Views on the integrity of global capital markets
24 March 2016

IEX Exchange Application: SEC’s Reassessment of Reg NMS Critical to Decision

Posted In: Market Structure, US SEC

Judging by the amount of ardent comment letters and acrimony on social media, IEX’s application to become an exchange has incited the passions of investors, market structure advocates, and even the general public like few other issues in modern finance. If the volume and level of discourse is unusual, it is because this issue transcends commercial considerations: It is a proxy vote on the state of the US equity market and whether it is fit for purpose.

Market structure issues rarely attract mainstream media attention. But the IEX application gets to the heart of the integrity of the market, the efficacy of the regulatory framework, and whether investors have a fair opportunity to earn a return.

In this context, CFA Institute has analysed the proposals and concluded that as things stand, a time-delayed exchange is incompatible with the existing regulatory architecture prescribed by Reg. NMS. Among other things, Reg. NMS calls for immediate dissemination of quotes and prices (programmed delays are prohibited). Programmed delays on price dissemination also obfuscate the National Best Bid and Offer (NBBO), which is already beset by latency problems) further complicating best execution. We’ve articulated these views in further detail in this article by my colleague Sviatoslav Rosov, CFA, originally published on TabbFORUM.

This week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) implicitly acknowledged these challenges by issuing a proposal for public comment on whether latencies below 1 millisecond should be considered “de minimis” (the IEX speed bump is 0.35 milliseconds, or 350 microseconds). If adopted, this change could potentially alleviate the inconsistency of IEX with the “automated quotations” provision (requiring immediate dissemination) under Reg. NMS. However, a possible side effect is the existence of multiple time-delayed exchanges, further fragmenting the market by time as well as space. For example, this New York Post article suggests NYSE and Nasdaq have considered plans for speed bumps of their own.

For supporters of IEX, antagonists of high-frequency trading, and investors who oppose speed-based trading, the SEC proposal on the de minimis exemption is encouraging. But the outcome of this whole process remains highly uncertain. Only time will tell if IEX is granted exchange status — and if so, what the market will look like in order to accommodate it.

CFA Institute is reviewing the SEC proposals. Look for more commentary on this issue in this space and elsewhere.


If you liked this post, consider subscribing to Market Integrity Insights.


Image Credit: iStockphoto.com: xijian

About the Author(s)
Rhodri Preece, CFA

Rhodri Preece, CFA, is head of capital markets policy for the Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) region at CFA Institute. He is responsible for development and oversight of capital markets activities in the EMEA region, including content development, policy engagement and outreach. Rhodri formerly served as director of capital markets policy, focusing on issues related to primary and secondary market structures. He was named one of the “40 Under 40 Rising Stars of Trading and Technology” by Financial News.

4 thoughts on “IEX Exchange Application: SEC’s Reassessment of Reg NMS Critical to Decision”

  1. Stephen O'Keefe says:

    I’m astounded that the CFAI would oppose this simple measure to prevent front-running of investor orders by HFTs. We’ve come a long way from the AIMR…

  2. Brian Sevilla says:

    If “a time-delayed exchange is incompatible with the existing regulatory architecture prescribed by Reg. NMS,” how do existing exchanges operate given their physical presence? Nothing is ever “immediate.”

  3. Darren Huff, CFA says:

    As is common with technological issues, regulation here needs to catch up to market reality to maintain fairness. The SEC’s punt on the issue of delayed pricing by calling a millisecond de minimis ignores why the agency is even discussing the issue in the first place: long-term investors are seeking a safe haven (in the form of IEX’s 350 microsecond delay) from front-running HFTs. HFT’s and IEX’s success proves that a millisecond delay is de maxima.

  4. Rhodri Preece, CFA says:

    Thanks for your comments. We recognise the importance of this issue for investors and wish to clarify that we are not against IEX; it is a useful innovation and serves a valuable purpose in its current form. The question is whether it will work as an exchange within the current regulatory architecture, an issue that polarises opinion. The latest SEC proposals are a welcome step but a more wholesale examination of market structure is also due. For our latest comments on this topic and further elaboration of our views, see this blog post.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

Close