We've moved a major step towards a done deal here. Good news is that this remains far from a done story. Easy access to financial and operational data about the outer extremes of technical leverage in the global financial services sector provides great fodder for a story that will continue to inform and fascinate. Along those lines, and in addition to the updated deal news, both parties disclosed results from the most recent quarter today. With that, I thought it would be timely to update our ongoing analysis to see if the evidence confirms or alters the findings we have been showcasing to date. Here's where we started a little over a month ago on March 15 when Virtu made its unsolicited bid for KCG: "In the chart below, average daily adjusted net trading revenue for Q4-2016 returns to levels not seen since late 2013 / early 2014. Chances are quite high that persistent low volatility during Q1-2017 ... has caused these figures to fall back to pre-2013 levels." And then there is this additional comment: [...]
Here's an update from the initial post on March 15, 2017... The first wave of commentary is in, and the consensus seems to be that the unsolicited bid by Virtu for KCG is all "about the little guy." In other words, this deal is all about the position of a wholesaler relative to retail order flow. Maybe so. There is also some suggestion that these firms are not competitors; that, in fact, they may be complementary. Ok, I guess. But, widen your interpretation of the situation a bit and consider this: According to the 2016 Virtu 10-K, it is disclosed that, "We make markets by providing quotations to buyers and sellers in more than 12,000 securities and other financial instruments on more than 235 unique exchanges, markets and liquidity pools in 36 countries around the world." The notable liquidity venues are as follows, (and notice the part about "major private liquidity pools.") Since #HFT and narratives about highly-automated trading strategies are crowded topics among capital markets punditry, Alphacution has not followed the nuances close enough to know for sure whether the sponsor [...]
@VirtuFinancial bid for KCG Holdings (@KCGHQ) today. Here's why: In the chart below, average daily adjusted net trading revenue for Q4-2016 returns to levels not seen since late 2013 / early 2014. Chances are quite high that persistent low volatility during Q1-2017 - which has only a dozen trading days left in it - has caused these figure to fall back to pre-2013 levels. A situation like that needs a good distraction; something that can change the narrative and allow for lots of financial restructuring and restatements. Voila! Try to take out one of your nearest competitors... Problem is, it won't work - even if the deal gets done. The cultures of Virtu and GETCO - the parts that are likely to fit together the most logically - won't mesh. Knowing the founders and leadership, they are as different as New York and Chicago, as different as right and left. Stay tuned...
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 [...]
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 [...]