In the past few weeks I've been in New York and London, visiting investment firms who use complex event processing (CEP) technology in their trading operations - before one visit, I was surprised to be briefed that the technical team we were visiting had built a "real time P&L" system. I was surprised because P&L management always seemed to be a very basic element of every algorithmic trading system I've worked on in the past.
Last year, John Bates and I wrote in the Trade about how the electronification and rise of algorithmic trading and regulation were starting to "push the front and back office closer together." At the time we were thinking specifically about compliance, although TCA, best execution, and risk are clearly inter-related when it comes to electronic trading. P&L was one of the functions we saw then starting to creep into the front office function of trading, often in the form of pre-trade TCA which was being used as part of algorithmic execution strategies.
So to find real time P&L as a common stand alone function was a bit of a surprise to me, but in talking to the firms deploying it, it became clear that there's another force at play: the sub-prime crisis. Billions have been lost inside of a day - it's not longer acceptable to wait to the end of the day to gain insight into the firms' trading position, when it may be too late.
CEP uniquely enables real-time P&L. Because an event processing platform can ingest or output any event stream, a firm can add their own feeds, their currencies, their own price roll-ups or their own netting options. Since CEP languages like StreamSQL are open and extensible, developers can change their P&L valuation algorithms with multiple rule sets for each instrument or book, or change the alert thresholds. Indeed any P&L rule or configuration definition can be amended and maintained by the investment firm. And, event processing rule filters can be cascaded so that output signals can be used in subsequent cycles to change the P&L calculation depending on earlier market dynamics.
From an IT perspective, the ability to change parameters or even to add new rules during real time operations provides for a deeper level of flexibility and dynamism. For example, a news flow item might trigger volatility requiring a different analysis, or a sudden loss of profit may demand a more granular analysis to track down the problem. The ability to alter and deploy rules during the day allows firms to adjust how they formulate their real-time view of the market.
So it's becoming clearer why real-time P&L and event processing are being more strongly linked: the simultaneous need for intraday insight, combined with the continued maturity of event processing platforms that can implement it in an open, flexible, and dynamic way.