SST Awards 2018: Best Front-Office Execution Platform—Pragma Securities

Curtis Pfeiffer and Roz Savage

David Mechner, co-founder and CEO of Pragma, says the platform’s focus on microstructure and best execution has won it plaudits from its clients. “There is increased demand from the buy side for best execution that emanates both from regulations and internally, that has created this need for more sophisticated tools to achieve it,” Mechner says. “We’re not just providing the pipes—we’re also providing the intelligence that connects traders with the markets that lets them effectively use the marketplace, given what a complicated, fragmented world we live in.”

Pragma 360—a multi-asset, broker-neutral execution and analytics platform for algorithmic trading—is frequently updated, and the past year has been no different. Updates include an enhancement allowing foreign-exchange (FX) clients to trade non-deliverable forwards, a broadened ability to leverage conditional offers to source blocks of trades automatically, and a new version of the firm’s cross-pair trading algorithms, which has improved execution quality. 

The platform covers North American equities, futures and FX. It offers transaction-cost analysis and risk controls to its clients on both the sell side and the buy side. Sell-side clients can use the platform to monitor order routing, modify their orders or to determine fills or cancellations in real time. 

Best execution has been a big theme for Pragma in the past year. Mechner says best execution will continue to be a trend as more firms see how complex trades have become. This is boosted by regulations like the revised Markets in Financial Industry Directive (Mifid II), which came into force on January 3 this year, and requires market participants to show greater transparency around best execution obligations. 

Mechner says smart-order routing and the algorithms Pragma offers are tools companies need to use to realize those best-execution metrics. “It’s a continuing trend; firms are always interested in trading results, but awareness is growing about how complex the trading environment is, and ways of trading that in the past were acceptable are now too simplistic or are not really achieving best execution,” he says. “That awareness comes from all kinds of places: information that comes out, regulatory scrutiny, and internal mandates.”

Another trend the algo specialist has identified is capital markets firms continuing to outsource their technology requirements. Mechner says the company is exploring using artificial intelligence and deep-learning to further upgrade its best execution quality along with other product enhancements. 

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