BlackRock

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|

Virtu: Q1-2018 Update on Extremes

With volatility spiking in Q1 of 2018 - and the successful porting of KCG's intellectual property (IP) prior to that in late 2017 - VIRT earned a welcomed reprieve from the conditions of recent quarters, as we predicted here (and elsewhere prior to that). In the exhibit below, Alphacution's as-if modeling of the combined entity - Virtu + KCG pre-Q3 2017 - yields a level of net trading income that would not have been seen since Q1-2016. Meanwhile, Alphacution's tracking of adjusted net trading income per employee - a proxy for our common look at revenue per employee (RPE) - starkly illustrates the path through the most recent maneuvers: Persistent declines in top line "productivity" since its most recent peak in early 2015 ultimately led to the acquisition of KCG, which closed in July 2017. Swift transfer of KCG's IP onto Virtu's infrastructure along with elimination of redundant technology and human capital allowed this productivity measure to bounce off its lows in Q3 2017 to finish the year as strongly [...]

By | 2018-06-21T20:28:30+00:00 May 15th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

JPMorgan’s Massive Collaboration Experiment

Sitting in on the Symphony Innovate 2017 conference last week in New York, the figure that stood out for me was not that Symphony had already achieved 250,000 users so far in 2017 - more than doubling over 2016 - but that J. P. Morgan (JPMC) represents about 60,000 of those users. (Did I hear that right?!) This is roughly 25% of JPMC's current total headcount of over 240,000 - and, upon further analysis, is likely concentrated within their corporate and investment banking division (48,748 employees for Q2-2017), asset management division (21,082 employees for Q2-20170), and to some extent the operations and infrastructure group known as corporate center (32,358 employees for Q2-2017). And while numerous other bulge banks (like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America) and large asset managers (like Blackrock and T Rowe Price, who claimed 6,800 users) are significant partners, backers and/or users of Symphony's communications platform, it occurred to me that with 60,000 seats, JPMC's footprint here just might represent that largest experiment in collaboration along the [...]

By | 2018-02-28T16:31:22+00:00 October 10th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

Top Hedge Funds: AUM per Employee = Trading Strategy?

We have been playing with some new equations; looking to see if anything interesting can be learned from benchmarking assets per employee across various firms. (It turns out that adding this analytic to our suite of other "per employee" metrics yields significant insights.) In the figure below, we took the top 10 hedge funds ranked by assets under management (AUM) and then re-ranked that list by AUM per employee. We also tossed in Virtu Financial and KCG (Getco) for giggles - and to test the extremes. Notice anything interesting? Based on what you might know about these trading companies, how would you label the X-axis? Here's some additional data to consider: The correlation between assets and headcount is not perfect by any stretch, but it is signal-worthy. Also, this trick works best on mature, ongoing firms whose operations and business are relatively consistent. Headcount level doesn't seem to matter. Albeit at the extremes of tradings firms, Virtu Financial generated nearly US$800 million in revenue (2015) with 148 employees - so [...]

By | 2018-02-28T16:34:33+00:00 December 14th, 2016|Alphacution Feed|