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Creative Destruction in Real-Time Data Feeds (Guest Blog Entry)

Ken Barnes, Wombat Financial Software Perhaps you're a member of a high frequency equities trading operation looking to fuel your strategy formulation and execution applications with the highest quality data available. To this end you may have spent considerable time sourcing and cleaning historical databases, eliminating the noise of bad prints and anomalies in the tails.

Ken Barnes, Wombat Financial Software

Perhaps you're a member of a high frequency equities trading operation looking to fuel your strategy formulation and execution applications with the highest quality data available. To this end you may have spent considerable time sourcing and cleaning historical databases, eliminating the noise of bad prints and anomalies in the tails.As for real time data, you might consider sourcing a simple task- pick up a direct feed from NYSE and another from NASDAQ. You'll probably complement it with a consolidated feed, though you might wonder if there's much choice given there wasn't much to speak of in the institutional market last time you had a look. Yet the data feed landscape has been fundamentally reshaped in just the past year, making for a significantly more complex selection process, with ample room for finding better and more cost effective data that you might have thought possible. New choices have arisen, while familiar workhorses are disappearing.

Take NYSE as an example. Licensing the CTA feed from NYSE's market data utility, SIAC, might have been a no brainer for listed trades and quotes not long ago, but today NYSE offers a much richer array of tools to choose from. NYSE OpenBook provides depth of book data CTA never has. NYSE Best Quotes, the newest and perhaps the most quickly adopted feed from any market in recent memory, provides top of book data directly from the NYSE marketplace, bypassing SIAC altogether. NYSE Alerts offers real time market condition analytics; Liquidity Replenishment Points support the new hybrid market, signifying electronic trading conversions to auction; and ProTrac or ReTrac feeds (aka NYSE InfoTools ) offer analysis of institutional and retail order flow.

Each of these feeds offers unique value and each is in use or testing at numerous trading shops across the industry. NYSE has wisely recognized the opportunity to differentiate themselves in part through the richness of the data they republish to the market, and show no signs of letting their foot off the innovation gas pedal. Nor for that matter does NASDAQ with their new ITCH 3 feed, or any of the emerging challengers such as BATS and DirectEdge.

This of course only covers the US equity direct feed market- other asset classes, from FX to fixed income, are showing similar signs of innovation at work. And the consolidated (or "vendor") feed market is more competitive than ever, with Bloomberg, Comstock, Lava and Thomson all offering attractive products combining speed with order books and varying degrees of coverage breadth.

But creativity is a destructive process, to paraphrase Joe Shumpeter. So mark your calendars - SIAC will say its goodbyes before long. The cost of managing data dissemination across multiple markets (As SIAC does for NYSE, all the regional cash equity exchanges and the options markets) are reaching unsustainable levels, thanks to the relentless volume growth driven by autoquoting and trade slicing programs.

But more importantly the business demands for latency reduction and rapid time to market of new content simply run at odds with their utility-like business model. Just as the NYSE Best Quotes data feed bypasses the SIAC datacenter (flowing directly from the NYSE data center to their customers), so too will the direct option feeds issued by each of the major derivatives markets bypass OPRA.

Data flowing directly from each individual exchange to the customer ticker plant will be faster than any received from a utility like SIAC, complete with order books, and equipped with more insightful analytics (think Greeks in the data center.) And so the utilities will disband, as the expertise and technologies they've developed are absorbed by the innovators who can afford and need them most (look no further for evidence than NYSE's recent buyout of Amex's stake in SIAC.)

For those who in fact are part of the demographic identified above, take stock of the real time data you depend on. Whether you're looking to increase the share of the liquidity in the marketplace you capture, searching for deeper meaning in the markets you already participate in, hoping to accelerate the speed of your content, or simply looking for a better deal, any investments you make in the search process are likely to be rewarding. Ivy is Editor-at-Large for Advanced Trading and Wall Street & Technology. Ivy is responsible for writing in-depth feature articles, daily blogs and news articles with a focus on automated trading in the capital markets. As an industry expert, Ivy has reported on a myriad ... View Full Bio

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