HFTs Emerge From the Shadows

Reuters/Susana Vera/Files

Today in the Financial News, Tim Cave reports that it was not so long ago that gaining access to high-frequency trading firms seemed almost as difficult as getting an audience with the Pope. How times have changed. As quickly as the firms became major participants across western stock exchanges, they have added a distinctly public face.

The firms’ leaders – many of whom are now loquacious ex-bankers rather than camera-shy technologists – have become regular speakers at industry conferences. Meanwhile, a group of over 20 of Europe’s largest HFTs have joined forces over the past year through an industry trade association, giving the firms a powerful voice in front of regulators.

It is no coincidence that this public image has emerged at the same time as the firms have begun to diversify beyond proprietary trading and into client businesses. These include over-the-counter market-making, the operation of internal trading venues and direct technology services. Driven in part by tough trading conditions and looming regulation, it is a shift that is gradually blurring the lines between the HFT firms and broker-dealers as part of a wider realigning of the financial landscape.

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