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TeraExchange: On The Case

Published in Automated Trader Magazine Issue 25 Q2 2012

What do you do if you're an OTC trader and you hear that your market will have to move to centralised clearing? Moan? Bury your head in the sand? Not if you're Christian Martin, instead you immediately set about founding a marketplace for OTC products with links to multiple CCPs. Andy Webb talks to the CEO of TeraExchange just a few days before its "go live" date about the democratisation of the OTC world.

Christian, how did you come to co-found the exchange? I've been about 20 years in the industry with organisations such as Merrill Lynch and Bank of America. In 2008, I started a proprietary trading group - Spring Trading - that was active in the derivatives area and used technology developed in house for its trading activities. About two and a half years ago when my co-founder Lennie Nuara and I heard that OTC products would be moving to centralised clearing we realised that this had enormous potential in various ways - transparency, trading activity, new trading strategies and new market participants to name but a few. Due to a significant gap in the marketplace for electronic trading and analytical tools for OTC derivatives we had already assembled quite a lot of the necessary technology for use by Spring Trading. The core technology was an event-based platform, developed by Daniel Droste (now our CTO) about eight years ago, and we started using it at Spring some four years ago. Given that we had so much of the technology we needed already, completing the loop by building an exchange for OTC products seemed the obvious course. Once the CFTC, SEC and other regional regulatory bodies finalise rules pertaining to these markets, we will apply to be a Swaps Exchange Facility (SEF) in the U.S., Organised Trading Facility (OTF) in the EU, as well as other regionally-regulated structures as applicable. So what does TeraExchange actually consist of? The exchange itself is a central limit order book (CLOB) for any OTC instrument that can be cleared through a CCP. That is then wrapped in a proprietary cross-asset execution management system (EMS) called TeraDirect that enables execution of both OTC instruments and any underlying cash or futures products that you might use for strategies such as spreading between (for example) Eurodollar futures and an OTC interest rate swap. The technology is housed in various Equinix facilities located near major trading centres. Users can also connect directly to our exchange using FIX and FAST FIX if they prefer. We don't charge any licensing fees for using TeraDirect if customers are trading OTC derivatives, which we feel minimises any barriers to new users entering the OTC market place. TeraDirect also incorporates a C++ algorithmic engine that enables the deployment of rules-based trading. In the case of spread traders this can be used to manage an unlimited number of legs on either side. For those who prefer to trade off charts there is the facility to display both OTC and underlying instruments, as well as to click trade from within the chart (though conventional buy/sell tickets are also available as well as trading directly from Level II screens).

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