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Electronic trading landscape: how to gain a competitive edge

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By Ganesh Iyer, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, IPC

 

In recent years, the electronic trading landscape has witnessed a significant amount of change. Developments from a market, regulatory, and technological perspective have resulted in rapid growth in both the number and types of venues. Around the world, firms are connected to multilateral trading facilities, alternative trading tools, electronic communication networks, crossing networks, and dark pools – privately organized exchanges for trading securities – all of which continue gaining market share.

The market fragmentation has placed greater demands on the trading community, which is reliant upon access to multiple liquidity venues in order to make the most of cross-market arbitrage opportunities, as well as to ensure it acts in accordance with best execution policies. Nevertheless, fragmentation isn’t without its benefits. For market participants, fracturing offers increased liquidity, better price formations, more efficient markets, and tighter bid-offer spreads. Due to these changes, market participants have observed a proliferation in market data volumes, an explosion of lightning-fast algorithms, and the rapid development of ultra-low latency connectivity and technology.

The importance of latency

As new trading possibilities begin to emerge in the global capital markets, companies with the ability to access and utilise modernised connectivity solutions have put themselves in a position to take advantage of the best routes to market. In an attempt to capitalise on this, firms are becoming increasingly focused on reducing latency, particularly given the rise in prominence of algorithmic traders and statistical arbitrage desks. By investing in ultra-low latency trading infrastructure tools, businesses can ensure they continue to maintain an edge over competitors.

The objectives of each individual trading firm determine how valuable ultra-low latency is to their business, with no two market participants being identical. Looking at arbitrage-driven trading – which exploits pricing differences between identical assets in two or more markets – speed is invaluable since the overall aim is to capitalise on alpha, which can disappear almost instantaneously. In a situation like this, being able to swiftly uncover and source the right opportunities becomes vital. For these organisations, ultra-low latency connectivity must be considered one of the most essential pieces of weaponry.

Building the best allies

While latency is viewed as being an important feature of an enterprise connectivity plan, successful trading firms tend to consider a more holistic approach. This requires companies to pay close attention to other elements which they view as being equally essential, including dedicated bandwidth, high availability, resilience, and low total cost of ownership (TCO). In addition to trading speed, companies require the best connectivity solutions obtainable so that they can interact with their counterparties and other market participants in the ecosystem throughout the trading day. Examples of participants in the ecosystem include both buy- and sell-side firms as well as liquidity venues, market data providers, and independent software vendors. Those trading firms who have full confidence in their ability to operate in an established and diverse community of market participants, can spend an increased amount of time focusing on developing their business strategy and growing the company.

A connectivity provider offering the opportunity to make use of a diverse and full-scale trading ecosystem is also capable of delivering significantly reduced TCO with respect to infrastructure. Choosing the right connectivity provider puts trading firms in a position to ensure they’re able to fully capitalise on arbitrage, hedging, and other trading opportunities, while also enabling them to access new markets and liquidity pools, with limited delays and overhead.

Selecting the right connectivity solution

Nowadays, all connectivity providers offer various versions of ultra-low latency solutions. As such, it’s important for market participants to look out for some key differentiators between managed network providers. The consummate provider should not simply meet a trading firm’s current needs – they should also deliver a flexible and scalable platform which enables growth and expansion. That way, organisations can anticipate the arrival of new products and markets, all while they expand their global reach as their business continues to grow.

If a managed network community is to be successful, it should provide its market participants with a diverse, global financial ecosystem which has already been constructed. One that features a wide range of counterparties for price discovery, liquidity, and execution – for example, brokers, exchanges, other trading venues, hedge funds, trade lifecycle services, and market data providers. Simply put, the community should have the information that trading firms require in order to find and access liquidity.

The right provider will supply firms with an established community of liquidity venues, market data providers, and trading counterparties, not to mention a thorough understanding of trading routes and a level of agility necessary to adapt to an ever-evolving regulatory environment. Partnering with the right managed network provider enables trading companies to realise their competitive edge through high-speed price discovery and trading, guaranteeing best execution, and low TCO when it comes to end-to-end performance and ownership.

Business

Addressing the ongoing global pilot shortage issue

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By Bhanu Choudhrie, Founder of Alpha Aviation

 

The Covid-19 pandemic brought the aviation industry to a halt, causing vast market disruption and putting the future of many key players at risk. Now, just as airlines were getting back on track, staffing shortages are causing new complications – and part of this issue is a growing pilot recruitment problem.

So, where does the sector go from here and what steps need to be taken to mitigate pilot shortages?

The root of the issue

Even before the pandemic, there was a global shortage of pilots, with people flying more due to a rise in more affordable airlines and falling fuel costs. In fact, the 2020-2029 CAE Pilot Demand Outlook suggested that the global civil aviation industry will require more than 260,000 pilots by the end of the decade.

However, when demand for air travel dropped across the globe, airlines were quick to offer early retirement packages to reduce immediate outgoings. Whilst this approach helped some airlines stay afloat during the slowdown, a wave of early retirements has left them on the back foot.

Bhanu Choudhrie

Now demand is coming back much faster than expected. In the US alone, the Bureau of Labor Statistics is expecting 14,500 openings for commercial and airline pilots each year until 2030, and this imbalance is already having a detrimental impact on the aviation industry. With flights being cancelled, travellers left stranded, and some airports losing service altogether, it is crucial that the larger aviation ecosystem comes together to work out a solution to effectively address this pilot shortage crisis, so that it can once again meet capacity demands.

Re-directing efforts to rebuild pilot pools

With vast swathes of pilots put on furlough during the pandemic – and therefore unable to maintain their license requirements, the damage isn’t just in the ongoing pilot shortage, but also in the decades of experience the industry has lost. In response to this narrative, last month a Senator in the US introduced legislation to raise the mandatory retirement age of commercial airline pilots from 65 to 67 – and the US are not alone in this shift. Last week, Air India announced that it will be raising their retirement age for pilots from 58 to 65. Now we need to see other countries and airlines follow suit to help retain the talent that can help guide and mentor the next generation of cadets.

Moreover, training schools and airlines will need to work together to challenge industry stereotypes and empower more women to pursue a career in the cockpit. Currently, just 5.1 per cent of the world’s commercial pilots are women. This means that for every twenty flights taken, only one of them will be piloted by a woman. Unfortunately, this gender imbalance has become a long-established trend within the aviation industry and, stereotypically, pursuing a career as a pilot has been considered a male occupation, with women type cast to cabin crew instead. Therefore, if we are to make proactive strides towards addressing the current pilot shortfall, finding a way to shift that percentage is essential.

The cost of training to be a pilot is also a key barrier the industry needs to address, and at pace. On average, the cost to train as an air transport pilot can exceed $100,000 – making a career in the cockpit unattainable to many. One way for the industry to help narrow the gap and mitigate what is often seen as a considerable financial risk, is to make bursaries more accessible. There are already a number of programmes in place, to support both aspiring pilots and those who need to maintain their licenses, however, now the industry needs to work on championing and expanding these support systems.

The industry also needs to start to embrace alternative approaches to alleviate this substantial outlay. For example, at Alpha Aviation, we have started running the the Multi-Crew Pilot License (MPL). This is a shorter, more simulator-focused way of training that not only opens up opportunities for prospective cadets from less privileged backgrounds, but also offers a more flexible training programme and quicker route to qualification – reducing the financial expenses for cadets to cover.

Technological innovations can also play a crucial role in advancing the training process to help support a consistent employee base. For example, e-learning programmes can enable airlines to expand cadet class sizes. No longer restricted by the physical capacity of training centres, e-learning programmes have the potential to significantly open up access to becoming an aviator and will ensure airlines can recruit the best talent, irrespective of locality. In addition to this, pilots still need to clock up over 1,500 flying hours to receive their ATP certificate. Therefore, investing in simulator training facilities is now pivotal in supporting cadets to keep on top of the legal requirements and improve their skills set at a significantly quicker pace, alongside supporting existing pilots to retrain on new aircrafts when necessary.

Looking ahead

The pressure on the aviation industry shows no signs of abating any time soon. Therefore, while it is great to see passenger numbers returning to near pre-pandemic levels, the industry needs to take this as a significant wakeup call and re-assess its pilot recruitment process.

At the end of the day, there is no quick fix – training top of their class pilots takes time, investment and enthusiasm. However, addressing the ongoing chaos and driving the sector out of this turbulent period is essential to the economic revival of the nation. Therefore, decisive action is needed – and it is needed now.

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How exporters can mitigate risks and operate smoothly in stormy, post-Brexit waters

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By Morgan Terigi is Co-Founder and CEO of Incomlend

 

The past few years have presented a series of hurdles for companies whose operations rely heavily on international trade.

Brexit brought with it a storm of bureaucratic complexities that upended long-standing trade routes and routines, impacting not only those in the United Kingdom and Europe but also businesses across the globe. This on its own would be enough to cause logistical headaches for even the most senior of operators, but the emergence of the COVID-19 crisis, the subsequent worldwide lockdowns, and now the Russian invasion of Ukraine has created an environment where running a business smoothly becomes an altogether more difficult task.

According to information from Eurostat, between January 2020 and December 2021, EU imports coming from the United Kingdom fell by 16.4 percent and at the same time, EU exports to the United Kingdom decreased by 2.1 percent. Taking a sector such as the fishing industry, which exports much of its goods to the EU (113 thousand metric tons in 2019), trade has been impacted by both additional costs and delays due to red tape which can be a nightmare.

Analysis by the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations the bulk of the UK fishing fleet is set to lose £64 million or more per year, with a total loss in excess of £300 million by 2026, due to Brexit. This is just an example of one of the many industries which have suffered post-Brexit, and for many, it has only gotten worse.

Morgan Terigi

The spread of COVID-19 quickly added another monumental hurdle to international trade. According to statistics on UK-EU trade from the House of Commons Library, the first lockdowns in the UK and EU, which occurred in March 2020 saw the value of UK exports to the EU drop by 17 percent from the first quarter to the 2nd quarter of 2020. Imports from the EU to the UK fell by 26 percent over this same period and there was an 18 percent drop in UK exports between Q4 2020 and Q1 2021 and imports from the EU fell by 25 percent over the same period.

Moving past COVID-19, the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent economic sanctions on trade and imports of goods from Russia would stand as the next major hurdle to the UK, the EU and the wider world.

According to an analysis of the impact of economic sanctions of UK trade in goods with Russia, the imports of goods from Russia dropped to £33 million in June 2022 – the lowest level since records began. There have also been no imports of fuels from Russia in June 2022, another first, while exports to Russia dropped by £168 million (66.9percent ) compared with the monthly average for the 12 months to February 2022.

The combination of Brexit, COVID-19 and the war has caused significant logistic supply-chain related issues not just for companies in the UK and Europe, but across the entire world.

So what can exporters do in order to minimise risks to their business operations?

It is important for exporters to diversify in order to survive. While imports from the EU to the UK took a massive hit due to Brexit, imports from other non-EU countries increased by 30.1 percent. At the same time, EU exports to other non-EU countries increased by 6.1 percent.

When the flow of raw materials from one country or region becomes problematic or non-cost-effective, it is in a business’s best interest to source these raw materials elsewhere. Having this variety of sources means the production of products or services can continue despite whatever problems may arise.

This allows a business to operate more efficiently and securely. However, once a business starts venturing into new supply lines, a certain element of risk comes into play.

Long-standing relationships provide a comfortable routine and while diversifying these routes can provide a security blanket, new issues with new suppliers may arise.

To survive in such uncertain times, exporters must explore new markets, and SMEs must be nimble in regards to where they get their products, all of which increase risks for those trading.

These new risks can be costly to SMEs, particularly those whose cash flow may not be enough to survive a major hurdle or hiccup. And with SMEs making up around 90 percent of businesses and over 50 percent of employment worldwide, their role in the economy can not be overstated.

This is where invoice financing firms step in. They are able to provide funding to these companies in order to cover the trade-finance gap from which they are currently suffering.

These businesses can provide SMEs extend credit lines in a more flexible manner than banks and traditional lenders can achieve.

This means an SME which is under pressure can rely on this credit to cover overheads such as paying wages and suppliers, allowing them to keep operating smoothly, even if unexpected problems arise.

An example of this would be a factory in one region, which provides car parts for a company in another region. On the first of the month, this firm ships out the completed order of car parts for an agreed fee of €150,000. However, the payment for this may not come in for a number of weeks – leaving the factory owner in a tough situation until that payment comes in. The invoice trading firm steps in there, as a middleman. He pays the factory owner, meaning said owner can pay his workers wages, and pay for the next load of raw materials. Once the money comes through from the buyer, the invoice trading firm then receives their money back, plus interest and the whole supply chain continues to operate smoothly.

As the geopolitical climate continues to shift and change, new challenges and hurdles are sure to arise. Fintech, in particular, invoice financing firms will play a decisive role in the future of trade. The flexible nature in which they can provide financing see that wages are paid, materials are sourced, shelves are stocked and businesses stay open.

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