Goldman Sachs

Runaway Concentration Risks in US Option Markets

“The future is a choice between utopia and oblivion. Whether it is to be utopia or oblivion will be a touch and go relay race right up to the final moment…” – Buckminster Fuller On September 23rd, the Financial Times reported, “Citigroup halts market making in retail options” in an apparent response to the challenges brought about by the era of zero-commission retail trading; an era that is swiftly nearing its one year anniversary. Among the more notable impacts of this Citi news, the fact that Morgan Stanley now remains as the sole major Wall Street bank still standing as an intermediary for retail option flows ranks high. Truth be told, it ranks second only to a backdrop of creeping concentration as bulge players like Citi and Barclays before them and Goldman before them and others before them – including those that have been winding down their cash equities businesses – have punted on their options businesses because it has become so mind-numbingly complicated and expensive to make money in [...]

By |2020-10-02T16:17:22-04:00September 23rd, 2020|For Subscribers|

The Evolving Value of 13F Reporting: Building a Macro-Structure Cockpit

“The Initial Mystery that attends any journey is: how did the traveler reach his starting point in the first place?” - Louise Bogan, poet and author After 40 years, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced on July 10, 2020 that it had proposed to amend Form 13F to update the reporting threshold for institutional investment managers and make other targeted changes. The proposal would "raise the reporting threshold to $3.5 billion, reflecting proportionally the same market value of U.S. equities that the current threshold - $100 million - represented in 1975, the time of the statutory directive." Furthermore, the new threshold is expected to "retain disclosure of over 90% of the dollar value of the holdings data currently reported while eliminating the Form 13F filing requirement and its attendant costs for the nearly 90% of filers that are smaller managers." Now, those of you who have been following Alphacution's work know that we have leveraged 13F data in ways that no one else has ever replicated, and therefore, has become [...]

By |2020-10-01T21:33:33-04:00July 30th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Trick Shot: Robinhood Underwrites MEMX

“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses - especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” - Leonardo da Vinci   If there ever was a time to see how things are connected to other things, it is now. This is particularly true in places where something that is "free" is interpreted to be "without cost." After all, like "free" drinks at the casino, human nature tends to regress to its most lizard-like tendencies when presented with a frictionless environment... When will we ever learn that "free" is never the best price? Anyway, without becoming distracted by a rant about the true cost of Facebook, et al, let's take a brief look at the impact of "commission-free" trading on the macrostructure of the US market ecosystem over a very short window since October 2019: Thanks, in large part, to the popularity of retail broker, Robinhood Financial, LLC ("Robinhood) - the upstart financial [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:47:06-04:00June 18th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Barclays Succumbs, Flips Options to GTS

"Sometimes it is the people no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine." - Alan Turing One by one, those willing to stand and make markets in options are - uh - taking a knee. Back in December (2019), Barclays became the latest in a long string of players - big and nots-so-big - to punt their options trading business to a willing buyer before any more value evaporated. So, we thought to take a closer look at what patterns or signals might exist, if any, to detect moves like this. Here's the setup: It turns out that in a Feed post entitled, "Goldman Sachs and the Long Arc of Hull Trading," we have some useful benchmarking to draw from to frame Barclays' ultimate decision. In the chart, below, Alphacution presents total 13F options position counts for parent entity, Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., over the 45-quarter period beginning Q2 2008. Note: The vast majority of these position reside in the broker-dealer entity, Goldman Sachs [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:02-04:00February 5th, 2020|For Subscribers|

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 |2020-08-17T07:14:02-04:00December 5th, 2019|For Subscribers|

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 |2020-10-05T16:23:58-04:00November 21st, 2019|For Subscribers|

(UPDATED) Citadel Punks Blackstone

"What is to give light must endure burning." - Viktor Frankl “The backbone of surprise is fusing speed with secrecy.” – Carl von Clausewitz 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 a balance sheet or buy a [...]

By |2020-10-14T22:33:36-04:00October 17th, 2019|For Subscribers|

Goldman Sachs’ Book: Hiding in Plain Sight

Image Credit: Liu Bolin "The problems are solved, not by giving new information, but by arranging what we have known since long." - Ludwig Wittgenstein It turns out, there is a ton valuable data lying around, hiding in plain sight - just waiting for any fool to come along and turn it into something else, something greater. And, it also turns out that I am one such fool who is captivated - perhaps even obsessed - with solving puzzles (like this 8,000-piece beauty purchased - unassembled - at the Louvre, on the right); turning what usually appears as scraps of data into something much clearer, much bigger, and much more valuable - like a piece of art. So, you might imagine my excited anticipation to finally work on unlocking some of the value contained in 13F holdings reports. (I know, right?! Who isn't?) Here's the gist: Basically, all institutional investors - whether they be public or private entities - with discretion over $100 million or more of US equity assets [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:06-04:00November 28th, 2018|For Subscribers|

Technical Leverage in Context

Alphacution defines technical leverage as the difference between revenue per employee (RPE) and technology spending per employee. In the parlance of our T-Greeks benchmarking framework, this difference is also known as T-Spread. I stumbled over the chart below - 50 companies in the S&P 500 with the highest RPE rankings for 2016 - recently and thought it would be notable to add to the knowledgebase. Since our modeling and analysis currently focuses exclusively on companies related to the financial services sector, much of what we find in this exhibit provides illuminating context. Source: Craft Clearly, energy and healthcare companies dominate the RPE metric, with 3 companies producing astonishing RPE levels greater than $5 million. Only 3 companies from the Financials sector (2 insurance - Aflac, XL Group; and, 1 exchange - CME Group) make this list. From our own modeling, the highest RPE we have found to date is Virtu Financial - a high-frequency trading firm - with a 2016 RPE of $2.8 million. Among the world's major banking groups, Goldman Sachs [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:09-04:00June 20th, 2017|For Subscribers|