Top 100 Players in US Listed Market Structure

“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” – Leonardo DaVinci

How do listed markets actually work?

And, how do players discover and capture opportunity from within that market structure?

And, what impact – if any – does the proximity of certain players to the centers of market liquidity have to do with the capacity of opportunity that is left over for all others that operate downstream from these players?

These are the kinds of questions that we ask ourselves all the time because if you were to adopt the perspective that markets – and the fortunes of market actors – are interconnected, then what happens in close proximity to liquidity is likely going to have an impact on those who operate farther afield from that liquidity. Layer on top of this the notion that all modern market ecosystems are in a constant state of evolution – whether by virtue of new products, new players, and/or new technologies and methods – and the puzzle-solving exercise for how to consistently discover and capture opportunity – often short-handed simply to alpha – becomes at least an order of magnitude more challenging than that within a static ecosystem.

So, if you’ve been following along with our writings for the past several months, then you already know that what we’re hinting at here is a segment of the market ecosystem that we’ve been calling the structural alpha zone; a segment of Alphacution’s asset management ecosystem map that mainly includes market makers and others representing the most active strategies among the entire spectrum of available strategies:

On top of that, Alphacution’s working hypothesis for the market ecosystem is that the capacity of alpha is finite (and elastic). An emerging corollary to this overarching hypothesis is that the structural alpha zone represents the portion of finite alpha that is primarily transactional; fed by spreads and the highest-turnover forms of statistical arbitrage. (By the way, it is in this sense that the growing complexity of liquidity fragmentation and the proliferation of structured or pooled products, like ETFs, benefit leading quantitative market making platforms, given their comfort in managing extreme complexity.)

So, with all that said, what we are trying to establish here as a next step in building the case for these hypotheses is try to set up a “short list” of key players who operate within the structural alpha zone, and then use Alphacution’s growing data and model library assets to support (or alter) the hypotheses. The idea is that if we can draw some clear lines around the key players in this zone, we may then be able to draw some clearer lines around the key players in the other zones; the active and passive management zones.

Now, of course, this is the kind of analysis where if you blink or turn your back on the topic for a minute or two, the landscape is likely to shift again – and the list of “top players” is likely to change. For instance, just in the past several weeks, and to the dismay of many students of the game, a 14th US equities exchange – Members Exchange (MEMX), backed by a consortium of large brokers and market makers – has been launched. This is our way of providing a disclaimer up front that this is a fluid situation, so don’t get too bent out of shape if your favorite player is not included in this version. (Just send a quick note with your thoughts to feedback@alphacution.com.)

Anyway, here we go:

In the illustration below, Alphacution starts the tally with a focus on the 13 US equities exchanges:

Next, we add 15 “dark pools” represented mainly by bulge-bracket investment banks, below:

When we add the other dark liquidity venues represented by independent (10), consortium (3) and non-bank market making (4) sponsors, the list of US equity liquidity venues expands to 45, see below:

Now, since our ongoing modeling efforts have highlighted leading firms trading simultaneously across asset and product classes – such as, in the cash and listed derivatives markets – the next illustration adds 15 US options exchanges and another 12 US futures exchanges to our schematic thereby expanding the US listed liquidity venue count to 72, see below. (Note: A more comprehensive inventory of liquidity venues, trading platforms and key players would include expanded focus on fixed income, currency and commodity (FICC) asset classes, as well as swap and other OTC derivative platforms. We’ll get to that down the road…)

Lastly, we finally arrive at the version of our schematic that showcases the Tier 1, bulge bracket broker-dealers (10) and our first pass at the Tier 1, non-bank market makers and proprietary trading firms (~23). Of course, if you have been tracking along with fingers and toes, then you have already noticed that our list includes 105 names. It is because of the ample room for discretion and debate over which buyside market makers and prop shops fall into the so-called “Tier 1” category that we are giving ourselves a pass on hitting the exact 100 mark for the time being.

In subsequent versions, we will provide a more objective, data-driven rationale for the ranking of this group of players. For now, the illustration below – along with the hint that there is a peripheral group of secondary and emerging players – represents the group that dominates the action in the structural alpha zone of US listed markets – and the list from which Alphacution will focus much of its upcoming modeling:

Of course, some of our modeling has already touched upon a subset of the buyside market makers and prop shops shown above. This broader list simply foreshadows some of Alphacution’s upcoming research, which we are very eager to get to.

Thanks for your attention.

Stay tuned for more, soon…


Support the Feed!


Individual Subscription Options



Note: Business credit cards and bank accounts can be used via our PayPal payment portal.


Alphacution is in the intelligence business.

We are uniquely focused on harvesting, packaging and distributing intelligence about the impacts of technology in financial markets and on the businesses of trading, asset management and banking. Our growing model library is our intelligence asset. Today, this intelligence asset primarily supports written research content, which can be accessed via standardized subscriptions and customized engagements. Occasionally, this core asset also supports video, audio and live presentation content. In time, Alphacution’s intelligence asset will support a broader platform of products and services, like data feeds and software.

For the past year or so, Alphacution has been publishing most of its research content on its Feed for free, and promoting that content via periodic newsletter. The purpose of this strategy has been to assess the interest in and demand for a unique perspective and a new level of intelligence on the financial markets ecosystem.

And, based on the growth in network and activity around that research, it seems that we have struck a cord with many of you – a network of senior executives representing some of the most advanced players in the global financial markets arena and their stakeholders.

The recent trajectory of pageview metrics on our site is symbolic of this claim, as shown below:

Now it’s time to take that level of engagement and direct it towards a more viable long term economic support model that ultimately allows us to scale our team and enhance the quantity and quality of our intelligence.

So, here’s what we are going to do about that:

For those of you who are eager to derive greater value from this work and apply that intelligence to your own business interests, Alphacution is offering individual introductory subscription options priced at $275 per year or $25 per month, cancellable at any time. Both of these options include a rebate on purchases of deeper, more substantive reports and case studies.

In other words, the entire value of an individual subscription paid up to the point of purchasing a single report will be deducted from the purchase of that report. (Rebates not to exceed the maximum value of an annual subscription.)

Examples of upcoming reports – that fall within our 2019 research strategy, outlined in the post Alphacution’s Book: Not Hiding, In Plain Sight – that will be available via the aforementioned subscription rebate mechanism include:

  1. Case Study: Citadel, LLC (~ Q1-2019)
  2. Case Study: All-Time Top 10 Hedge Fund Managers, Ranked by Profits (~ Q2-2019)
  3. Case Study: Top Proprietary Trading Firms (~ Q3-2019)
  4. Case Study: Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. (~ Q4-2019)

Enterprise subscription packages and custom content/service engagement options are available upon request at info@alphacution.com.


Individual Subscription Options



Note: Business credit cards and bank accounts can be used via our PayPal payment portal.

Now, for those of you who don’t expect to take advantage of the offers outlined above but want to continue to enjoy the insights, intelligence and occassional entertainment that remain openly available on the Feed, I want to make this specific plea:

Free doesn’t mean there are no costs. In fact, in this case, there have been extraordinary costs in the accumulation of experience and sight, meticulous curation and assembly of data, and creative visualization of and storytelling around our findings.

So, if you value quality content – here or anywhere else – then you need to find a way to support that content at some level simply because you want it to continue to exist. Our post, In Support of Digital Content – which was adapted from other notable digital era content developers – makes a more expansive case for this perspective.

Bottom line: Your efforts to support via one-time or recurring contributions will help guard against this content needing to move from the currently preferred audience-driven model (for its level of independence) to a sponsorship-driven model (which can be found on most other industry media outlets).

So, if none of the subscription options suit you, one-time and recurring support contributions can be made at any level here:




Of course, as always: If you value this work, please continue to “like it,” share it, comment on it – or discuss amongst your colleagues – and then send us feedback@alphacution.com.

As our “feedback loop” becomes more vibrant – given input from clients and other members of our network, especially around new questions to be answered – the value of this work will accelerate.

Don’t be shy…


Unsubscribe from prior subscriptions without further obligation, at any time, here:

By | 2019-04-03T20:57:45+00:00 February 28th, 2019|Alphacution Feed|

About the Author:

Paul Rowady is the Director of Research for Alphacution Research Conservatory, the first digitally-oriented research and strategic advisory platform uniquely focused on modeling and benchmarking the impacts of technology on global financial markets and the businesses of trading, asset management and banking. He is a 30-year veteran of the proprietary, quantitative and derivatives trading arenas with specific expertise in strategy research, risk management, and techno-operational development. Contact: feedback@alphacution.com; Follow: @alphacution.