By NATHANIEL POPPER:
America is getting a new stock exchange from the most prominent critics of high-frequency trading.
After months of delays and a brutal lobbying battle that divided Wall Street, the IEX Group won approval on Friday from the Securities and Exchange Commission to become the nation’s 13th official stock exchange.IEX is run by the people at the center of the Michael Lewis book, “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt,” which profiles the early efforts of the IEX team to create a trading exchange that would be somewhat shielded from high-frequency traders.
Other exchanges and trading firms had urged the S.E.C. to reject the IEX application to become an exchange.
Opponents of IEX, including the other stock exchanges, have argued that the structure of the new exchange will add unnecessary new complexities into an already complex stock market, and potentially end up hurting small investors.
…..The most novel and controversial feature of the IEX exchange is a so-called speed bump that would slow down trading slightly to throw off traders that rely only on speed.
The speed bump slows trades down by only 350 microseconds — or millionths of a second — but that is an eternity in a stock exchange universe in which computers can buy and sell stocks in nanoseconds — or billionths of a second.
The Nasdaq, and other existing exchanges, have said that the IEX’s speed bump will violate rules mandating that exchanges make their prices available to all parties at the same time.
Judging from the barrage of objections from other exchanges, they see IEX as a threat. Not as a threat to small investors as they so eloquently argued in their submissions — and whose interests they have ignored for years — but a threat to the billions of dollars in fees they receive from high-frequency traders for privileged co-location and access to stock exchange data feeds. Why would any investor want to trade on an exchange that encourages HFT when there is another exchange that offers a level playing field?