Options Liquidity Eyed

Terry Flanagan

With options volume continuing to trend lower, buyers and sellers of options are increasingly concerned about trading efficiently.

One buy-side options player said finding more and better liquidity amid low volatility will be a primary topic of discussion at next week’s Options Industry Conference in Las Vegas. Another buy-side person said he’ll be looking for insights on new regulations and market stability.

Options trading volume declined 3.2% in the first quarter following a 12% decline for full-year 2012, according to OIC, whose 31st annual conference commences April 24.

Advocacy and operational issues pertinent to consistency and quality of retail customers’ experience in the listed options market will be the focus of the conference for Ellen Greene, vice president of financial services operations at Sifma. According to Greene, one item of particular interest for options traders is the limit up/limit down rules that were developed and implemented in the equity markets over the past few years. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission didn’t address the options market in a recent report about limit up/limit down.

In Greene’s view, order handling in ‘catastrophic error’ situations is key to enhanced customer experience; order-flow providers and market makers also demand greater transparency and uniformity of risk control measures across the industry.  Regulatory fees, notifications and frequency will also be part of the OIC conference subject mix, Greene said.

Looking forward, the penny pilot is set to expire on June 30. SIFMA would like the SEC to adopt a permanent rule.  SIFMA’s goal is to work with the exchanges to create a transparent set of criteria that creates a structure for how options move in and out of the penny pricing category and how and when investors and traders can anticipate announcements.

In June, expiration processing will shift from Saturday morning after expiration to Friday evening for options that expire after Feb. 1, 2015; there will likely be discussion at the conference regarding how to smooth that transition

In the years ahead, one of the biggest operational challenges will be the consolidated options audit trail. Sifma recently published industry recommendations for the creation of the CAT to guide design and prevent unintended consequences pertaining to trade and customer data reports. “We’ll promote and discuss that,” Greene said.

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