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Asian Exchanges – The Awakening (Part II): FIX in China

By Stephan Stadelmann, FINETIK

Published in, on 01 May 2007 10:37:01

Back in 2005, I attended the first FIX Conference held in Shanghai. Although great numbers of local attendees showed up curious to learn about FIX, most local participants did not see much benefit in FIX for China.

Regardless of the bureaucrats’ strive to carefully loosen the tight network of regulations, China’s markets hit record lows and a fiercely competitive battle between securities houses squeezed margins. Little or no money was left to invest, making it an environment of bare survival. This was the situation less than two years ago despite the hype in the foreign press about China, which continued through all this time.

Despite this turbulence below the surface, the Shanghai Stock Exchange (SSE), the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE) and the China Securities Regulatory Commission (CSRC) understood the importance of FIX, and bought into the vision that a unified, standardised exchange trading protocol and interface would simplify infrastructure for market participants and exchanges in the long run. They also appreciated such unification would drive down IT expenditure, including support and maintenance, for the diverse market participants in China’s vast financial market, and prepare them for foreign competition.

In March 2003, the SSE and SZSE started to jointly develop a Chinese version of the FIX protocol called Standardized Trading Exchange Protocol (STEP), and in November 2003, CSRC set up the STEP Sub Committee, with founding members CSRC, SSE, SZSE, Shanghai Futures Exchange (SHFE), HuaXia Securities, GuoXin Securities and TaiYang Securities. The committee was given the task of building a standardised protocol, considering first and foremost the needs of the Chinese markets. In 2005, SSE joined the global FIX Protocol Limited (FPL) organisation and in 2006 FPL’s subcommittees for exchanges and ECNs.

Today, the STEP protocol is being implemented, based on FIX 4.4 with some minimal exchange specific variations in the SSE and SZSE versions. In other words FIX.

SSE tested its STEP engine as early as 2006 and will be deploying the engine to its market participants as part of the New Generation Trading System (NGTS), which will be operational later this year. SZSE will follow shortly, and both exchanges will be ready by the end of 2007.

However not all members will be ready or are willing to embrace STEP from the beginning. Large brokers and asset managers and those with foreign involvement will be the first to accept the new protocol. Smaller brokers and those in the process of restructuring are hesitant to accept and deploy STEP.

Concerns remain among some of China’s market participants about STEP, specifically with regard to performance in handling order volume, reliability and local support. So NGTS will provide direct market access (DMA) in parallel through two protocols, one being STEP and the other being the SSE’s current proprietary exchange protocol.

As a logical consequence, market data will follow, in FIX compatible format, once NGTS has been released into production.

All of this will happen – in the best case scenario – in time to coincide with Qualified Foreign Institutional Investors (QFIIs) successfully pushing China to allow DMA from overseas.

Rumour has it that a few of the QFIIs are already preparing for DMA into the Chinese markets, which represents no technical issues, but has not legally been deregulated. For Chinese domestic brokers and asset managers (regulated differently from foreign QFIIs) DMA is legally possible. However, SSE’s exchange members are required to separate reports to regulators for domestic and foreign order flow and hence QFII orders need to stop at the local executing brokers’ desks.

The writing is on the wall!

It used to be said that when US markets sneeze, Asian and European markets will get the flu. However, this might change. The sharp drop in China’s markets in February could be a portent: for the first time in decades, US markets suffered a drop caused by another country’s exchange, and not vice versa. We might have passed a historical turning point, and China’s exchanges seem to be preparing to take on the challenge.

Filed under: Asia, China, Exchanges, FiNETIK Articles, FIX Connectivity, Indonesia, Library, Malaysia, Thailand, Trading Technology, Vietnam, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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