The year is 2016 and the United States has just elected the first woman as well as the first Jewish president, Susan Goldfarb. She calls up her mother a few weeks after election day and says, 'So, Mom, I assume you will be coming to my inauguration?'
'I don't think so. It's a ten hour drive, your father isn't as young as he used to be, and my arthritis is acting up again.'
'Don't worry about it Mom, I'll send Air Force One to pick you up and take you home. And a limousine will pick you up at your door.'
'I don't know. Everybody will be so fancy-schmantzy, what on earth would I wear?'
Oh Mom, replies Susan, 'I'll make sure you have a wonderful gown custom-made by the best designer in New York .'
'Honey,' Mom complains, 'you know I can't eat those rich foods you and your friends like to eat.'
The President-to-be responds, 'Don't worry Mom. The entire affair is going to be handled by the best caterer in New York , kosher all the way. Mom, I really want you to come.'
So Mom reluctantly agrees and on January 20, 2017, Susan Goldfarb is being sworn in as President of the United States. In the front row sits the new president's mother, who leans over to a senator sitting next toher.
'You see that woman over there with her hand on the Torah, becoming President of the United States
The Senator whispers back, 'Yes I do.'
Mom says proudly, 'Her brother is a doctor.'
Lately the FT, Blodget and the NYT wrote about computer programs that drive stocks higher or lower for profits over incredibly short periods.
The first thing to note is that in order to make enough money to get people out of bed, the trading volume of these operations would have to be north of 300 million shares a day - which leaves only a few firms that the SEC will be looking into; Northtown (started by the BATS founder - who pioneered the rebate system), Citadel, Lime, Renaissancejump to mind.
The second thing to say, is this sort of thing doesn't cost you money; Individual investors benefit from tighter spreads. For instance, if you decide to buy 100 shares of MSFT and a high-frequency trader sells them to you, this can only get you a better price (nor is your order likely to be big enough for them to pick off).
Lastly, there is a lot more to the rebate-capture trade than the front-running aspect. Or to be more accurate, if you get front-run by one of these guys your trader is not doing his or her job properly - these guys live by the sword, I suggest they die by it. The rebate works as follows: if you are a liquidity provider (someone else takes/hits your offer/bid) you are eligible for a rebate on the execution cost. Most hedgefunds pay no less than 0.5c per share when they trade electronically and a rebate can be as high as 0.25c per share. Only a few companies (see above) can drive their costs below the potential rebate.
I don't normally write about work, but market structure is a fascinating area of the business. I look forward to seeing how this plays out...