Based on recently reported data for year-end 2021, Alphacution updates its ongoing strategy analysis for leading wholesale market maker, Virtu Financial...
It was a recent father-son (and dog) road trip. Several hours in the car, on our way to support daughter / sister, Emma, at her final regatta of the season. Head of the Hooch in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And, an opportunity for some undistracted conversation. Among the many topics was our ongoing debate about how to trade Tesla (TSLA). Eddie has proven himself to be fairly decent scalper of this volatile name, so I usually ask how he is positioned and the levels he thinks are meaningful. Anyway, it turns out, he is trading on the Robinhood platform - no more than a few shares at a time - and paying zero commissions which, of course, improves his net profitability. This is the main attraction on top of the fact that he can toggle between trading stocks, playing video games, watching YouTube, Instagramming with his friends and listening to music all on the same device. (No wonder he is always wiped out!) So, this got me to thinking about some of [...]
No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it. - Albert Einstein On October 4, news broke on all the major market news outlets that - after feasting on a meal formerly known as KCG Holdings, Inc. (KCG) in 2017, which itself was a combo platter made up of GETCO and Knight Capital - Virtu Financial, Inc. (Virtu) was returning to the all-you-can-eat buffet to consider the total consumption of multinational agency brokerage and financial markets technology firm, Investment Technology Group, Inc. (ITG). Of course, this news generated a chuckle around here because it seemed that it was not too long ago that someone was predicting that this kind of pairing would make sense for Virtu - if conditions were such that they needed to bolt something else onto their expanded frame. Oh, wait a sec, that was us... To wit, from Alphacution's post "Virtu Financial: More Acquisitions on the Way, If..." (March 27, 2018): "One other notable move for significant growth for a firm [...]
With volatility spiking in Q1 of 2018 - and the successful porting of KCG's intellectual property (IP) prior to that in late 2017 - VIRT earned a welcomed reprieve from the conditions of recent quarters, as we predicted here (and elsewhere prior to that). In the exhibit below, Alphacution's as-if modeling of the combined entity - Virtu + KCG pre-Q3 2017 - yields a level of net trading income that would not have been seen since Q1-2016. Meanwhile, Alphacution's tracking of adjusted net trading income per employee - a proxy for our common look at revenue per employee (RPE) - starkly illustrates the path through the most recent maneuvers: Persistent declines in top line "productivity" since its most recent peak in early 2015 ultimately led to the acquisition of KCG, which closed in July 2017. Swift transfer of KCG's IP onto Virtu's infrastructure along with elimination of redundant technology and human capital allowed this productivity measure to bounce off its lows in Q3 2017 to finish the year as strongly [...]
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 [...]
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 [...]