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Trading platforms: ATSs race to open up Canadian market

Broker dealers collaborate to sponsor Project Alpha.

Canadian brokers are the latest to embrace the fashion, popular among their counterparts in the US and Europe, of clubbing together to create alternative trading venues.

In a move that strikes a number of parallels with Project Turquoise in Europe, seven of Canada’s largest broker dealers announced this May that they were working together to launch an alternative trading system, dubbed Project Alpha. The seven firms behind the initiative are BMO Capital Markets, Canacord Capital Corporation, CIBC World Markets, National Bank Financial, RBC Capital Markets, Scotia Capital and TD Securities.

Project Alpha is the latest would-be challenger to the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX) to set up shop in Canada, along with ICX, an ATS planned by Instinet, and Pure Trading, a rival exchange that opened its doors 18 months ago.

"The Canadian market has woken up to the fact that it needs to improve its efficiency and liquidity in order to stay up to par with its competitors globally," says Jos Schmitt, CEO of Project Alpha. "By bringing competition to the market we hope to achieve this."

Although the regulatory framework for competition has been in place since 2001, so far little has changed.

"The seven dealers sponsoring this initiative got together because they felt that they had to do something themselves if they wanted anything to happen," says Schmitt.

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