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Q&A: Alice Botis of Fidessa on Latam Trading – Opportunities and Challenges

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Electronic trading in Latin America continues to be a hot subject, with action moving beyond Brazil to other countries. IntelligentTradingTechnology.com spoke to Fidessa’s head of business development for the region, Alice Botis, to get an update, and a handle on low-latency initiatives in the marketplace.

Q: Can you start by some scene setting – where is the electronic trading action in the Latam market?

A: Electronic trading is already well established in ;Brazil, Mexico and Chile, and with the introduction of MILA, both Colombia and Peru have also adopted FIX order routing. Colombia has not yet opened their market to allow FIX connectivity to third-party network providers, but they are looking forward to making that available in 2012-2013.

In Peru, the decision to make FIX connectivity available to third-party network providers is still pending regulatory approval, but if approved, they expect implementation to move swiftly.

Buy-sides in Latin America have been slow to adopt electronic order routing, but where they have, they often still pick up the phone to have a conversation with the trader for local colour. But, by having electronic connectivity, the sell-side is able to enter the order into their OMS and send unsolicited notices of execution back to the client which minimises manual errors.

The move toward the adoption of electronic order routing in Latin America is significantly driven by the desire to attract international order flow and to make trading in Latin America as seamless as trading in other mature markets.

Q: Where does Fidessa have operations, and connectivity? What’s the latest news on that front?

A: Fidessa recently opened an office in Sao Paulo to serve our clients in Latin America, including Mexico. The office was opened to provide on-the-ground technical and production support to our local clients. Our plan is to continue building out the appropriate infrastructure to offer data centre hosting, hosted services such as a local ticker plant and a local network hub to facilitate North, South and local order routing and execution. We will also be hiring local staff to ensure support in both Spanish and Portuguese.

We currently have 21 receiving brokers in Latin America concentrated in Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Colombia, and we are in discussions with several others in the region to join the Fidessa network.

Q: What are the infrastructure challenges of working in Latam?

A: The greatest infrastructure challenges are being seen by international players looking to gain access to the local markets. There are many challenges, such as hardware and telecom acquisition, so they seek the expertise of local brokers, custodians and technology vendors to help them put the appropriate infrastructure in place to start trading.

It is important to understand the workflow the client is looking to facilitate to assure a balance of cost and speed. As demand in the region continues to increase, things will only get easier, and we can hope, with scale, less expensive.

Q: Focusing on Brazil, it looks like competition is heating up there with Bats and Direct Edge planning to take on BM&FBOVESPA. What opportunities does this open up for Fidessa?

A: With the introduction of fragmentation comes the increased responsibility for brokers to provide best execution to their clients. In some markets, the exchanges themselves will be mandated to provide aggregated quote data and routing to the best price, but even in these markets, brokers will compete for business by aggregating the data feeds and connecting directly to each market themselves to more quickly identify and access best price and volume.

Whether you are an international player who has experienced fragmentation in other markets or a local player who has never had to overcome this challenge before, there will be a significant investment in time and money to accommodate the data feed, connectivity and smart order routing requirements. Working with experienced vendors in other markets like Fidessa, who has worked with Bats and Direct Edge, can provide a time to market and cost advantage to implementing the required technology and infrastructure.

Q: Are Latam markets looking to invest in low-latency technologies and offerings in a similar way that markets in North America and Europe have? Is this ‘me too’ or are they learning from others’ experience and doing things differently?

A: Brazil, Mexico and Chile have all made significant investments in their exchange technology to provide lower latency, higher throughput execution for their participants, setting the stage for algorithmic and HFT participation in their market. Brazil is leveraging the experience and expertise of the CME by partnering with them for the implementation of their new multi asset trading engine. Chile has extended their proprietary technology along with partnerships with technology providers like IBM for their low-latency messaging, and Mexico ;is enhancing their proprietary technology to provide significant improvements to latency and throughput.

Brazil has seen the highest rate of clients seeking to set up local infrastructure to facilitate low-latency market access for algorithmic and HFT participation. But, there is a delicate balance that firms are trying to find between investment in low-latency technology and return on investment on that technology purchase. That said, the amount of high frequency trading participation in the region as a whole is still growing, so as volume continues to increase, so might the returns on those technology investments.

Q: What about regulatory oversight for all of these developments? Is there a MiFID in the works for Latam?

A: There is not currently a regional regulation such as MiFID or Regulation NMS for best execution in place because Latin America is not yet fragmented. However, each country does have its own regulatory rules in place to oversee the various different types of order flow and assure quality execution for retail transactions.

In Chile, for example, there are three exchanges that are not electronically linked. The brokers are not obligated to provide best price. As long as they demonstrate they are trading on the primary exchange, and provide the best price along with the executed price on the confirmation, they are in compliance with the local rules.

As fragmentation is undoubtedly coming to LatAm, I do believe you will see local regulators augment their current rules to protect their market participants.

Q: What do you expect to be some other specific developments in the coming year in Latam, for the markets and for Fidessa?

A: As far as market changes that might affect the region, the potential addition of Mexico to the Integrated Latin American Market (MILA) will certainly affect the development of the region. Mexico has already signed a letter of intent to join MILA, and if they do, it will further drive connectivity in the region and the need for trading systems to manage higher volumes and provide multi-regional orders and execution capabilities.

The region is very dynamic with growth, change and investment, and we are excited to be working with partners in the region who are driving the extension of our trading services to accommodate their growth and success.

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