Timber Hill

Virtu’s Optionality? Some Good News…

“That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” - Friedrich Nietzsche “We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” ― M.C. Escher   One intangible cost of being the sole US publicly-traded market making firm is the required level of financial and operational transparency - and the investor relations burden - that comes with that status. In this case, that cost may be unusually high because of the relative opacity of the competitors in this sector - what Alphacution typically refers to as the structural alpha zone of its asset management ecosystem map - coupled with the unparalleled use of technology and extraordinary magnitude of wealth generated by that small group of players. To compound this dynamic, recent dramatic shifts in the landscape for retail order flow sparked by the late 2019 moves - en masse - to $zero commissions by retail-oriented brokerage platforms, and the quick follow-on consolidations of TD Ameritrade (by Charles Schwab) and E*Trade (by Morgan Stanley), and given the pandemic-fueled volatility and volumes of [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:40:22-04:00March 12th, 2020|For Subscribers|

A Brawl Breaks Out in the Futures Market – Part 2

"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." - Steve Jobs   It's truly amazing what we find deep down in the weeds... The solution to any puzzle starts with the pieces that are easiest to fit into place. Translation: Solutions can start most easily where the most granular data is readily available and easiest to interpret. In this case, and though not (yet) flowing smoothly from a firehose, that means regulatory disclosures based on long positions reported by various trading and asset management firms that correspond with the quarterly-updated 13F securities list managed by the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC). At Alphacution, the core mission is to solve, and keep re-solving, a very large puzzle made up of many other smaller puzzles which, themselves, may contain even smaller, more detailed puzzles... Think of this like the claim made by the Kirk Lazarus character in the movie, Tropic Thunder - [...]

By |2020-10-14T22:40:14-04:00October 11th, 2019|For Subscribers|

Goldman Sachs and the Long Arc of Hull Trading

"And the men who hold high places - should be the ones who start - to mold a new reality - closer to the heart." - Rush, "Farewell to Kings" Strap yourself in for this one, as we take a fascinating and detailed walk through some of Alphacution's recent modeling on one of the long-standing Kings of Wall Street; a story that is on the one hand, not widely known and on the other, not typically spoken of... It was among the most exciting one-two punches of financial markets deals from the late 1990's and very early 2000's; one where Wall Street - much like other financial centers across Europe had done in prior years - had reached out, once again, to LaSalle Street for their unique prowess in derivatives trading. (Alphacution detailed the roster of leading players who were part of this wave of acquisitions in a Feed post focused on Susquehanna International Group - SIG.) In this case, the mighty Goldman Sachs had reached out to acquire Blair [...]

By |2020-10-14T22:45:13-04:00September 26th, 2019|For Subscribers|

When Market Makers Ate Their Own…

Right out of the gate, this story might emit a whiff of last year's news. Maybe. But, that sense would only last until you realize that this is also a template for improving predictions about future events. And, that kind of predictive power relies upon the bet that more markets and opportunities are becoming winner-take-all in the digital era... (Hint: As the functioning of markets - and other economic opportunities - become more "digital," a single leader can emerge in that market. This is how we end up with the "FANG's" - Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google. It's also how US equity markets end up with ~80% lit market-making flows being split between Virtu and Citadel. Here are some facts to fill in the background: In the three years beginning 2006, the Timber Hill market making unit of Interactive Brokers Group (IB) had an annual revenue run rate of around $1 billion, peaking at over $1.3 billion in 2008. By 2017, Timber Hill's revenue run rate had declined 94% to [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:51:05-04:00July 18th, 2018|For Subscribers|

Virtu Financial: More Acquisitions on the Way, If…

When we launched our first trading program at Quantlab in the late 90's, we didn't have direct market access yet. We generated an order list (overnight) that was worked throughout the subsequent market session at the discretion of an algo-equipped executing broker; some of whom now roam the halls at Jefferies / Leucadia. This was the era when 1- to 3-day portfolio turnover was considered fast - SOES bandits were still a thing - and Schwab would soon acquire electronic trading pioneer, CyBerCorp, from Philip Berber - a short drive down the road from our Houston headquarters in Austin, TX. Of course, everyone had nicknames then - as I suspect they still do now. Ed Bosarge, founder of what eventually became Quantlab (after at least 3 prior related incarnations that began for me around 1996), was known as Dr. Evil. Let's just say it's a hair-raising story about a swashbuckling pioneer of applied math involving a hideous toupee... I was known as Mr. Bigglesworth - or, "Bigsy" for short. No [...]

By |2020-10-05T21:19:11-04:00March 27th, 2018|Open|

Nasdaq and the Case of the Missing Market Data

In late April 2017, we noticed a new string of dominoes falling at the fast, automated end of the trading spectrum: With Virtu about to gobble up KCG - not to mention additional consolidations of principal trading groups like RGM Advisors (to DRW), Timber Hill (to Two Sigma) and Chopper Trading (to DRW), among others - it seemed pretty clear that one of the next dominos to fall would be in the direct-feed market data space. The question was: To what degree? (See: "Nasdaq Under Virtu Market Data Axe," April 28, 2017) And yet, when we went back to look - via updating our Nasdaq model - this picture showed up: As Paul Harvey used to say: "...And now the rest of the story..." Obviously this trajectory is the opposite of what was expected. Better yet, in a dictionary somewhere is this chart - at least, of late - next to the words, "fairly smooth sailing" or "strong growth." Over the last few years, data products (and the growth in [...]

By |2020-10-14T21:52:05-04:00March 22nd, 2018|For Subscribers|