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Smiling through a bear market

Whether it’s labelled programme trading or portfolio trading, the provision of cut-rate execution for liquid securities is a cash cow for banks and brokers. Despite low margins and dismal prevailing market conditions, institutions are still piling into the business. Just how high can an essentially commoditized service rise?

Tony Nash

With market indices tumbling in the face of a looming global recession and revenues down for activities ranging from investment banking and corporate finance advisory to asset management and retail broking, it's difficult to find a smiling face in financial services. Until one meets a programme trader, that is.

"There is nothing but good news in terms of flow and what we can expect from upcoming business," says Tony Nash, Deutsche Bank's London-based head of European programme trading. "We're expecting exponential growth year on year in the fourth quarter and the prospects are equally as good for the new year."

It is easy to write off such unbridled optimism as cheerleading among bonus-hungry bankers caught in a prolonged market slide. But such sunny expectations are echoed by many market pros in a business line that has skyrocketed in Europe over the past few years.

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