Alphacution Feed

The Source of #AI Hype

Apple doesn't mention it... Amazon doesn't mention it... Alphabet (aka - Google) does mention it - but doesn't link it specifically to financial performance... IBM? You betcha. More than 155 times... In case you have been living under a rock - which, now that I think of it, has some increasing allure - artificial intelligence (and its slightly less sexy twin, machine learning) has succeeded 2016's marketing darling, blockchain, to become the blinking-neon-sign-outside-your-hotel-room term for 2017. Sorry, folks. The budgets have already been allocated. Go find predictive analytics (2014) and digital transformation (2015) in the dust bin of over-exposed marketing terms if you are not yet hip to how this game is played. Now, let's take a quick step back for a second: This is NOT an anti-AI hit piece. Nor is this an IBM-gotcha piece. I am a fan of both. But, this is simply a commentary based on the convergence of connect-the-dots exercises that have come out of our modeling and research. Yes, AI has an incredibly promising - if not, slightly scary [...]

By | 2017-04-28T10:17:09+00:00 April 27th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

Done Deal: Virtu Financial + KCG Holdings

We've moved a major step towards a done deal here. Good news is that this remains far from a done story. Easy access to financial and operational data about the outer extremes of technical leverage in the global financial services sector provides great fodder for a story that will continue to inform and fascinate. Along those lines, and in addition to the updated deal news, both parties disclosed results from the most recent quarter today. With that, I thought it would be timely to update our ongoing analysis to see if the evidence confirms or alters the findings we have been showcasing to date. Here's where we started a little over a month ago on March 15 when Virtu made its unsolicited bid for KCG:  "In the chart below, average daily adjusted net trading revenue for Q4-2016 returns to levels not seen since late 2013 / early 2014. Chances are quite high that persistent low volatility during Q1-2017 ... has caused these figures to fall back to pre-2013 levels." And then there is this additional comment: [...]

By | 2017-04-28T10:04:39+00:00 April 21st, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

Trojan Horse or Savior? IT Services Continue to Infiltrate Banking Operations

How far can it go? The relationship between large banks, financial services firms, and insurance companies - sometimes simply known by the acronym BFSI - and large IT services and outsourcing firms, like Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), Infosys, or Cognizant Technology Solutions (among several others), has become increasingly and consistently cozy and pervasive over the past decade or so. In the rearview mirror, this development makes total sense. We all now live in a perpetual "more for less" environment. And, if you can't achieve more-for-less, at least approximate the same functionality for less. So, with BFSI caught in a brutal post-GFC vice represented by unprecedented regulatory pervasiveness on one side and a lowest-rate, lowest-volatility market environment on the other, it makes total sense that a ton of legacy infrastructure, legacy software maintenance, and select semi-skilled, labor-intensive processes have gradually been offloaded to lowest-cost purveyors of these types of services. Clearly, this play has been quite popular. Though BFSI is certainly not the only client sector for global IT services - in fact, the diversity across sectors is broad, from logistics to [...]

By | 2017-04-28T10:02:31+00:00 April 20th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

Unmet Need: Benchmarking Returns on FinTech Investments (w/ Webinar Playback)

Having a hunch is one thing. Quantifying that hunch is another thing entirely. Since its launch, Alphacution's primary hunch - and a factor that drives its mission - has been that measuring the impact of information technology investments within the financial services ecosystem is 1) super important, and 2) not something that firms currently do very often. Of course, we are  nearly 2 years into an ambitious modeling and framework development exercise based on far more than hunches. There has been a steady flow of evidence and support. Early adoption and consumption of our output by marquee clients and a growing network of prospects, seasoned advisors and friends provides ongoing resources and intellectual nourishment to keep building. However, on the back of our first webinar - hosted by partner, Aite Group - it was gratifying to ask direct questions to and receive direct answers from a broad and diverse audience. While helping to further galvanize the initial hypothesis, this evidence also speaks clearly to the vast spectrum of players in the financial services ecosystem who potentially [...]

By | 2017-04-28T10:00:09+00:00 April 18th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

@VirtuFinancial Pulls the Trigger on @KCG: Here’s a Bit More…

Here's an update from the initial post on March 15, 2017... The first wave of commentary is in, and the consensus seems to be that the unsolicited bid by Virtu for KCG is all "about the little guy." In other words, this deal is all about the position of a wholesaler relative to retail order flow. Maybe so. There is also some suggestion that these firms are not competitors; that, in fact, they may be complementary. Ok, I guess. But, widen your interpretation of the situation a bit and consider this: According to the 2016 Virtu 10-K, it is disclosed that, "We make markets by providing quotations to buyers and sellers in more than 12,000 securities and other financial instruments on more than 235 unique exchanges, markets and liquidity pools in 36 countries around the world." The notable liquidity venues are as follows, (and notice the part about "major private liquidity pools.") Since #HFT and narratives about highly-automated trading strategies are crowded topics among capital markets punditry, Alphacution has not followed the nuances close enough to know for sure whether the sponsor [...]

By | 2017-04-28T09:57:07+00:00 March 21st, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

@VirtuFinancial Pulls the Trigger on @KCG: Here’s Why…

@VirtuFinancial bid for KCG Holdings (@KCGHQ) today. Here's why: In the chart below, average daily adjusted net trading revenue for Q4-2016 returns to levels not seen since late 2013 / early 2014. Chances are quite high that persistent low volatility during Q1-2017 - which has only a dozen trading days left in it - has caused these figure to fall back to pre-2013 levels. A situation like that needs a good distraction; something that can change the narrative and allow for lots of financial restructuring and restatements.  Voila! Try to take out one of your nearest competitors... Problem is, it won't work - even if the deal gets done. The cultures of Virtu and GETCO - the parts that are likely to fit together the most logically - won't mesh. Knowing the founders and leadership, they are as different as New York and Chicago, as different as right and left. Stay tuned...  

By | 2017-04-28T09:57:45+00:00 March 15th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

Financial Technology Impacts: YOU are in Darkness – And, THIS is a Flashlight.

Disclaimer: Opinions and a grain or two of salty language contained herein are solely those of the author. Save your time. Just, pick up the flashlight now. Ok. Here's some bait: Chances are quite high that you are searching for answers in the darkness (amidst the chaos). And the tools that you have at your disposal - typically in the form of 5,000 or 10,000 word salads with few pictures and fewer numbers from a "pedigreed" purveyor of guidance - actually do not emit much light. The good news is that you need not toil in darkness any longer. There is a flashlight at your disposal - and, unlike a normal flashlight, this one is designed to grow in luminosity and enhance your enlightenment at the same time. Now, you can continue to deny that this is your reality - and continue as you are - or, you can check out the flashlight. Still skeptical? Here's more of the pitch: I have been successfully solving complex puzzles for a very long time. The puzzle that fascinates me and tickles my curiosity most right [...]

By | 2017-04-28T09:52:23+00:00 March 15th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

Welcome Back to 2006: Top #InvestmentBanking Headcount Roundtrip

Well, it would have been the Top 10 investment banks, but @Barclays doesn't publish quarterly headcount for some reason. Maybe they will help us fix that. Anyway, for the Top 9 investment banks, total headcount is down 13% from its peak in Q3 2011. And, with at least 2 of the 9 - @Deutsche Bank and @CreditSuisse - reporting significant headcount reductions for the road ahead as part their year-end 2016 financial releases and 2017 guidance, it's not much of a stretch for us to predict that the Wonkavator is highly likely to travel further back in time than year-end 2006 (see below). I just want to let this picture dangle for a bit without much comment. We will be revisiting and significantly expanding this analysis in the weeks and months ahead as we roll into the development of our 2nd Annual Global Bank Technology Spending study. Stay tuned...

By | 2017-04-28T09:47:09+00:00 March 2nd, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

@GoldmanSachs: This Is What (Process) Innovation Looks Like

If you are only interested in reading hyperbole-laced stories about the latest shiny things in #fintech innovation, then what follows is not for you. But, if you actually care about innovation that results in real impacts, then we invite you to keep reading. From the following angle, something changed around mid-2012 at @GoldmanSachs. Arguably, the groundwork for such change was laid prior to that time, but the impact of that groundwork (at least to observers like us) didn't become noticeable until the end of Q2-2012 when a metric that we are starting to track much more closely began to break out. Here's the setup: In an article published on February 7, 2016 by MIT Technology Review, "As Goldman Embraces Automation, Even the Masters of the Universe Are Threatened," a key statement made by Marty Chavez, the company’s soon-to-be chief financial officer and former chief information officer, caught our eye: "Goldman has already mapped 146 distinct steps taken in any initial public offering of stock, and many are 'begging to be automated.'" Our [...]

By | 2017-04-28T09:44:07+00:00 February 16th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

@DeutscheBank: Predicting the Pace of Shrinkage

If today's announcement by Deutsche Bank CEO, John Cryan, is to be believed, total group headcount is set to be reduced by 9,000 souls. Note that these reductions will come from a year-end 2016 flock of 99,744 (which, by the way, is still within 2.3% of the all-time high of 102,062 set at year-end 2010). We decided to look into our DB model to take a quick read of the expected pace of these reductions. Here's the setup: Over the 40 quarters from Q1-2007 through Q4-2016, 21 of those quarters represented total headcount reductions. Furthermore: The maximum headcount reduction in a down quarter was -2,256 FTEs (full-time equivalents); The average headcount change over the 40 quarters (not counting an acquisition in Q4-2010) was 880 FTEs; and, The average of the 21 quarters with headcount reductions was -668 FTEs Separate from an outright sale of a business segment (which is being contemplated here in the form of its DB Asset Management arm), organic shrinkage is painful and can take more time than originally anticipated. At [...]

By | 2017-02-06T20:34:06+00:00 February 3rd, 2017|Alphacution Feed|