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Optimark: Instant liquidity

Revamping the US equities market

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Optimark must be glad to have Terry Rickard as president. He joined the firm in 1994 after a career in systems development which included a 15-year stint in the navy. In 1995, Optimark hired George Wallace, another former navy man with 22 years' service. Such experience must be proving useful, for the company appears to be caught up in a Cold War of its own.

Optimark is an alternative trading system designed to ensure that "every trade which comes through the system is transacted at what is absolutely the best, most optimal price," explains Jeff Max, senior vice-president for business development. What the system does is to ask clients to key in what their optimal trade or trades would be, and then to offer a wider set of parameters under which they would also consider the trade, such as taking less stock for a higher price, or vice versa.

It offers exactly what investors would appear to want: liquidity, transparency and anonymity.