Alphacution Feed

Global Banking Brain Drain Slowing

Brain drain - in this case meaning the loss of valuable human capital - is one of those silent malignancies in an organization that is difficult to measure, and the impacts from which are typically not realized until the damage has already been done. With the global banking sector - and its constituent business segments, from retail banking to wealth management to capital markets - still in the midst of unprecedented and persistent transformation, the risk of ongoing losses of intellectual capital and corporate memory that leave via the elevator each day is still quite high - or, at least, it is perceived to be so. (The knock-on effects to the supply chain are notable here, as well.) It is largely for this reason that we have been monitoring and measuring various headcount-dependent metrics in the financial services ecosystem: Interesting and telling on a per-company basis, fascinating and illuminating of broader trends on a composite basis. The former being a weaker intelligence signal, the latter being a much stronger signal. So, here's [...]

By | 2017-05-31T19:34:12+00:00 June 1st, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

The Dawn of Operational Alpha

They say, it is always darkest before the dawn. They don't say, however, that no one is up and working their asses off before the first light of a new day... By many accounts, the concept of operational alpha has been around for years. I first heard this term in the context of Citadel's launch of its eponymous, mid- and back-office technology externalization effort, Citadel Solutions - later known as Omnium. Citadel even went so far as to trademark the term, operational alpha. It was the exuberant days of late 2006. The timing for mainstream appreciation of such a seemingly hair-splitting concept was not particularly hospitable. Not too long later (during the immediate aftermath of the GFC), Till Guldimann - then Vice Chairman of SunGard - was loudly promoting his vision for operational analytics; a new category of data designed to help asset managers run their businesses better and respond to market shifts with greater agility. The timing was improving, but now market operators were way too distracted - by unprecedented dislocations and the specter of regulatory [...]

By | 2017-06-16T10:36:22+00:00 May 25th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

Deconstructing Hewlett Packard: More Clues to Indigenous Productivity

Remember the game show, Name That Tune? (Look it up...) What if I told you that the basic rubric from that game show - naming a song in fewer notes than your opponent - was useful for predicting all kinds facts about trading and other financial businesses. Tell me your trading strategy and AUM, I can tell you how many employees you have. You are an investment bank with 30,000 employees, I can guess your total technology budget. The list of triangulations like this are actually quite long... Seem strange? Here's some insight: As many of you know, Alphacution is studying the engines of productivity for the full spectrum of financial services firms - and many of their supply chain counterparts - by measuring, modeling and analyzing technology spending patterns and other operational data. Though still relatively early in the game, this research mission has already given birth to a standardized benchmarking framework - "T-Greeks" - that allows us to quantify consensus behaviors within a community of similar entities and determine who is leading or [...]

By | 2017-05-24T21:28:30+00:00 May 16th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

Nasdaq: Under Virtu Market Data Axe

A quick math assignment: @Nasdaq earned $540 million in information services (aka - #marketdata) revenue in 2016, up 5.5% over 2015 (and, not to put to fine a point on it, but this growth is slowing as 2015 v. 2014  was +8.2%). @KCGHQ spent $148 million on communications and data processing in 2016. @VirtuFinancial is on its way to acquiring KCG - and is on record with a strategy to ultimately consolidate both operations onto a single, unified trading platform. No doubt, this is not lip service. What is the impact on Nasdaq - and other exchanges - whose revenue growth has become so dependent on market data sales? If you are ambitious, here's some additional intelligence that you could use in the analysis: (We have more in the can if you need it.) BTW, you have to guess that all #HFT leaders have really spiffy axes, no?

By | 2017-04-28T11:24:28+00:00 April 28th, 2017|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|