High Frequency Trading Discussion in Hong Kong
Thomson Reuters held a discussion last night (Nov 12, 2009) in their Hong Kong headquarters on the finer points of High Frequency Trading (HFT). The panel was moderated by Mike Powell the Global Head of Enterprise Information at Thomson Reuters. The panelists invited to speak represented a large swathe of the electronic trading vertical including buy side, sell side and technology. The discussion lasted about an hour and was well attended by an equally diverse cross-section of the industry.
It was generally accorded that high frequency trading was not new a practice but has been under the media spotlight recently garnering attention.
High frequency trading was defined as a data intensive, latency sensitive, high volume, low margin activity where holding periods were very short and positions were rarely held over night. High frequency traders were defined more by the services demanded than by how quickly orders were placed.
High frequency traders are made up of international banks, large hedge funds and smaller boutiques each facing a high cost of entry. Tick data is expensive, slippage matters and investing in sophisticated technology presented a barrier as well. It was raised that human capital investment was lower and greater emphasis was placed on IT. More money was being traded with less people.
There was some divergence on the opinion that large firms tend to be less restricted to trade anywhere where small players were more agile and free to enter any market.
Volatility and liquidity were the prime drivers of High Frequency trading. Also, the “Market landscape” played an important role in whether HF trading was a viable pursuit. For example, it costs 30bps to sell in Korea making this kind of trading prohibitive when the battle is being fought for the spread. India and Taiwan do no allow day trading.
The ability to process the large flows in the post-trade was another factor contributing to the increase HF trading.
An interesting point was raised about cultural influence as a driver of High Frequency trading. Japan, for example, has a more conservative fundamental approach to the investment process. Trading based on quantitative decision making is unusual. Also a “Quant Culture” supports the notion of HFT driving trading innovations and ideas.
Co-location services, it was agreed, was on the rise in Asia as well both at the exchange and broker level. The Australian Securities Exchange has been providing co-location services for some time and the Tokyo Stock Exchange just announced and expansion to its facilities.
There was very little said about risk other than that sophistication is increasing.
All and all it was a captivating discussion providing food for thought on a growing and exciting segment of the electronic trading industry in Asia.