AFTAs 2020: Best Front-Office Initiative—Pragma


In recent years, capital markets firms’ middle and back offices have received more equitable shares of operational and technology budgets than their traditional lot, and yet still there is no getting away from the fact that the front office remains responsible for the bulk of firms’ revenue generation. This focus has been reflected over the years in these awards by this category being one of the most hotly contested since it was added to the AFTAs lineup five years ago.

This year, the win goes to Pragma, the New York-based provider of multi-asset algorithmic trading tools to firms on both sides of the market, thanks to its Pragma360 algo trading platform, and Panorama, the algorithmic management system that constitutes the core of the offering. Panorama is designed to allow execution personnel to monitor where their orders are routed, filled or cancelled in real time, while also allowing orders to be modified on the fly, effectively making it more than just a window into the algo engine—critically, traders can influence algos’ behavior if and when needed. Additionally, TradeReports, the firm’s transaction-cost analysis (TCA) portal, benchmarks performance and alerts clients when risk controls are triggered. 

“An important component of providing algorithmic execution services is allowing our clients to have transparency and control on their orders,” explains Curtis Pfeiffer, chief business officer at Pragma. “If they want to change or pause [an order], we provide the tool to do that: Panorama, our algorithmic management system. When it’s busy, transparency and control are even more important, for example, for seeing what orders are in the system, what orders have been completed, and what orders are still trading. If clients need to make any order modifications, they also have the ability to do that in Panorama.”

While TCA has been around the industry for decades, it has emerged in recent times as a key metric for buy-side firms to objectively measure the quality of their brokers’ executions, while on the sell side, firms are increasingly using TCA as a means of measuring their own performance with the view to enhancing the quality of their services to their buy-side clients. “TradeReports allows our clients to look at execution performance on a historical basis,” says Pfeiffer. “We store each client’s trade data so that they have the ability to run custom queries where they can look back [at benchmark performance] over the last week or month, and they can review reports by clients, by different types of algos, and by market cap. There are many different ways that they can slice the data if they really want to zero in on particular trades, which clients find extremely helpful.”

Looking forward, Pfeiffer confirms that Pragma is getting ready to release a number of “enhancements to the algos” and also improvements to Panorama, which has been a major focus over the last couple of years. “We’ve reconfigured the entire back-end and will leverage HTML 5 to deliver Panorama via a web browser, which we’ll start rolling out to clients in the coming months,” he says.

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