technical leverage

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 | 2017-06-20T15:38:59+00:00 June 20th, 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|

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|

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|

Financial Technology Impacts: YOU are in Darkness – And, THIS is a Flashlight.

Disclaimer: Opinions and a grain or two of salty language contained herein are solely those of the author. Save your time. Just, pick up the flashlight now. Ok. Here's some bait: Chances are quite high that you are searching for answers in the darkness (amidst the chaos). And the tools that you have at your disposal - typically in the form of 5,000 or 10,000 word salads with few pictures and fewer numbers from a "pedigreed" purveyor of guidance - actually do not emit much light. The good news is that you need not toil in darkness any longer. There is a flashlight at your disposal - and, unlike a normal flashlight, this one is designed to grow in luminosity and enhance your enlightenment at the same time. Now, you can continue to deny that this is your reality - and continue as you are - or, you can check out the flashlight. Still skeptical? Here's more of the pitch: I have been successfully solving complex puzzles for a very long time. The puzzle that fascinates me and tickles my curiosity most right [...]

By | 2017-04-28T09:52:23+00:00 March 15th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

Dodd-Frank in Douchebagistan (During the Age of Radical Innovation)

Here's an Inauguration Day rant for you: They hadn't even finished counting the ballots for the new POTUS when, on November 10, 2016, one of the great poster-children for modern-day douchebaggery, Alan Greenspan (@realGREENSPAN)  said to CNBC "I'd love to see Dodd-Frank disappear; a "disastrous mistake." Hasn't this guy figured out that he is way past his sell-by date? Anyway, just bookmark the timing of that statement while I set up today's metaphor: Roll back the clock a few decades to the early 1980's - height of the Reagan days - when those in the halls of power concluded that they could sell increasing levels of consumption to more of the masses (the "American Dream) by helping them lever their assets. The federal government played the game, too - of course. This was the real-life birth of the Avengers Initiative. Collectively, we The People, asked (or allowed) our representatives in capitol buildings across the land to help make it easier for banks to engage in financial engineering so that people on Main St. could consume more fancy stuff with [...]

By | 2017-04-28T09:40:52+00:00 January 20th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

@VirtuFinancial: Valor #HFT Morghulis

If you read Part 1 to this post (from December 15, 2016) then you know that at least as of the end of 2015, financial reports from HFT bellwether Virtu Financial illustrated strong and even increasing profitability. Our surprise from these impressive figures came from the countervailing hypothesis that HFT was already well past its prime (given the evidence of prop shop closings and consolidations over the past 5 years or so). Apparently, Virtu didn’t get that memo. However, upon closer inspection of the most recent quarterly reports – which as of now yields details over 11 quarters starting in calendar Q1 2014 (March) and ending in calendar Q3 2016 (September) – even this bellwether may have seen its best days. Exhibit 1 (below) is one perspective of what this recent turn of fortune looks like: Some translation: After spiking in Q4-2014 and peaking in Q1-2015 at an annualized (adjusted net trading) revenue per employee (RPE) of over $4.1 million, trading revenue as of the end of Q3-2016 has returned to somewhat less [...]

By | 2017-04-28T10:17:25+00:00 January 12th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|

@VirtuFinancial: Let the good #HFT times roll!

It's March 25, 2016 - and I crack open the newly minted 10-K from our friends at Virtu Financial. The equivalent of that new car smell wafts northward from its fresh digital pages. The anticipation is palpable. With years of intense focus and vigorous debate on the mechanics of #HFT - and the jealous wonderment surrounding its stratospheric profitability - it is both rare and puzzling that the public should get a real, data-driven look inside to support or debunk the mythology of this ultra-secretive corner of the global financial landscape. Searching within this fresh set of data, I update our model - and the output creates one of those WTF cognitive dissonance moments. After all, isn't the heyday of HFT over?! Haven't numerous high-speed shops consolidated or folded? As a refresher, the vid below is what we were saying back in July 2013 (while at Tabb Group): Hello from 2013! Struggling is not what's going on here. By the looks of things at Virtu - at least as of the [...]

By | 2016-12-14T15:22:44+00:00 December 15th, 2016|Alphacution Feed|