With the rise of algorithmic trading, traders have shifted their reliance from manual decision-making to sophisticated computer programs that can trade on their behalf, helping them to make split-second decisions based on predefined algorithms.
For such a sensitive and high-stakes endeavor, the importance of having the right trading software cannot be overemphasized.
Understanding Algorithmic Trading
At its core, an algorithm is a systematic and structured procedure to solve a problem or carry out a task. It underpins many aspects of our digital life, from the games we play to the applications we use for work.
Translating this to the financial world, algorithmic trading is essentially a method where buy and sell orders are executed by a computer program based on specific criteria.
These algorithms can analyze market conditions and execute trades at a pace no human could match and with a precision that aims to minimize errors. With its promise of speed and accuracy, it’s unsurprising that algorithmic trading has revolutionized the trading landscape.
Who Uses Algorithmic Trading Software?
Predominantly, the world of algorithmic trading is the playground of financial giants. Hedge funds, investment banks, and proprietary trading firms have the resources to invest in developing and maintaining robust trading software tailored to their strategies.
Their expansive infrastructures, equipped with cutting-edge technology and staffed with experts, position them well in the high-speed game of algorithmic trading.
However, this doesn’t mean individuals are left out of the loop. Proprietary traders, particularly those who might not be wizards in technology, often turn to off-the-shelf trading software.
They might acquire these tools through brokers or specialized third-party vendors.
Should I Build or Buy a Trading Algorithm?
Choosing between buying existing software or building custom-made software brings to the fore a classic dilemma.
Buying Ready-Made Software
This route promises immediacy. Traders can quickly deploy the software and commence trading. However, like any off-the-shelf product, it may not perfectly fit your unique needs.
Additionally, these software solutions can be expensive, and potential vulnerabilities or flaws might expose traders to unexpected losses. The overall cost, combined with potential pitfalls, could diminish the net gains from trading.
Building Custom Software
Every aspect of the software can be fine-tuned to the trader’s strategy and preferences.
But this benefit comes with its own set of challenges. Designing software requires time, expertise, and significant effort. Even with all these investments, there’s no guarantee that the end product will be devoid of flaws.
Features to Look out when Choosing the Best Algorithmic Trading Software
Algorithmic trading software has witnessed revolutionary advancements in recent years, rendering it imperative for traders to understand its multifaceted functionalities. Whether you’re considering purchasing ready-made software or building your own, knowing what to look for is pivotal.
1. Capability to Create Custom Programs
Popular programming languages, such as MatLab, Python, C++, JAVA, and Perl, are the backbone of many advanced trading software suites.
Many third-party vendors ensure that their trading software allows users to code custom programs within the interface, fostering experimentation with trading concepts.
Naturally, software that supports a trader’s preferred programming language becomes the ideal choice.
2. Market and Company Data Accessibility
At the core of all trading algorithms is their reliance on accurate and real-time market data, such as stock prices and trading volumes.
Additionally, some advanced algorithms also factor in company-specific data like earnings, dividends, or P/E ratios. Ideally, your algorithmic trading software should have:
- A built-in real-time market data feed.
- A secondary feed that furnishes company fundamentals.
- Flexibility to integrate data from other sources if necessary.
3. Multi-market Connectivity
Each market or exchange can have its own unique data format, such as TCP/IP, Multicast, or FIX. A robust software needs the agility to:
- Accept and process data feeds in multiple formats.
- Incorporate feeds from third-party vendors like Bloomberg or Reuters, which collate data from various markets and present it uniformly. This feature is pivotal for traders venturing across multiple markets.
4. Configurability and Customization
Every trader is unique, and so should be their algorithmic approach. While most software offers standard trading algorithms, the flexibility to modify and experiment is crucial.
For instance, while a 50-day moving average (MA) crossover with the 200-day MA might be standard, a trader might wish to tweak this to a 20-day MA with a 100-day MA crossover.
Tools like Trade Ideas exemplify this feature, offering a gamut of customizable parameters to its users. Your software, whether purchased or built, should cater to such bespoke trading strategies.
5. Backtesting on Historical Data
An indispensable feature is backtesting, which facilitates testing a trading strategy against historical data. By gauging a strategy’s past performance, traders can forecast its future efficiency and even finetune it.
Ensuring the software provides a comprehensive archive of historical data for this purpose is crucial. Platforms like TrendSpider offer robust backtesting features, and further details about its offerings can be accessed here.
3. Seamless Integration with Trading Interfaces
For real-time trade placement, the software must either seamlessly integrate with a broker’s network or possess direct connectivity to stock exchanges. Additionally, understanding associated fees and transaction costs becomes essential, especially for strategies relying on frequent trades.
4. Plug-n-Play Integration
In the multifaceted world of trading, a trader might juggle multiple tools, like a Bloomberg terminal for price insights or a Matlab suite for trend analysis.
The software should offer straightforward API integrations with commonly used trading platforms to ensure scalability and effortless integration.
5. Platform-Independent Programming
Opt for trading software that champions platform-independent languages, ensuring compatibility across various operating systems. This feature ensures adaptability to potential future changes in your trading strategy or tools.
6. Understanding the Mechanics
While automation eases the trading process, blind reliance can be perilous. Traders must possess an in-depth understanding of their software’s underlying algorithms. Avoid software that operates as a mysterious “black box” and promises unrealistic returns.
While algorithmic trading software offers an edge with its precision and speed, it comes with its own set of challenges. Whether you decide to buy a ready-to-use solution or create your own, understanding its functionalities is paramount.
Failing to do so can lead to significant financial setbacks. Above all, we strongly recommend equipping yourself with knowledge and the right tools before diving into the world of algorithmic trading.