Tom Maloney, editor at Bloomberg, published "Jane Street, DRW Traders Made Billions as Virus Hit Market" on June 18, 2021 with a little seasoning from Alphacution.
“If it be now, tis not to come, if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all." - Shakespeare: Hamlet Act 5, Scene 2 UPDATE HERE (3/26/2020) Last Friday, March 20, CNBC was first to report that "one of the CME’s direct clearing firms was unable to meet its capital requirements. The move forced the exchange to step in and invoke its emergency protocols to auction off the portfolios. Ronin Capital, based in Chicago, was confirmed to be the firm in question, according to sources. Additional sources said Ronin’s problems stemmed from positions in futures tied to the CBOE Volatility Index (VIX)." In concert with Alphacution's recent feed post, "Marketquake: The Volatility of Volatility," on unprecedented volatility levels that surpass that of the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) period, I wanted to assemble whatever we could on Ronin. A story not well known outside of Chicago prop trading circles, John S. Stafford, Jr. - the founder of [...]
"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 - [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]