Register For Our Mailing List

Register to receive our free weekly newsletter including editorials.

Home / 68

Respect for markets and judging HFT

AQR Capital Management marked its tenth year of operations in Australia with a series of thought-provoking presentations in June. Over the ten years, Australia and New Zealand have grown to become AQR’s largest client base outside of the US, representing nearly one sixth of the firm’s total assets under management. Among the presenters were two of AQR’s principals, David Kabiller who spoke on what makes a good investment strategy and Michael Mendelson on the misconceptions of High Frequency Trading (HFT).

Long term optimism and short term paranoia

Kabiller, who heads up Client Strategies for AQR, oversees client relationships, business development and strategic initiatives. In his presentation, Kabiller said that “long term optimism and short term paranoia” is a core element of a good investment strategy. He discussed AQR’s development and the lessons from his experience that he brings to investors.

According to Kabiller a ‘depression era mentality’ and a respect for markets and competition are things that inform a sound investment strategy. Investors must have the discipline to follow their chosen path while having the humility to adapt. He also spoke of AQR’s desire and curiosity to understand markets.

AQR has itself experienced a short-term crisis while working towards a long term goal. Founded in 1998 during the tech bubble, AQR saw their portfolio lose nearly 40% from 1998 to 2000 before rebounding with 79% growth until 2001. Kabiller said that the lesson to be taken from this volatile period is to maintain a great respect for markets and competition.

In his presentation Kabiller also touched on diversification and its importance in today’s market. He referred to a “very big retirement problem in the world”, suggesting that too many people still have undiversified investment strategies. He believes that people should have a respect for the market in aggregate and work to have a better understanding of risk and return sources.

Kabiller suggests that an allocation to hedge funds is necessary for diversification as they are not as reliant on economic health as other traditional assets. He did, however, warn investors to be wary of hedge fund managers using leveraged strategies with high beta as these funds have a greater risk of being at the mercy of a falling market.

High Frequency Trading shouldn’t cause panic

Michael Mendelson showed his support for High Frequency Trading (HFT) while speaking at AQR’s seminar.

Mendelson said that markets have been under more criticism than ever before but defended HFT for the liquidity it brings to the market. He believes that the technology used by high frequency traders and the nature of their strategies have lowered transaction costs for investors and been largely beneficial.

Mendelson addressed the misconceptions of HFT, stating that high frequency trading is a strategy and not low latency technology. Furthermore, he made a point to mention that quantitative and algorithmic trading is not high frequency trading.

In reference to Michael Lewis’ new book ‘Flash Boys’ which has recently brought some negative media attention to high frequency traders, Mendelson states that the claims made by Lewis about the profits of high frequency traders are greatly exaggerated and that the reality is a US$1.1bn annual profit for the industry as a whole.

Mendelson condemned what he called the ‘salacious criticism of markets’ and said that the negative publicity directed at high frequency traders has largely stemmed from people who have had their business model disrupted.

When asked about how investors can be certain that high frequency traders aren’t accessing information on the way to the exchange Mendelson responded, “it would be illegal” and he would find it hard to believe that traders who wanted to remain in the market would risk it.

Mendelson did point out however that investors don’t live in a market that is free of problems. For investors who wanted reassurance from their fund managers, he suggested that they ask managers what they are doing to protect themselves from systems risk and to ensure that they understand the markets they are trading in.

While concluding, Mendelson urged people to resist any proposals by governments, regulators or exchanges to introduce transaction taxes as these would be detrimental to investors worldwide. As well as simultaneously taxing banks and hurting high frequency traders, they are ultimately a tax on all investors.


Miles Hellyer is the founder of Chalk Marketing, a Sydney-based marketing agency.

July 02, 2014

One of the more fallacious arguments is that of HFT being a "liquidity" provider.
Proponents of HFT misuse this term as a synonym for velocity, which does not of itself provide liquidity. Liquidity in my view is the ability to trade an asset, in various volumes, without affecting it's price. HFT attempts to capture small pricing opportunities in small increments as opposed to providing "liquidity" in meaningful volume. The increasing use of dark pools would appear to highlight institutional investors lack of confidence in market "liquidity" despite the no doubt plethora of (perfectly legal as they don't want to be in trouble and are completely able to self regulate) HFT driven "bids/"offers".

June 27, 2014

Fancy someone making money out of trading stocks. Shame, shame, shame.

Oh wait, that's what stock brokers have been doing for years. Aren't HFT just fast moving stock brokers?

Seems to me that it's brokers and other short term traders who are losing out to these guys. An investor just needs to place a limit order so they don't ever pay more than they want to or sell at a lower price than they want to, and they aren't hurt at all.

Personally I don't give a fig if brokers and short term traders make less money than they used to. And any investor who doesn't use limit orders only has themselves to blame if they get set a couple of cents away from their target price.

Methinks that most of the hype about this is due to ignorance, fed by Michael Lewis' insatiable need to make money writing books that 'blow the lid' on something, even if the pot wasn't actually boiling.

June 27, 2014

If HFT does not infact give the users an unfair advantage, why then do they spend tens of millions of dollars on the most powerful computer systems that money can buy, utilise the fastest pipes direct to the exchange, spend millions on employing the best software programmers and IT experts, etc etc.?

Do they undertake this expenditure for the purely selfless reason as to provide liquidity to the market? Gee what nice, caring guys. All that effort for the glory of liquidity. Like a king feeding scraps to the poor.

As to the profitability, perhaps ask Danny Bhandari?


Leave a Comment:



How ASIC defines ‘hedge funds’ and what it means to you

How are high net worths investing and thinking now?

Funding retirement through a stock market crash


Most viewed in recent weeks

Is it better to rent or own a home under the age pension?

With 62% of Australians aged 65 and over relying at least partially on the age pension, are they better off owning their home or renting? There is an extra pension asset allowance for those not owning a home.

Too many retirees miss out on this valuable super fund benefit

With 700 Australians retiring every day, retirement income solutions are more important than ever. Why do millions of retirees eligible for a more tax-efficient pension account hold money in accumulation?

Is the fossil fuel narrative simply too convenient?

A fund manager argues it is immoral to deny poor countries access to relatively cheap energy from fossil fuels. Wealthy countries must recognise the transition is a multi-decade challenge and continue to invest.

Reece Birtles on selecting stocks for income in retirement

Equity investing comes with volatility that makes many retirees uncomfortable. A focus on income which is less volatile than share prices, and quality companies delivering robust earnings, offers more reassurance.

Welcome to Firstlinks Election Edition 458

At around 10.30pm on Saturday night, Scott Morrison called Anthony Albanese to concede defeat in the 2022 election. As voting continued the next day, it became likely that Labor would reach the magic number of 76 seats to form a majority government.   

  • 19 May 2022

Comparing generations and the nine dimensions of our well-being

Using the nine dimensions of well-being used by the OECD, and dividing Australians into Baby Boomers, Generation Xers or Millennials, it is surprisingly easy to identify the winners and losers for most dimensions.

Latest Updates

SMSF strategies

30 years on, five charts show SMSF progress

On 1 July 1992, the Superannuation Guarantee created mandatory 3% contributions into super for employees. SMSFs were an after-thought but they are now the second-largest segment. How have they changed?

Investment strategies

Anton in 2006 v 2022, it's deja vu (all over again)

What was bothering markets in 2006? Try the end of cheap money, bond yields rising, high energy prices and record high commodity prices feeding inflation. Who says these are 'unprecedented' times? It's 2006 v 2022.


Tips and traps: a final check for your tax return this year

The end of the 2022 financial year is fast approaching and there are choices available to ensure you pay the right amount of tax. Watch for some pandemic-related changes worth understanding.

Financial planning

Is it better to rent or own a home under the age pension?

With 62% of Australians aged 65 and over relying at least partially on the age pension, are they better off owning their home or renting? There is an extra pension asset allowance for those not owning a home.


Listed infrastructure: finding a port in a storm of rising prices

Given the current environment it’s easy to wonder if there are any safe ports in the investment storm. Investments in infrastructure assets show their worth in such times.

Financial planning

Power of attorney: six things you need to know

Whether you are appointing an attorney or have been appointed as an attorney, the full extent of this legal framework should be understood as more people will need to act in this capacity in future.

Interest rates

Rising interest rates and the impact on banks

One of the major questions confronting investors is the portfolio weighting towards Australian banks in an environment of rising rates. Do the recent price falls represent value or are too many bad debts coming?



© 2022 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

The data, research and opinions provided here are for information purposes; are not an offer to buy or sell a security; and are not warranted to be correct, complete or accurate. Morningstar, its affiliates, and third-party content providers are not responsible for any investment decisions, damages or losses resulting from, or related to, the data and analyses or their use. Any general advice or ‘regulated financial advice’ under New Zealand law has been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892) and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. For more information refer to our Financial Services Guide (AU) and Financial Advice Provider Disclosure Statement (NZ). You should consider the advice in light of these matters and if applicable, the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision to invest. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product’s future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a professional financial adviser. Articles are current as at date of publication.
This website contains information and opinions provided by third parties. Inclusion of this information does not necessarily represent Morningstar’s positions, strategies or opinions and should not be considered an endorsement by Morningstar.

Website Development by Master Publisher.