Alphacution has been quite busy developing its next case study focused on option market makers. To build context for that research, we have been expanding our understanding of institutional option traders. It turns out that there is a familiar cast of characters in this space, including some of the most legendary quantitative hedge fund managers...
In this Feed post, Alphacution returns to an important question: Is there enough theoretical alpha still available for another highly successful nested alpha strategy architecture (NASA) player, like Citadel or SIG? The combo of Two Sigma Investments and Two Sigma Securities was - and still is - the focal point for this question...
Inspired by reading Igor Tulchinsky's books - albeit a couple years late - Alphacution digs into some modeling to uncover a real world application of The UnRules...
"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 [...]
"Quality means doing it right when no one is looking."Henry Ford I couldn't find the exact reference, but sometime between about 2010 and 2015 I wrote (for TABB Group) that when the market regime eventually shifted from the core drivers of the long, low volatility period of the post-GFC era, many quant models would become disoriented and their performance would suffer. This is simply because the behavioral cues of the new chapter would not be embedded in the historical market data of the prior period upon which those models had been trained. Well, that scenario finally played out this year... So, instead of following the well-worn tradition of preparing a lengthy "Year in Review" post on market highlights and lowlights as we bring this historically bizarre and disorienting year to a close, I thought to let a series of illustrations from some of the world's most legendary players show you symbols for how their year appears to have gone (through Q3 2020) and, by implication, how broad groupings of strategies [...]
"The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones." John Maynard Keynes Just because the rule requires “market centers that trade National Market System (NMS) securities to make available standardized, monthly reports containing statistical information about covered order executions that are free and readily accessible to the public" does not mean that that information is lounging around under a bank of Klieg lights in an easily consumable format. Like a lot of raw regulatory data, you need to know where to look while simultaneously in possession of a decoder ring... Meanwhile, there is a dramatic falling of US equity market dominoes that began a year ago with an industry-wide move to zero-commission retail brokerage models. This move became exacerbated in March by a convergence of pandemic-related forces that has resulted in a gusher of unprecedented profitability for a short list of leading proprietary trading firms that are otherwise known in the light of day as wholesale market makers. At the intersection where [...]
“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 [...]
"You don’t lead by pointing and telling people some place to go. You lead by going to that place and making a case." - Ken Kesey If you believe - as we do - that everything is connected to everything else, then it stands to reason that all events have potential to be seen as the proverbial canary in the coal mine. Therefore, what we really need to do is notice stuff and connect dots. Here's a few of our latest observations... On February 10, 2020, Bloomberg reported "high-frequency firm Allston cuts employees amid low volatility," and further noted that this move follows XR Trading's 10% headcount reduction in late 2019. This got us thinking about the tier of smaller to mid-sized proprietary trading firms and if any of the available data (which currently tends to be US equities-centric) provide clues as to the health of those firms - as well as that space in the market ecosystem (where prop firms and market makers reside) that we typically call [...]
"Education is all a matter of building bridges." - Ralph Ellison How trading firms, hedge funds and asset managers scale - as in, scale assets under management (AUM) or proprietary capital, headcount, data, technologies, and other operational ingredients to support a growing mix of market strategies when their initial market strategies reach boundaries of performance, liquidity, inventory or competitive challenges - is a significant point of fascination here at Alphacution. This is because scaling - real, sustainable scaling - requires simultaneous and interdependent success in both operational and trading strategies. Scaling also becomes a critical issue to measure and monitor from a market macrostructure perspective if you believe the hypothesis that the capacity of alpha is finite, as we introduced in the Feed post, "The Privatization of Alpha." Because if you believe that there are no constraints on the capacity of outperformance - or, "alpha" - then there is no need to pay attention to how various asset managers scale their strategies and their overall businesses. In this scenario, there [...]
We have been playing with some new equations; looking to see if anything interesting can be learned from benchmarking assets per employee across various firms. (It turns out that adding this analytic to our suite of other "per employee" metrics yields significant insights.) In the figure below, we took the top 10 hedge funds ranked by assets under management (AUM) and then re-ranked that list by AUM per employee. We also tossed in Virtu Financial and KCG (Getco) for giggles - and to test the extremes. Notice anything interesting? Based on what you might know about these trading companies, how would you label the X-axis? Here's some additional data to consider: The correlation between assets and headcount is not perfect by any stretch, but it is signal-worthy. Also, this trick works best on mature, ongoing firms whose operations and business are relatively consistent. Headcount level doesn't seem to matter. Albeit at the extremes of tradings firms, Virtu Financial generated nearly US$800 million in revenue (2015) with 148 employees - so [...]