CEO Chat: Barry Star, Wall Street Horizon
Corporate events plus data equals trading opportunity.
That’s how Wall Street Horizon’s CEO Barry Star sees his firm’s position in the current market structure. Traders need more and more data in order to trade the market and find alpha. In this exclusive interview with Traders Magazine, he talked about how his firm operates, how options traders can use corporate event data and what’s the rest of the year going to look like.
Wall Street Horizon bills itself as providing the industry’s “the most accurate and comprehensive set of corporate event dates.” What events do you track, and who are your clients?
We track over 40 different event types and provide both forward-looking and historical datasets for events such as earnings dates, dividend dates, options expiration dates, splits, spinoffs and investor-related conferences. On the trading side, our clients run the gamut from quants whose models leverage our datasets to market makers who operate at microsecond speeds to fundamental investors who want to determine optimal position timing. At the end of the day, event dates are all volatility events, so the common denominator among our client base is that they are all investors who want visibility into approaching volatility so they can capitalize on it or avoid it. Option traders in particular find value in our data for that reason.
What are some examples of how option traders use the data?
In general, even known event date changes are volatility events, which makes accurate and timely knowledge of them very important for traders. For example, not too long ago, a number of option traders were burned when Apple changed its earnings date. These traders researched what they thought was Apple’s next earnings date based on a “best guess” date published by one of our competitors. So when Apple announced that the actual release date was a week later than many expected, which put it on the other size of an options expiration date, a large number of investors who bought weekly contracts in hopes of capturing the Earnings Premium were caught short when the value of their positions dropped to zero. Our clients were fine. That’s why we sweat the details – such as marking and constantly updating various dates as unconfirmed or confirmed – so our clients don’t have to.
It almost sounds like this could be classified as alternative data. Would you agree?
Well, event data might not be as sexy as satellite imagery or social sentiment data, but yes, I would most definitely call this a form of alternative data. Right now, we’re adding movie release and video game release dates for public companies in the entertainment sector. It sounds simple, but knowing far in advance when the next Star Wars is due to be released is an incredibly valuable piece of information if you’re trading Disney, whether through a model or traditionally. Quite a few buyside firms have begun to look at us as a unique data provider, so much so that we’re actually doing an event n”ext week with OTAS, FlexTrade, Estimize, ExtractAlpha and Jefferies next week around Alternative Data.
Nasdaq recently launched a big campaign around increasing IPO activity, and others such as OTC Markets have called for reforms in this area as well. What are you seeing in this regard? How has the interaction between an issuer and an investor evolved?
In general I think things have never been better for investors across a whole range of areas, and information flow from issuers is one of many examples. With the implementation of Reg FD in 2000, all investors – not just those generating the most in commissions – have equal access to public information provided by issuers. That’s obviously beneficial for many different disclosure points, including for the events that we track. That said, these events are not always disclosed company to company in the same way, and some information is easier to collect than other information, but we do the dirty work of finding and categorizing this information so our clients can focus on what they do best.
Finally, is there anything you can extrapolate from your data about where the market is headed?
If we could predict market moves with our event data I’d have set up Wall Street Horizon Capital long ago! In all seriousness, we’re over eight years into this bull market, and if history is any indication I’d expect there to be a correction at some point in the not too distant future. Once that happens and volatility increases, that’s when our data’s value becomes even more apparent. As long as there is volatility in the market, we will be there to help navigate it – allowing clients to either trade into the volatility or trade around it.
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