Interactive Brokers

Daily Average Fugazi’s: Robinhood Postures for IPO

"Name of the game? Move the money from your client's pocket into your pocket. Number one rule of Wall Street: Nobody knows if the stock is going up, down, sideways or in ... circles. It's all a fugazi..." - Mr. Hanna, Wolf of Wall Street On Monday, August 10 at exactly 11am EDT (you know, after the opening bell was safely in the rearview mirror), Robinhood Markets, Inc. - the anti-incumbency insurgent trading app platform and self-proclaimed democratizer of all things financial - set out to dominate the week's financial news cycle by enticing media powerhouse, Bloomberg, to drop a news bomb into an ecosystem already negligently over-stimulated on the topic: "Robinhood Blows Past Rivals in Record Retail Trading Year." One piece of data was exclusively revealed to Bloomberg at the center of this story: 4.31 million daily average revenue trades - commonly known as DARTs (and generally defined as customer orders executed divided by trading days) - were recorded in June with the additional explanation that "the firm is [...]

By | 2020-08-13T00:19:35-04:00 August 13th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Robinhood’s Trailing Stop Orders: Extreme Profitability, By Design

"They make it so easy." - Richard Dobatse, Robinhood user (via New York Times) "A fool and his money are soon parted." - Thomas Tusser, poet   Imagine if you knew, ahead of time, exactly what bait to use? Not only which bait to attract and influence the behavior of specific customers, but how to package the output of those behaviors - into an additional form of bait - in such a way as to leverage US listed market structure and maximize the probability of financial windfall. If so, chances are, you would share some of the vision that the founders of retail trading app and rising zeitgeist symbol, Robinhood, did circa 2013... Now, the fact that Alphacution has been beating this drum for four weeks in a row (starting here, here and then here) is unintentional and unrehearsed. Certainly, we much prefer that our riffs come with a level of variety - and we will return to that variety shortly. However, as we have been grinding the numbers around order [...]

By | 2020-07-16T21:46:20-04:00 July 15th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

From Citadel Securities to Tastyworks: The New Economics of Liquidity, Part 1

"The real voyage of discovery consists, not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust   The data contained in the revised SEC Rule 606 reporting has landed like a transparency bomb for those few of us who try to make sense of complex - and historically opaque - market structure issues; perhaps even more so for those fewer of us that are able to triangulate on the strategic movements of the various players by weaving additional insight from multiple datasets. Add the moves of the largest retail brokerage platforms, in particular, to a zero-commission paradigm off the back of the controversially-successful Robinhood platform, and we have a potent cocktail made of disruption and intrigue. For those of you that have been following along recently, Alphacution has toggled widely between intense fixation on these themes - with our latest Robinhood-related Feed posts, "Phenomenon: On This Score, Robinhood Now Exceeds E*Trade, Others" and "Trick Shot: Robinhood Underwrites MEMX" and our recent contributions to the July 8 New York Times [...]

By | 2020-07-10T00:16:18-04:00 July 9th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Trick Shot: Robinhood Underwrites MEMX

“Principles for the Development of a Complete Mind: Study the science of art. Study the art of science. Develop your senses - especially learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.” - Leonardo da Vinci   If there ever was a time to see how things are connected to other things, it is now. This is particularly true in places where something that is "free" is interpreted to be "without cost." After all, like "free" drinks at the casino, human nature tends to regress to its most lizard-like tendencies when presented with a frictionless environment... When will we ever learn that "free" is never the best price? Anyway, without becoming distracted by a rant about the true cost of Facebook, et al, let's take a brief look at the impact of "commission-free" trading on the macrostructure of the US market ecosystem over a very short window since October 2019: Thanks, in large part, to the popularity of retail broker, Robinhood Financial, LLC ("Robinhood) - the upstart financial [...]

By | 2020-06-18T00:20:58-04:00 June 18th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

Implications: 2019 Payments For Order Flow Flat vs. 2018

"Historians study the past not in order to repeat it, but in order to be liberated from it." - Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow   With three quarters worth of financial reports for calendar 2019 long in the bag, it is not much of a courageous leap for us to deliver an estimate for order routing revenue - otherwise more notoriously known as payment for order flow (PFOF) - for the full year. And, with the quarterly earnings season coming in the month ahead, it won't be long before we are able to test the accuracy of this estimate. In the chart below, Alphacution extends our prior analysis not only to include 2011 and 2012 but also, more relevantly, to include the year just completed; thereby extending to nine years from six our focus on five of the primary players in retail order flow for US equity markets who also disclose order routing data: TD Ameritrade (soon to be acquired by Charles Schwab); E*Trade; the [...]

By | 2020-03-01T22:37:59-05:00 January 15th, 2020|Alphacution Feed|

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 | 2018-07-17T23:17:56-04:00 July 18th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

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 | 2018-10-31T16:48:33-04:00 March 27th, 2018|Alphacution Feed|

Broker Tech Spend Speaks Volumes

Broker spending on technology is one of those topics that rises to the top of the headlines from time to time, particularly given how much the market landscape has shifted in the past several years - and how competitive, regulatory, and new market drivers threaten to change that landscape even more along the road ahead. So, during the course of developing research on a related topic, we had occasion to expand our modeling in the area of market makers, broker-dealers, and related specialist execution technologies - and stumbled upon a different lens through which to evaluate "broker" spending patterns. In the following chart, we share a common format for presenting these kinds of figures; a ranking of 5-year average total technology spending by 9 public broker and broker-like companies. Simple output.  Mildly interesting. Ten's or hundred's of millions of dollars spent on technology is notable. But, not particularly illuminating. However, as we benchmarked technology spending using employee headcounts - a technique we use regularly - the picture packs an entirely [...]

By | 2018-02-28T16:31:16-05:00 October 19th, 2017|Alphacution Feed|