Algorithmic Trading. Thought of the Day 151.0

HFT order routing

One of the first algorithmic trading strategies consisted of using a volume-weighted average price, as the price at which orders would be executed. The VWAP introduced by Berkowitz et al. can be calculated as the dollar amount traded for every transaction (price times shares traded) divided by the total shares traded for a given period. If the price of a buy order is lower than the VWAP, the trade is executed; if the price is higher, then the trade is not executed. Participants wishing to lower the market impact of their trades stress the importance of market volume. Market volume impact can be measured through comparing the execution price of an order to a benchmark. The VWAP benchmark is the sum of every transaction price paid, weighted by its volume. VWAP strategies allow the order to dilute the impact of orders through the day. Most institutional trading occurs in filling orders that exceed the daily volume. When large numbers of shares must be traded, liquidity concerns can affect price goals. For this reason, some firms offer multiday VWAP strategies to respond to customers’ requests. In order to further reduce the market impact of large orders, customers can specify their own volume participation by limiting the volume of their orders to coincide with low expected volume days. Each order is sliced into several days’ orders and then sent to a VWAP engine for the corresponding days. VWAP strategies fall into three categories: sell order to a broker-dealer who guarantees VWAP; cross the order at a future date at VWAP; or trade the order with the goal of achieving a price of VWAP or better.

The second algorithmic trading strategy is the time-weighted average price (TWAP). TWAP allows traders to slice a trade over a certain period of time, thus an order can be cut into several equal parts and be traded throughout the time period specified by the order. TWAP is used for orders which are not dependent on volume. TWAP can overcome obstacles such as fulfilling orders in illiquid stocks with unpredictable volume. Conversely, high-volume traders can also use TWAP to execute their orders over a specific time by slicing the order into several parts so that the impact of the execution does not significantly distort the market.

Yet, another type of algorithmic trading strategy is the implementation shortfall or the arrival price. The implementation shortfall is defined as the difference in return between a theoretical portfolio and an implemented portfolio. When deciding to buy or sell stocks during portfolio construction, a portfolio manager looks at the prevailing prices (decision prices). However, several factors can cause execution prices to be different from decision prices. This results in returns that differ from the portfolio manager’s expectations. Implementation shortfall is measured as the difference between the dollar return of a paper portfolio (paper return) where all shares are assumed to transact at the prevailing market prices at the time of the investment decision and the actual dollar return of the portfolio (real portfolio return). The main advantage of the implementation shortfall-based algorithmic system is to manage transactions costs (most notably market impact and timing risk) over the specified trading horizon while adapting to changing market conditions and prices.

The participation algorithm or volume participation algorithm is used to trade up to the order quantity using a rate of execution that is in proportion to the actual volume trading in the market. It is ideal for trading large orders in liquid instruments where controlling market impact is a priority. The participation algorithm is similar to the VWAP except that a trader can set the volume to a constant percentage of total volume of a given order. This algorithm can represent a method of minimizing supply and demand imbalances (Kendall Kim – Electronic and Algorithmic Trading Technology).

Smart order routing (SOR) algorithms allow a single order to exist simultaneously in multiple markets. They are critical for algorithmic execution models. It is highly desirable for algorithmic systems to have the ability to connect different markets in a manner that permits trades to flow quickly and efficiently from market to market. Smart routing algorithms provide full integration of information among all the participants in the different markets where the trades are routed. SOR algorithms allow traders to place large blocks of shares in the order book without fear of sending out a signal to other market participants. The algorithm matches limit orders and executes them at the midpoint of the bid-ask price quoted in different exchanges.

Handbook of Trading Strategies for Navigating and Profiting From Currency, Bond, Stock Markets

Private Equity and Corporate Governance. Thought of the Day 109.0

The two historical models of corporate ownership are (1) dispersed public ownership across many shareholders and (2) family-owned or closely held. Private equity ownership is a hybrid between these two models.

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The main advantages of public ownership include giving a company the widest possible access to capital and, for start-up companies, more credibility with suppliers and customers. The key disadvantages are that a public listing of stock brings constant scrutiny by regulators and the media, incurs significant costs (listing, legal and other regulatory compliance costs), and creates a significant focus on short-term financial results from a dispersed base of shareholders (many of whom are not well informed). Most investors in public companies have limited ability to influence a company’s decision making because ownership is so dispersed. As a result, if a company performs poorly, these investors are inclined to sell shares instead of attempting to engage with management through the infrequent opportunities to vote on important corporate decisions. This unengaged oversight opens the possibility of managers potentially acting in ways that are contrary to the interests of shareholders.

Family-owned or closely held companies avoid regulatory and public scrutiny. The owners also have a direct say in the governance of the company, minimizing potential conflicts of interest between owners and managers. However, the funding options for these private companies are mainly limited to bank loans and other private debt financing. Raising equity capital through the private placement market is a cumbersome process that often results in a poor outcome.

Private equity firms offer a hybrid model that is sometimes more advantageous for companies that are uncomfortable with both the family-owned/closely held and public ownership models. Changes in corporate governance are generally a key driver of success for private equity investments. Private equity firms usually bring a fresh culture into corporate boards and often incentivize executives in a way that would usually not be possible in a public company. A private equity fund has a vital self-interest to improve management quality and firm performance because its investment track record is the key to raising new funds in the future. In large public companies there is often the possibility of “cross-subsidization” of less successful parts of a corporation, but this suboptimal behavior is usually not found in companies owned by private equity firms. As a result, private equity-owned companies are more likely to expose and reconfigure or sell suboptimal business segments, compared to large public companies. Companies owned by private equity firms avoid public scrutiny and quarterly earnings pressures. Because private equity funds typically have an investment horizon that is longer than the typical mutual fund or other public investor, portfolio companies can focus on longer-term restructuring and investments.

Private equity owners are fully enfranchised in all key management decisions because they appoint their partners as nonexecutive directors to the company’s board, and some- times bring in their own managers to run the company. As a result, they have strong financial incentives to maximize shareholder value. Since the managers of the company are also required to invest in the company’s equity alongside the private equity firm, they have similarly strong incentives to create long-term shareholder value. However, the significant leverage that is brought into a private equity portfolio company’s capital structure puts pressure on management to operate virtually error free. As a result, if major, unanticipated dislocations occur in the market, there is a higher probability of bankruptcy compared to either the family-owned/closely held or public company model, which includes less leverage. The high level of leverage that is often connected with private equity acquisition is not free from controversy. While it is generally agreed that debt has a disciplining effect on management and keeps them from “empire building,” it does not improve the competitive position of a firm and is often not sustainable. Limited partners demand more from private equity managers than merely buying companies based on the use of leverage. In particular, investors expect private equity managers to take an active role in corporate governance to create incremental value.

Private equity funds create competitive pressures on companies that want to avoid being acquired. CEOs and boards of public companies have been forced to review their performance and take steps to improve. In addition, they have focused more on antitakeover strategies. Many companies have initiated large share repurchase programs as a vehicle for increasing earnings per share (sometimes using new debt to finance repurchases). This effort is designed, in part, to make a potential takeover more expensive and therefore less likely. Companies consider adding debt to their balance sheet in order to reduce the overall cost of capital and achieve higher returns on equity. This strategy is sometimes pursued as a direct response to the potential for a private equity takeover. However, increasing leverage runs the risk of lower credit ratings on debt, which increases the cost of debt capital and reduces the margin for error. Although some managers are able to manage a more leveraged balance sheet, others are ill equipped, which can result in a reduction in shareholder value through mismanagement.