Options to Continuing Seeing Growth

Terry Flanagan

Options exchange operators, such as Boston’s BOX, have seen substantial growth over the past several months.

The Boston Options Exchange, or BOX, is seeing substantial growth in the past year and a half, spurred on in part by the significant growth seen in the options landscape and by a shift in client base.

“The retail options marketplace has the potential for big growth,” said Tony McCormick, chief executive officer of BOX. “Right now we have 4% of the market, now that doesn’t seem like much, but the retail space is only 20% to 25 % of the market. We only do retail, so if you take that, we really have about 15% of the market, we have a significant share of that business.”

In focusing on the retail investor, BOX made the decision in mid-2009 to switch to a taker-maker model, whereby takers of liquidity would receive an incentive to participate. The company has also seen an 80% year-over-year increase of the use of its Price Improvement Period, or PIP auction system, which helped users save $3.4 million during the month of July alone, and $348 million since its introduction in 2004.

McCormick saw the maker-taker model, which benefits the high frequency firms, as a “non-starter” when he came on board in in late 2009. “It takes a lot of technology to be in that game, it’s like an arms race, it’s expensive. All you can do is offer faster speed, but at some point you run out of speed. Then you sell price, which basically reduces exchange fees to zero, which the market is pretty close to now.”

The options industry saw a 17% bump in trading volume in 2011, according to the Options Industry Council. It was the first time volume topped 4 billion contracts in a single year and the ninth consecutive year of annual record volume.

When market volatility spiked on Aug. 8, it coincided with a record-high for single day options trading. The Chicago Board Options Exchange’s Volatility Index hit 48 that day, while 41.5 million options contracts were traded.

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