PFOF

Robinhood’s Trailing Stop Orders: Extreme Profitability, By Design

"They make it so easy." - Richard Dobatse, Robinhood user (via New York Times) "A fool and his money are soon parted." - Thomas Tusser, poet   Imagine if you knew, ahead of time, exactly what bait to use? Not only which bait to attract and influence the behavior of specific customers, but how to package the output of those behaviors - into an additional form of bait - in such a way as to leverage US listed market structure and maximize the probability of financial windfall. If so, chances are, you would share some of the vision that the founders of retail trading app and rising zeitgeist symbol, Robinhood, did circa 2013... Now, the fact that Alphacution has been beating this drum for four weeks in a row (starting here, here and then here) is unintentional and unrehearsed. Certainly, we much prefer that our riffs come with a level of variety - and we will return to that variety shortly. However, as we have been grinding the numbers around order [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:01-04:00July 15th, 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|

Virtu Financial: Master Exploder, Part I

"As you think, so shall you become." - Bruce Lee   Like a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest, sometimes the scenario is grim. And yet sometimes, the tailwinds converge in your favor - like a three-legged man in an ass kicking contest - and the scenario presents itself very much to the contrary... Historically, Alphacution has not been shy about pointing out the former. Who can forget "Virtu Financial: The Frying Pan and the Fire" from August 2019; a favorite of @Dougielarge, for sure? But, to give credit where credit is due, this story is quintessentially about the latter scenario: Today (May 7), Virtu Financial reported Q1 2020 earnings and, given an extra appetizer of preview from the company on March 20, it was - to borrow a riff from Tenacious D - "The. Best. Quarter. Ever. Period!" Now, it's no secret to anybody on the planet why a strong Q1 was to be expected from Virtu because nearly everyone on the planet is directly impacted by the [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:40:04-04:00May 7th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Virtu Financial: Musical Chairs

"No good opera plot can be sensible, for people do not sing when they are feeling sensible." - Frank Zappa   On Tuesday, February 11, Virtu reported Q4 and full-year 2019 financials. What follows are a few thoughts and charts on the latest data: Net trading income came in at $228.7 million for Q4 - not great, not terrible - based on a QoQ uptick in core equities; some weakness in global FICC, options and other (whatever that is) relative to Q3 2019; and, flat execution services revenue relative to Q3 and Q2 2019 (basically since the ITG acquisition closed last March). The chart below visualizes an historical quarterly decomposition of net trading revenue components relative to the ratio of SPX realized to implied volatility for the 24 quarters beginning Q1 2014 and ending Q4 2019 to emphasize the importance of unexpected volatility spikes in the grand scheme of profitability for market making and execution firms. When the other components of Q4 2019 NTI became available, we will circle back [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:02-04:00February 13th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Implications: 2019 Payments For Order Flow Flat vs. 2018

"Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it." - Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow   With three quarters worth of financial reports for calendar 2019 long in the bag, it is not much of a courageous leap for us to deliver an estimate for order routing revenue - otherwise more notoriously known as payment for order flow (PFOF) - for the full year. And, with the quarterly earnings season coming in the month ahead, it won't be long before we are able to test the accuracy of this estimate. In the chart below, Alphacution extends our prior analysis not only to include 2011 and 2012 but also, more relevantly, to include the year just completed; thereby extending to nine years from six our focus on five of the primary players in retail order flow for US equity markets who also disclose order routing data: TD Ameritrade (soon to be acquired by Charles Schwab); E*Trade; the [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:47:35-04:00January 15th, 2020|For Subscribers|

Saved By Zero? Virtu’s 30 Quarters of Payments For Order Flow

"The idea of the song is how great it is to get back to zero." - Cy Curnin, The Fixx frontman, in reference to the Buddhist mantra, Śūnyatā Today, Amazon announced that it would be launching cashierless grocery stores in 2020. Immediately, a thought-bubble arose above my head and played a scene from the Illinois Tollway when my E-ZPass battery went dead, and I spent a half hour - the lane I was in all backed up with frustrated travelers - pushing buttons in the vain attempt to cause a person to show up. Just send me a bill for the busted tollgate next time... No, thank you. I don't want to scan and bag my own groceries... I don't want to go fill my own plate at restaurants... And, I don't want to trade in a market that has been sanitized of all intermediaries with a pulse...  Because that's where we're headed; the exact wrong and utterly Simpletonian outline of a "free market," where all levers conspire to deliver [...]

By |2020-08-17T07:14:02-04:00November 20th, 2019|For Subscribers|

Schwab and Others Confirm Status as Casinos, Purveyors of Financial Opioids

“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” - Leonardo da Vinci "There's no such thing as a free lunch." - Milton Friedman Maybe I imagined it, but a couple weeks ago, I thought I saw an article claiming that Jack Dorsey, CEO of the world's largest kazoo - you know, the thing with the familiar harmony and enough dissonance to over-stimulate your reptilian id - was set to replicate Robinhood's free trading platform on Twitter. Sure. Why not? What could go wrong?! All businesses should aspire to thrive on the basis of frictionless impulses and whatever "dumb money" is still left on the face of the planet... Anyway, it seems that the search for that gem of strategic intelligence may have been catalyzed by recent announcements by none other than Schwab, Fidelity, E*Trade, TD Ameritrade, and Interactive Brokers - which is pretty much everyone within spitting distance of the retail brokerage universe - that they were all dropping commissions on stocks, ETFs and options to [...]

By |2020-10-14T22:35:13-04:00October 11th, 2019|Open|