broader cross-section of the strategy spectrum. Likely more than expected. Reason being: Fee compression renders traditional investment processes too expensive and [...]

By | 2018-08-29T20:55:38+00:00 August 29th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

Exposing Franklin Templeton’s Greatest Challenge: #ETFs

Exchange-traded funds (ETFs) may have their critics, but with nearly $3.5 trillion in total value represented by over 1,900 unique funds as of June 2018 (according to the Investment Company Institute - ICI), this segment of the market has grown faster and is now larger than total assets under management (AUM) of hedge funds (which BarclayHedge estimated at nearly $3.0 trillion for Q1 2018). Success is always the sweetest revenge... Sure, the naysayers point to numerous complexity factors - like variance in replication methods, tracking errors, liquidity issues, exotic-exposure risks, and others - to make their cautionary case and to send up warning flares to novice investors, but the blunt fact of the matter is that the well-designed, cost-efficient ETFs have had a profound impact on the financial landscape. That the downward trajectory of fees with competing financial products (like hedge funds and mutual funds) and the dramatic shift in asset allocations toward ETFs are among the most commonly cited attributes of the shifting landscape is obvious to most by [...]

By | 2018-08-14T22:50:52+00:00 August 14th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

A Game of Thrones Breaks Out in #BigFinTech

The incumbency of incumbents continues... This play has been well-established in the hardware and technical infrastructure arena for banks. And, for students of this game, the drumbeat of clues has been steady in the software solution arena for all types of financial asset-handlers, as well. However, with the $1.45 billion acquisition announcement of Eze Software Group by SS&C Technologies Holdings, Inc. (SSNC) on July 31, 2018 - an event that comes a mere 11 days after State Street (STT) announces its acquisition of Charles River Development (CRD) for $2.6 billion - it is clear that the turf war in what Alphacution calls "Big FinTech" has heated up to a new level of intensity. Here's why: There's a greater chance of controlling the "means of production" - the toolbox for trading and investment workflows - from the middle than from the front or the back. Yes, at-trade solutions like order and execution management systems (O/EMSs) are quite sticky, but these latest maneuvers with CRD and Eze are much more than that. [...]

By | 2018-08-28T20:17:22+00:00 August 2nd, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

When Market Makers Ate Their Own…

Right out of the gate, this story might emit a whiff of last year's news. Maybe. But, that sense would only last until you realize that this is also a template for improving predictions about future events. And, that kind of predictive power relies upon the bet that more markets and opportunities are becoming winner-take-all in the digital era... (Hint: As the functioning of markets - and other economic opportunities - become more "digital," a single leader can emerge in that market. This is how we end up with the "FANG's" - Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. It's also how US equity markets end up with ~80% lit market-making flows being split between Virtu and Citadel. Here are some facts to fill in the background: In the three years beginning 2006, the Timber Hill market making unit of Interactive Brokers Group (IB) had an annual revenue run rate of around $1 billion, peaking at over $1.3 billion in 2008. By 2017, Timber Hill's revenue run rate had declined 94% to [...]

By | 2018-07-17T23:17:56+00:00 July 18th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

Rise of the Platform

William Shakespeare wrote: "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players." It turns out - more so now than ever before - that there is a business equivalent to this famous line from Act 2 Scene 7 of Shakespeare's play, "As You Like It." The difference, however, is that the "stage" in the current context is known as a platform. And, with each passing day, the strength, agility, intelligence and speed requirements of current financial platforms tend to increase. Putting our key points up front, what we are going to emphasize as we make the case for the validity (and urgency) of this opening salvo are the following: The ceaseless march of innovation, competitive forces and exogenous market factors dictate that players in the modern financial services industry evolve from their initial proprietary technology bias to an expanded supply chain strategy, with focus on certain foundational categories of technical functionality. In other words, for a majority of players, their are certain core technical components that [...]

By | 2018-07-17T00:33:26+00:00 July 17th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

@DeutscheBank + @HPE: Case Study on Impacts

"Pay attention to what I say, not what I do..." Let's return to the bonus chart slipped in at the end of the recent post @DeutscheBank: Three-Card Monte and Other Confidence Games (For maximum context and extra credit, you can pick up the thread about Deutsche Bank from the beginning in March 2016 here). Bottom line: We are fascinated with the idea of detecting the impacts of the IT outsourcing deal that DB and HPE entered into in early 2015. The main questions that keep coming to mind are these: Is this deal a template for other large banks? Does it save money? Or, is its value to be found in other metrics, like enhanced performance or boosts in innovation? And, based on the level of transparency provided by DB (which is one of our best bank models), can we even detect the impacts of this arrangement? The answer to this last question is what brings us to this post... Right up front, we can say, yes - generically, speaking [...]

By | 2018-07-15T16:21:31+00:00 July 16th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|