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Just a Little History
“Who am I? Why am I here?”
– Vice Admiral James Stockdale
But it was by no means an easy road. The barriers to multiple broker relationships were many:
- Some brokers could be accessed only via their proprietary single-broker offerings.
- Multi-asset, multibroker platforms lacked advanced futures trading functionality.
- Software vendors (like TT) had solutions that were “broker-neutral”, but still required separate infrastructure for each broker.
- Each broker presented unique back- and middle-office integration overhead, especially with regard to Financial Information eXchange (FIX) protocol integration.
In spite of the costs and complexity, those firms with enough resources to apply to the problem simply forged ahead with handcrafted multiple-broker integration, sometimes supporting separate software solutions for as many as half a dozen different futures commission merchants (FCMs). When it came to the multiple broker club, many small or even mid-tier buy-side firms were left on the outside looking in.
Over the years, TT has done a fair amount of talking about a multibroker solution. We made a couple abortive attempts at trying to bolt-on multibroker functionality to our existing system. But for the most part, TT focused its R&D resources on expanding trader functionality and market access. Our 7x platform was solid and time-tested. In most cases, FCMs managed their TT infrastructures with only occasional guidance from TT. Yes, TT dipped its proverbial toe in the hosted-solution water with TTNET™. But TTNET only aspired to provide the same type of TT infrastructure management that most FCMs were already doing–basically a competent but cookie-cutter approach, with a few efficiencies gained due to shared infrastructure, best practices and proximity to TT support. Not much progress was being made on the multibroker front at TT.
Then in 2008, the unforeseeable happened.
Consolidation, Consolidation, Consolidation
“There are only three things that matter when it comes to property: location, location, location.”
The events of the 2008 crash are well known; we won’t review them here. From our perspective, the crash brought a number of critical issues to the forefront:
- Broker risk: Anyone with just a single broker relationship now wanted two; those with two now wanted three, etc. On the other hand, those with six might cut back to five, or even four. It’s no longer just about maximizing profits, but insuring survival.
- Regulatory risk: As an industry, we’re still coming to grips with the impact of Dodd-Frank and ESMA regulatory changes. The demands that these changes are placing on FCMs and the buy side are a driving factor in system consolidation.
- Opportunity risk: Near-zero interest rates and reduced trade volumes mean FCMs are keeping a much tighter rein on which buy side firms are worth the cost and effort to support on a trading system.
At TT, we continued to talk with our end users about these issues. Internally, we had many debates and brainstorming sessions about how to attack various pieces of the new puzzle. About two years ago, the case for a multibroker application service provider (ASP) solution at TT became so compelling–seeming to solve so many of the disparate problems with which our end users were being faced–that we stopped trying, and started doing (apologies to Yoda): we decided to transform our current single-bank platform into a multibroker architecture, starting from the bottom up. So let’s talk about what TT’s multibroker solution is.
What is the New TT MultiBroker Solution?
“It’s a little room in the front of the plane…but that’s not important right now.”
– Leslie Nielsen
Aptly enough, we’ve named our solution MultiBroker. We started by taking a new approach in TTNET, introducing an ASP model for MultiBroker that allows TT to fully manage and scale the trading infrastructure as trade volumes dictate. We are starting to take advantage of cloud resources to help scale the less latency-sensitive components of the system. We believe that an ASP approach will help us take any barriers to entry for our MultiBroker end users down to the bare minimum.Under the software covers, we made precise changes from end to end in every TT component to accommodate the order-routing demands of MultiBroker, while at the same time matching or exceeding the performance and feature set of our existing platform. Buy-side firms will be able to integrate with a single FIX interface across all brokers for back-office and compliance reporting. We kept the visible changes in X_TRADER® and the APIs to a minimum to keep the learning curve low for our current traders and to retain the clean and fast trading style for which TT is so well known.
We are pretty proud of the end result. The MultiBroker solution has been routing live trades in our alpha environment since late summer. Early reviews from both the buy side and the sell side have been enthusiastic, and I am equally enthusiastic. As we move on to beta and ultimately to production in the coming months, you can track progress on our MuiltiBroker initiatives webpage, or in my future blog posts.