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Algorithmic trading adoption on the buy side

I've noticed a trend among recent conferences I've attended: a growing number of sell-side firms sending along their business development and product managers to speak about algorithmic trading.

While these guys are far too smart to engage in an unadulterated sales pitch, and for the most part their presentations have been insightful, there is an undercurrent of these banks wanting to get wider exposure for their expertise and services.

At one event last week the consensus was that algo trading take up is still low among buy side firms, apart from the hedge funds, which have been quite keen on it. Several reasons were given for this, including the fact that many traditional buy side firms are still struggling with order management system (OMS) implementations, and deciding how execution management systems (EMS) fit into their plans:

Should the asset manager take one of these EMS interfaces, which provide easy access to a range of liquidity pools and algo tools, from one or more of their main brokers, or should they take one from their OMS vendor?

There is also an education process going on, whereby buy-side traders are trying to work out how algo tools can best support their trading strategies. Are they just a way of tracking down and consuming liquidity? How well can they be used to generate alpha?

I won't pretend to know the answers, but I do know that the buy-side firms will find no shortage of sell-side firms and vendors willing to influence their understanding of the issues.

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