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Japan and the dark pool age

It’s something of a paradox: Japan is one of the most technologically advanced nations on Earth and yet its financial institutions have long turned their backs on technological advancements. Things though could be about to change, Japan could be about to enter the dark pool age.

Writing in electronic trading journal FIXGlobal, the CEO of Asia-based dark pool BlocSec, Ned Phillips, says that while Asia has lagged behind in terms adopting trading technology, there are signs it is beginning to catch up. “We should expect there to be three to four significant regional players within two to three years, complimented by several domestic offerings, perhaps most notably in Japan,” Phillips says. BlocSec itself began operations in Japan in May.

Mizuho’s recent acquisition of an electronic trading team from Lehman Brothers was a sign of progress. But Japan still has a long way to go to catch up to the approximately 40 dark pool systems currently in use in US markets, where dark pools and other non-displayed markets are estimated to account for nearly 10% of daily equity trading volume.

Japan has levels no where near that, says Warwick Pearmund, a former trader who is now a senior consultant at recruitment firm Boyd & Moore. But Pearmund adds that in foreign banks in Tokyo there has been an increase in dark pool trading, and several overseas independents like IG Group and Newedge have also made moves into Japan.

On the job front, an increase in dark pools could be good news for Tokyo’s techies. Pearmund says firms looking to create and run proprietary trading systems will need software engineers to design their systems and quantitative people to develop algorithms and programs. “Quants is a big area. It’s very much a buzz word at the moment,” Pearmund adds.

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