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Asian Review of Financial Research Vol.32 No.4 pp.607-650
Reconsidering the Affirmative Obligations of Designated Market Makers in a High-Frequency Trading Environment
Tae-Hun Kang* Associate Research Fellow, Securities․Derivatives Research and Development Center, Korea Exchange
Key Words : Market Making Scheme,Designated Market Makers,Liquidity,High- Frequency Trading,Mini Futures Market


A market making scheme can be a direct solution for the imbalance in domestic derivatives market liquidity. To achieve such a scheme, it is necessary to expand the sphere of activity of designated market makers, which is currently limited to the nearest expiration contract of low-liquidity products and Korea Exchange (KRX) members. Introducing a request for quote can replenish a liquidity trap in the market in which the provision of continuous quotes of the designated market maker has been occasionally interrupted. However, despite improvements, if market making schemes do not motivate designated market makers to improve liquidity and price efficiency, it may be difficult to materially improve the quality of a domestic derivatives market. Technological developments, which have made it possible to trade automatically using algorithms at ever-increasing speeds, have eroded the relative value of the privileges that designated market makers have traditionally enjoyed. Therefore, this study reconsiders the obligation of designated market makers in a high-frequency trading environment and examines the direction of improvements of detailed standards in market making schemes. The major conclusions drawn from the empirical results are summarized as follows. The behavior of designated market makers is more conservative than that of endogenous liquidity providers that supply liquidity as a profitable activity. Designated market makers may provide liquidity conservatively because current obligations and incentive schemes of market making motivate market makers to focus more on their quote obligation duty than on active trading profits. A detailed standard of contractual obligations can explain the specific passive behaviors of market makers for continuous quotes. Because committed quotation times are based on seconds for an average of 80 percent of the trading period, designated maker makers are hesitant to cancel orders after submitting them and tend to avoid submitting orders matched in less than 1 second. In contrast, high-frequency traders have a tendency to cancel many orders, and most of the trading volumes are matched in less than 1 second in high-frequency trading environments. Therefore, market makers' potential responses to the increased challenges that they face are to ease their obligations in markets where high-frequency traders act as informed active traders or informal market makers, and to improve the benefits through market making compensation. This can be achieved by aligning and coordinating designated market makers' obligations and benefits with the specific microstructural features of the market in which they operate. The incentives for the liquidity provider and the general requirements that need to be fulfilled to receive these incentives can be differentiated by a liquidity provider agreement. For example, market makers of the equity index options of Eurex can choose between three types of market making obligation schemes: regular market making, permanent market making and advanced market making. Regular market making focuses only on responses to quote requests by request for quote functionality, which allows market participants to request a one- or two-sided quote to the central order book of a specified instrument. Permanent market making consists of continuous quotation of a set of strikes for a predefined set of expirations and responses to quote requests for all strikes and expirations of a given product. The benefits and risks of implementing new fee structures in the presence of high frequency traders can be reviewed to attract higher frequency and other trading volume. The most common new fee structures use maker-taker fee models that charge asymmetric fees to participants who demand and supply liquidity. Markets offer a rebate to participants who supply liquidity and charge a fee to those who demand liquidity. However, these new fee structures have led to concerns that high-frequency traders are the prime beneficiaries of these fee rebates due to their ability to (almost) always place their orders at the top of the queue.
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