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Procedure Derived Quotes

Historical Overview

Today’s equity trading market structure, post the enactment of the Dodd-Frank legislation, sees more than 60 venues form which to source liquidity and execute trades. What was created to spur industry competition and increase liquidity in the U.S. financial markets, Dodd-Frank, over a relatively short period of time had the unintended consequence of fragmenting the marketplace and substantially changing the way institutional and wholesale order flow is captured. Technology became key, the speed race was on – the faster the better – and where you could once choose from just a handful of venues to execute trades you could now choose from a bucketful.

PDQ Enterprises (PDQ), Inc., is the developer of the PDQ Alternative Trading System (ATS), today named Coda Markets, provided a unique offering to the equity trading landscape.   PDQ’s ATS, or “dark pool” as they are commonly known, is a flexible equity trading venue that offers on demand auctions for each trade in response to individual orders. This process would seemingly be a perfect solution, as it pauses incoming orders for a fraction of a second, uses that time to aggregate liquidity from multiple sources, then hold an auction to achieve best price and size.

The Challenge

The issue that M Group Strategic Communications (MGSC) found was that PDQ’s process had been around for some time, was no longer the new shiny toy in the industry and had never really taken off as it was a completely different concept… most people don’t like change. Additionally, the entire industry was moving towards a “the faster the better” approach to trading, whereas PDQ didn’t only slow the trade down, they literally paused it. This concept flew in direct opposition to what most believed was the appropriate mindset.

Communications Strategy

What had become clear form the onset was that PDQ would have to alter the current perception of its own ATS, but also that of the marketplace with respect to speed being the only way to achieve best execution. M Group also found that PDQ’s CEO, Keith Ross, although relatively unknown to the media, had in years prior been the CEO of GETCO, one of the leading organizations fostering the advent of high speed electronic trading.

Given these findings, MGSC devised a multi-pronged. Integrated communications strategy including:

  • Thought leadership
  • Issue advocacy
  • Corporate PR
  • Product publicity
  • Public Affairs

We initiated a thought leadership and issue advocacy campaign to A) position Keith Ross as an expert in market structure, and B) advocate on behalf of using technology in such a way to create a paradigm shift in the current thinking around equity trade execution. Additionally, our team instituted corporate PR and product publicity campaigns to generate awareness and credibility for the PDQ offering.

Measurable Results

With respect to thought leadership and issue advocacy, over a multi-year period M Group generated significant media attention for Mr. Ross by way of providing both proactive and reactive commentary on event-driven issues that impacted the market such as financial, regulatory and industry, as well as speaking ops at targeted conferences and events:

  • Top tier financial media outlets: WSJ, Bloomberg, CNBC, Barron’s, FT, Reuters, Dow Jones, etc.
  • Industry trade publications: Traders Magazine, Waters Technology, Markets Media, Advanced Trader, Tabb Forum, Forbes, MarketWatch, Investment Week, Hedge Fund Journal, etc.
  • Multiple speaking engagements: Equity Leaders Trading Summit. STA National Market Structure Conference, Bloomberg LINK, TradeTech, and many, many others.

The net result of which is that Keith Ross is generally considered to be one of the foremost experts related to market structure today. This media and industry attention, by design, had a trickle-down effect on the PDQ brand, raising awareness and credibility.

Concurrent with our ongoing thought leadership campaign, MGSC established a corporate and product news bureau, consistently feeding the marketplace with news related to the ATS, our thought leadership initiatives and the corporate entity. We generated a steady cadence of announcements on product enhancements, partnerships, keynote presentations, panel discussions, new hires and milestones. The net result of which is that PDQ became top of mind in the institutional equity trading landscape.

A market event that created significant opportunities…

As our program generated significant brand awareness and thus growth for the ATS platform, Michael Lewis’ book, Flash Boys, hit the market like a hurricane. The issues brought up by Flash Boys not only created opportunities for commentary and advocacy to the financial markets, but also for MGSC to use PDQ’s newly generated brand equity to position Keith Ross and PDQ as an expert source to regulators. MGSC added a public affairs component to the overall program to not only attempt to have a seat at the Washington DC table, but more importantly to build grass-roots equity on Capitol Hill. Our program saw presentations with the SEC’s market structure division as well as one-on-one meetings with select members of appropriate Senatorial and Congressional committees.

Significant growth

When M Group Strategic Communications initiated with PDQ, the ATS was executing roughly 30 million shares per day traded, single counted. When we exited, PDQ was executing roughly 130 million shares per day, single counted, or about 1% of all equity trading; an over 400% increase in trading volume!

Given the success of the firm, Keith Ross stepped into a Chairman’s role and the Company expanded its offerings and rebranded to Coda Markets.