Tag Archives: OpenBondX

Kumaresan Wave Labs electronic trading

Corporate Bond e-Trading: “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” The Latest Effort…

The never ending battle to electronify the secondary market for corporate bonds has yet another new entrant that aims to disintermediate corporate debt dealers that ‘control’ the trading in what has morphed from a $2trillion market to a $9 trillion marketplace during the last decade alone. As profiled by CNBC last week, the platform is called Wave Labs and its led by former Nordea Asset Mgt head trader and “fintech quant wonk”. Miles Kumaresan.  Wave Labs purportedly as a new sauce that distinguishes itself from the current generation’s e-bond trading platforms; its powered by AI and algorithms that select corporate bonds based on buyer’s criteria. How Wave Labs helps to address the needs of sellers –which is arguably a crucial feature for any electronic trading platform–wasn’t addressed in the CNBC story

As best said by MarketsMuse Senior Curator Jay Berkman, who was credited with being a co-founder and head of business development for the 1990’s era “BondNet” and arguably the first electronic trading platform for corporate bonds, “At risk of infringing on any copyright that Yogi Berra might have,  “It’s Deja Vu All Over Again.”

While BondNet may have had the best technology, its business model was flawed, according to Berkman. “The business was positioned as an inter-dealer broker when it should have been positioned as a utility owned by a consortium of dealers, who would otherwise have an incentive to provide liquidity. When attempting to move to the buy-side, the dealers put the company into the penalty box.”  MarketAxxes, which started after BondNet, had the right approach-which explains how/why it grew to what is now a multi-billion market cap company, even if its niche is mostly matching small size trades (under $5mil notional). That typical trade size

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Miles Kumaresan, CEO of Wave Labs

metric is illustrative of the obstacles that face any electronic platform that hopes to secure a presence in the corporate bond market. As one industry veteran pointed out, “Stocks are bought and [corporate] bonds are sold (by a salesman); if there’s a new black box that can actually pick the precise bonds that an institutional buyer wants, without having to deal with a salesman, that’s the holy grail.”

During the last 3-4 years, newbie disruptors who have sought to be the new kids on the bond block seeking to displace the role of bank trading desks have included among others, Liquidnet (whose pedigree is more tied to equities trading),Trumid, Electronifie, OpenBondX,  and EMBonds. Their respective value propositions are the same: since the crisis of 2008, when bank balance sheets were forced to scale down inventory holdings, bank trading desks have not been able to address the liquidity needs of the marketplace. Each of the new generations of bond trading platforms has cute features, the most common being peer-to-peer trading, “RFQ” (request-for-quote) and also, scheduled auctions, as opposed to continuous bid-offer actionable price streaming. Electronifie and Trumid -both represented by fintech merchant bank SenaHill Partners, combined within two years of their respective start-up phase, as both struggled to get past B Rounds for funding in the course of trying to get a foothold in the marketplace.

Per the CNBC coverage by Hugh Son (@hugh_son), “Leaning on his quirky charm and the bravado of a true believer, Kumaresan says he has gotten meetings with some of the world’s biggest asset managers. He mentions their names — giants in the industry — and then requests that they stay out of print. As he tells it, the demonstrations of his prototype usually end abruptly as executives gush over its potential.”

One could argue those conversations end abruptly because Wave Labs is just the latest wave. As Berkman suggests, “Kumaresan might be better off tuning into Kevin O’Leary, the CNBC pundit and notorious Shark from ABC’s “Shark Tank”, and consider licensing his technology to MarketAxxes or TradeWeb–as they’ve already got the most important two elements: credibility and customers.”

If you’ve got a hot insider tip, a bright idea, or if you’d like to get visibility for your brand through MarketsMuse via subliminal content marketing, advertorial, blatant shout-out, spotlight article, news release etc., please reach out to our Senior Editor via cmo@marketsmuse.com

 

For the full story about Wave Labs, “This quant says his tiny start-up is about to blow up Wall Street’s $8 trillion bond trading monopoly” click here

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e-Bond ATS “OpenBondX” Promotes Maker-Taker Rebates

Start-up corporate bond trading system OpenBondX is hoping to pull a rabbit out of its hat and jump start activity by emulating what the universe of equities-centric electronic exchanges and ATS platforms do in order to attract order flow to their respective venues: pay broker-dealers for orders given to them buy customers (retail and institutional) and offer a Chinese menu of kickbacks for those who ‘make’ liquidity and those who ‘take’ liquidity, otherwise known as maker-taker rebates.

Before dissecting the proposal by OpenBondX, which is open to buy-siders and sell-siders alike, for those following the ongoing discussions with regard to maker-taker rebates offered by exchanges and the assortment of ATS (alternative trading systems), you already know that the topic has increasingly become a big issue with regulators and buy-side investment managers, who are somehow just beginning to understand the implications within the context of fiduciary obligations and the ever-evolving definition of ‘best execution.’

That said, electronifying the corporate bond market so that buyers and sellers can transact in the secondary market in a way similar to how equities are traded has been a holy grail quest going back more than 20 years, starting with a platform known as “BondNet”, which started its life in 1995 as an inter-dealer-broker (IDB) system and soon thereafter, was acquired by Bank of New York Mellon, with the vision to roll out the platform as an ATS and invite institutional corporate bond traders to have direct access to the dealer market place.  When that acquisition, along with BNY’s strategy was announced the biggest banks on Wall Street, along with many of the nearly 90 regional BDs subscribing to that platform put BondNet in the penalty box and pulled the plug on the computers to protest BNY “disintermediating” the relationships those banks and brokers had with the buy-side firms, and more importantly to punish BNY for even contemplating that buy-siders should be able to see wholesale pricing that was available only within the inter-dealer marketplace.

The challenges encountered by the close on 40 different initiatives, 98% of which have failed within 12 months of their respective launch are a matter of historical record. Other than cultural and political issues, the most important obstacles can be found in the fact that “bonds are sold and stocks are bought.” Meaning: institutional investors rely on sell-side institutional sales people to sell them on a particular bond,  simply because buy-side portfolio managers don’t have the time or resources to filter through the many thousands of bonds that have been floated and now trade in the secondary market, each with different terms and conditions, different structures, different ratings and assortment of other criteria that goes into calculating the ingredients for a corporate bond portfolio.

The other big item that has been lost on the assortment of “Wall Street electronic trading veterans” and the many entrepreneurs who have attempted to create a robust and liquid electronic trading market for bonds is the simple fact that buy-side managers are most often interested in being on the same side of a trade as their peers; they don’t tend to take each other out of positions. Which is where Wall Street dealer desks had, until the past few years, always played an integral role. Alas, tose big banks have been legislated out of the market-making business courtesy of post financial crisis regs that prohibit banks from holding any significant inventories that can be sold to buy-siders, and hence, they are not able to purchase any significant amounts from institutions unless they have a buyer for those bonds in hand.  Today, 98% of corporate bonds are held by institutional investors and the notion of creating a system by which they could trade among each other is still a pipe dream that has passed along from one generation of electronifiers to the next. But, OpenBondX thinks they can be different. Here’s the news release issued this week:

OpenBondX Electronic Trading Platform Rolls Out New Rebate/Fee Structure For Fixed-Income Trading

Recently-launched electronic bond-trading venue OpenBondX, LLC (www.openbondx.com) is implementing an innovative pricing strategy that previously has helped transform other markets.

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Alistair Brown, CEO OpenBondX

A twist on the “Maker-taker” rebate pricing model that propelled the successful electronification of markets in other asset classes, OpenBondX (OBX) will incentivize initiators of order flow with rebates that are built into the trade’s settlement.  Dealers whose streaming prices result in executed trades on OpenBondX are also eligible for rebates.

Currently live with high-yield and investment-grade U.S. corporate bonds, the OBX Alternative Trading System (ATS) now offers the following rebate/fee structure for liquidity providers and seekers:

  • Order initiators of an RFFQ® (Request for Firm Quote®) will be rebated 2 basis points of the notional value per trade (or $200 per million).
  • Order responders will be charged only 2.5 basis points of the notional value per trade (or $250 per million).
  • Post trade, the rebate or fee is applied to the net settlement value, i.e., the initiators’ cost is adjusted by the rebate of $200 per million dollars and the responders’ cost is adjusted by the fee of $250 per million dollars.
  • No additional ticket, transactional or monthly terminal access fees are incurred. This is less than half the typical pricing at electronic venues.
  • As OpenBondX is an “all-to-all” platform (open to both buy- and sell-side traders), any subscriber can earn rebates by initiating an RFFQ.  And access to the platform is free for all.

Here We Go Again: OpenBondX Proposes Launch of Another Electronic Bond Trading Platform

While contemplating today’s news release profiling the proposed launch of the latest corporate bond electronic trading platform “OpenBondX,” MarketsMuse senior editors respectfully borrow Yogi Berra’s best line  “It’s like déjà vu all over again.” But for those too young to remember that most famous Yankee, we’ll toss you a softball: “Here we go, yet one more hat thrown in to the ring of electronifying the corporate bond market. We’ve almost lost count as to the number of initiatives that aspire to change the dynamics of buying and selling corporate bonds within the institutional marketplace, but the good news is this group is apparently not deterred by the number that have tried and failed to crack the cultural egg typical to those focused on fixed income trading.”

OpenBondX (OBX), an Alternative Trading System (ATS) upstart, unveiled plans to revamp its electronic bond trading in Q1 2015 with its new systems launch for both non-traditional and traditional providers.

The platform offers liquidity access via bond markets in the company’s first multi-tiered system. OBX’s ATS system targets both buy and sell-side participants, given the acute need for a platform that bridges institutional bond traders and natural liquidity suppliers in tandem.

At present, the landscape of corporate bond traders has changed due to shifting regulatory requirements and capital rules that has led to the mitigation of inventories by approximately 70% since 2008, according to GreySpark Partners’ estimates. The firm estimates that in 2014, buy-side firms held 96% to 99% of the U.S. corporate bond inventory in 2014.

According to OBX cofounder and CEO Alistair Brown in a recent statement on the platform, “every facet of OpenBondX and its technology have been built from the ground up to encourage providers to contribute liquidity and safely expose orders to the most aggressive pricing available, all under absolute anonymity.”

“By automating the bond markets as such and attracting liquidity from non-traditional providers, we believe our ATS will drive true two-way markets and significantly reduce trading costs,” he added.

Liquidity Fragmentation

The primary draw of OBX’s platform is its ambition to unlock fragmented liquidity, which aims to stymie information leakage and negative pricing issues that has become endemic in fixed income markets.

Helping to that end is a robust array of internal risk controls to aid market participants. As such, real-time utilities such as value-at-risk (VAR) validation on executed trades and open orders, aggregate value traded, duplicate order check and user access controls are afforded.

OBX has revealed a launch date for Q1 2015, with fully compatible trading for all US corporate bonds.