Global securities markets and the microsecond
Automation has completely transformed trading on financial securities markets. In some ways it is an unsettling prospect: a computer error could take these markets down in less than a second. Econometrician Albert Menkveld studies the architecture of the financial system, and recommends structural improvements.
We’ve all been there. You’re surfing the net looking for a cheap flight and you return to the best deal after shopping around only to find the ticket price has gone up... Well, you have Albert Menkveld to thank for that! After gaining his degree in econometrics, he started at KLM and was part of a team that developed algorithms to optimize ticket prices. But after a year, the intellectual challenge began to wane and Menkveld finally opted for a career in science. He has become an internationally renowned expert in the automation of the financial markets.
One of his goals is to end a pointless arms race in the securities markets that is devouring millions of euros. It’s a race that revolves around microseconds. Robots have taken over the role of human traders. In less than a second, these high frequency traders (HFTs) can decide whether to buy or sell. And, they continue to increase their action speed. Menkveld believes it potentially is a waste of economic resources. “These machines already make decisions in under a millisecond. In the time it takes our brains to even register a price, an HFT has already traded 100 times. But they want to up the speed to microseconds, millionths of a second.”
Albert Menkveld was the first University Research Chair Professor to give his inaugural lecture, entitled Why not replace bankers by robots? On April 2, 2013 he presented new facts about the Flash Crash: on May 6, 2010 the key indicator of the American stock market, the S&P500, lost five percent of its value in one minute.