A trading error originated on Tuesday 20 at Goldman Sachs has once again shaken investors' confidence in the markets. What is behind these trading errors is explored in amazing detail by Mr. Edgar Perez in his latest book Knightmare on Wall Street, that provides a thrilling minute-by-minute account of the terrifying hours following their August 1, 2012 trading debacle, with news-breaking research regarding Knight Capital's 17 years of tumultuous existence as an independent company.
The firm, founded by Kenneth Pasternak and Walter Raquet in 1995, had seen its fortunes change as U.S. regulators made a series of changes in the structure of financial markets and computers were progressively expanding their share of trading. The Flash Crash, the infamous 1,000 point drop of the DJIA on May 6, 2010 (the largest one-day point decline in history), illustrated how market structure problems could almost instantaneously cascade from one market participant to the rest.
Thomas Joyce, CEO of Knight Capital since 2002 and an unapologetic advocate of electronic trading, had been scornful of those companies that struggled to keep up with ever-changing stock markets. So it was certainly shocking that at 9:30 A.M. on August 1, 2012, right after the markets opened for the day, Knight Capital began issuing an unprecedented number of erroneous orders into the market, due to an error in installing new software. No rogue trader or regulatory change; operational risk was passing the bill to Knight Capital and becoming the biggest risk in the financial markets.
Knight Capital announced later a staggering loss of $440 million. What followed after this shocking announcement were several rounds of desperate conversations with a number of vulture players who had smelled opportunity and were readying themselves to pick up bargain-priced pieces. On August 6, 2012, Joyce confirmed that Knight Capital had struck a deal with Jefferies, TD Ameritrade, Blackstone, GETCO, Stephens, and Stifel Financial, staving off collapse days after the trading mishap.
While Knight Capital was back in the game, its limping recovery quickly prompted hungry competitors to bid for the entire company. On December 19, 2012, the board decided to accept an acquisition proposal from GETCO rather than Virtu Financial. For GETCO, acquiring Knight Capital represented a gigantic fast forward step. For Knight Capital, it was the end of its wild ride as an independent entity.
Knightmare on Wall Street provides a fascinating account of what it took to elevate the firm to the cusp of the retail investing revolution of the late 1990s, to struggle through booms and busts, and to bring the firm down, to end up ultimately being ignominiously bought up by a competitor.
Perez is widely regarded as the preeminent global expert in the specialized area of high-frequency trading. He is author of The Speed Traders, An Insider's Look at the New High-Frequency Trading Phenomenon That is Transforming the Investing World, published in English by McGraw-Hill Inc. (2011), 交易快手：透视正在改变投资世界的新兴高频交易, published in Mandarin by China Financial Publishing House (2012), and Investasi Super Kilat: Pandangan Orang dalam tentang Fenomena Baru Frekuensi Tinggi yang Mentransformasi Dunia Investasi, published in Bahasa Indonesia by Kompas Gramedia (2012). Perez is course director of The Speed Traders Workshop, How High Frequency Traders Leverage Profitable Strategies to Find Alpha in Equities, Options, Futures and FX (Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, Warsaw, Kiev, New York, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai). He contributes to The New York Times and China's International Finance News and Sina Finance