PFOF

Outlook 2021: The Drunk-on-Impunity Mania Arrives

"You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by avoiding it today."Abraham Lincoln With protestors storming the U.S. Capital - some of which breaching the outer doors and freely strolling the U.S. Senate floor - as surreal and unprecedented backdrop, I sit down to organize a sketch of Alphacution's outlook for the year ahead, starting with a very wide lens: The U.S. economy - much like the rest of the other "developed world" economies - is naturally weaker than the meticulously curated employment and productivity numbers suggest. Technology adoption (from workflow automation to social media distraction), growing debt burdens, ossified resource allocation practices, cross-region labor arbitrage, deteriorating infrastructure, and other factors all converge to deteriorate "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" for a growing portion of the population. The COVID pandemic of 2020 - and however long it remains disruptive throughout 2021 as vaccines are being rolled out - acts as an accelerant of many of these factors. Ours is a deteriorating version of capitalism. Symptoms emblematic of the stage [...]

By |2021-01-06T23:36:37-05:00January 6th, 2021|Open|

Alphacution’s Top Stories for 2020

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever." Steve Jobs I was going to start out by saying that it's been a pivotal year for Alphacution. Problem is, I said the same things at this time last year. So, I supposed that means it's been a good coupla years. The pandemic, volatility, subsequent lockdown - and some luck in timing - drove a lot of attention towards Alphacution's content in 2020. Clearly, Robinhood and payments for order flow (PFOF) were top themes for the year. Our Feed post on Robinhood and trailing stop orders led the year in page views, and represented like no other before it what it looks like when a story goes viral. Not to be outdone, the timely post on the downfall of Ronin Capital also attracted a ton of attention. In fact, if [...]

By |2021-01-04T15:32:41-05:00December 31st, 2020|Open|

Trading Strategy Secrets: Hiding in Plain Sight

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom."Viktor Frankl Alphacution's exploration to tease insight from the available data - to make the data dance - continues to expand. Sometimes this is due to weaving a new and unfamiliar data source. And, sometimes it's due to seeing something entirely new in a familiar dataset. A challenge in the process is the growing sense that we can never quite tell all the fascinating nuggets of the stories we discover. Be that as it may, the fact that data can be electrified to dance about the most consequential and mythological players in the capital markets ecosystem after they have expended so much energy to remain secretive makes this journey that much more thrilling. What follows here is a concentrated example of our expanding capabilities... Today's story takes advantage of Virtu Financial's latest Q3 2020 earnings-related data dump. Virtu is a regular topic on the [...]

By |2020-11-17T18:09:30-05:00November 11th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Summary: 2020 Order Routing Revenue Expected to Exceed $2 Billion

"The opportunities that everyone cannot see are the real opportunities."Jack Ma When counting the top four retail brokerage platforms engaged in payments for order flow - including Robinhood, TD Ameritrade (along with TD Ameritrade Clearing - both of which currently in the process of being acquired by Charles Schwab), E*Trade (now a unit of Morgan Stanley), and Charles Schwab - Alphacution estimates YTD order routing revenue for 2020 thru the third quarter is nearly $1.8 billion. Of these main players, only Robinhood grew its order routing revenue for Q3 to $194.5 billion from $180.3 billion in Q2. Among the other major headlines are these: By wholesale broker, Citadel Securities leads; paying $711.9 million (or, 40.3% of total) for combined stock and option order flow thru Q3 2020;By retail broker, TD Ameritrade (including TD Ameritrade Clearing) leads; receiving $825.2 million (or, 46.7% of total) in combined stock and option order routing revenue thru Q3 2020;By product segment, payments for options order flow led at over $1.0 billion (or, 59,1% of total) [...]

By |2020-11-09T22:23:10-05:00November 9th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Robinhood: Q3 Order Routing Revenue Continues to Break Records

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."Ralph Waldo Emerson The juggernaut that is the Robinhood commission-free trading app has accumulated some dents and bruises over the year, along with a number of truly breathtaking successes. One of the more overexposed stories in a year engorged with superlatives, system outages, a customer suicide and, most recently, the hacking of thousands of accounts has challenged Robinhood's meteoric rise along the way. Together, these headwinds have delayed Alphacution's prediction of the timing of an oncoming IPO. All that said, one aspect of the Robinhood juggernaut - certainly among the more important aspects to its key stakeholders - is persistent growth in order routing revenue; the largest component of total revenue. After two quarters of blockbuster, pandemic-fueled numbers showcasing the inner workings of Robinhood's order flow firehose, the Q3 2020 order routing figures have recently been made public. The headline is that after the second quarter's monstrous $180.3 million in payments for [...]

By |2020-11-02T22:38:42-05:00November 2nd, 2020|For Subscribers|

Citadel Securities Picks Fight With SEC Over Crystal Ball

"If you are not paying for the product, then you are the product."The Social Dilemma In a rare display of miscalculation, Citadel may have overplayed its hand... Here's the setup: According to Bloomberg, "Citadel Securities LLC has sued the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) over the regulator’s approval of an order type introduced by stock-exchange operator IEX Group Inc." Approved by the SEC in August and launched on October 1, IEX's discretionary limit order type - or, "D-Limit" - is essentially a mechanism designed to protect liquidity providers from potential adverse selection by latency arbitrage strategies - otherwise known in less polite company as getting "picked off" on the basis of stale quotes. In a comment letter, dated April 23, 2020, Citadel Securities expresses its objection to IEX's proposal, in part, because it "will broadly and indiscriminately affect myriad liquidity takers, including retail and institutional investors as well as market makers in equities and related asset classes, such as ETFs, options, and futures." (Hold that thought for a minute...) Now, [...]

By |2020-10-28T23:55:05-04:00October 28th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Stranded, As Virtu Bids Farewell to Madison Tyler

“We don’t receive wisdom; we must discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us.” – Marcel Proust With pandemic-era factors being historically and paradoxically hospitable for market volumes and volatility, those players that stand in closest proximity to the sources of listed liquidity have experienced an unexpected windfall so far in 2020. Today, with market making revenue for the past two consecutive quarters at all-time highs and seeming to bend a long-term downward trend in a new upward direction, VIRT stock found its own all-time high… For the remainder of this story, we need to refresh your perspective with a little context: Founded in 2008, Virtu is the youngest of a dozen leading proprietary trading and market making firms in the world: What is most unique about Virtu, however, in the context of this group is that it has grown primarily by acquiring other people’s trading strategies – typically by outright acquisition of other companies – from the beginning. By comparison, all the others on this roster have [...]

By |2020-10-02T16:02:53-04:00September 9th, 2020|For Subscribers|

ETF War Games

“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 Market making in individual stocks has become so competitive that most hyperactive strategies – the ones that reside in Alphacution’s structural alpha zone – have turned to increasingly rely on some form of ETF arbitrage. This competitive dynamic is exacerbated by factors such as liquidity fragmentation, liquidity internalization, payments for order flow (PFOF), and the winner-take-all impacts of process automation (aka – scaling via technology). For those proprietary trading firms with few, if any, options positions in their portfolio, cash ETF position concentrations (based on total 13F position counts) are represented as follows: When we isolate the leading order flow wholesalers and consider aggregate cash ETF positions as a percentage of 13F gross value, one of the clues that rises to the surface (in concert with the findings in the prior chart) is the prominence G1 Execution Services (G1X), a unit of legendary derivatives powerhouse, Susquehanna [...]

By |2020-10-02T15:50:55-04:00September 2nd, 2020|For Subscribers|

Daily Average Fugazi’s: Robinhood Postures for IPO

“Name of the game? Move the money from your client’s pocket into your pocket. Number one rule of Wall Street: Nobody knows if the stock is going up, down, sideways or in … circles. It’s all a fugazi…“ – Mr. Hanna, Wolf of Wall Street On Monday, August 10 at exactly 11am EDT (you know, after the opening bell was safely in the rearview mirror), Robinhood Markets, Inc. – the anti-incumbency insurgent trading app platform and self-proclaimed democratizer of all things financial – set out to dominate the week’s financial news cycle by enticing media powerhouse, Bloomberg, to drop a news bomb into an ecosystem already negligently over-stimulated on the topic: “Robinhood Blows Past Rivals in Record Retail Trading Year.“ One piece of data was exclusively revealed to Bloomberg at the center of this story: 4.31 million daily average revenue trades – commonly known as DARTs (and generally defined as customer orders executed divided by trading days) – were recorded in June with the additional explanation that “the firm is revealing the data for the first time, [...]

By |2020-10-02T15:34:20-04:00August 13th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Alphacution Joins the eXponential Finance Podcast – S2E1

Alphacution Director of Research, Paul Rowady, joins eXponential Finance Podcast host and Tokyo FinTech founder, Norbert Gehrke, for a spirited – if not, highly-caffeinated – and entertaining discussion covering a wide range of Alphacution’s most illuminating research themes, from the genesis of its trading and asset management ecosystem map to the concept of alpha capacity to the implications of the current commission-free trading landscape and, of course, the riveting Robinhood phenomenon. Enjoy…

By |2020-12-03T21:13:23-05:00August 11th, 2020|Podcasts|