Alternative trading group IEX Group Inc.'s request to launch a new U.S. public stock exchange has been approved by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), a move that is likely to draw ire from competitors that said its model threatens investor benefits flowing from ever-faster markets.
The SEC voted Friday to certify IEX as the U.S.’s 13th national stock exchange, giving the startup access to the license held by the likes of Intercontinental Exchange Inc., Nasdaq Inc. and Bats Global Markets Inc.
“We have faced several obstacles along the way and we learned along the way, but we hope our partners realize that our team's hearts and minds are in the right place — our goal is to bring real competition to the exchanges by challenging the rising cost model for data and technology while also protecting investors and delivering superior execution quality,” Brad Katsuyama, co-founder and chief executive of IEX, wrote on the exchange's website.
IEX was made famous by Michael Lewis’ 2014 book “Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt,” which cast its founders as heroes making attempts to restore balance to the stock market. The book argued the market was rigged by stock exchanges that sold preferential treatment to high-frequency traders.
IEX, on the other hand, is notable because it would be the only exchange in the United States to include a so-called speed bump or delay of 350 millionths of a second in all incoming and outgoing orders. It says that this delay protects investors from high-frequency traders who can pick up on trading signals and use their faster technology to electronically front-run slower investors.
The Wall Street Journal reported Andrew Upward, head of market structure at brokerage Weeden & Co., as saying: “It does mark a pendulum shift where ‘speed is king’ may have reached the furthest point it can go.”
“They’ve had a victory in this debate about the importance of speed in markets, and it’s a setback for those who think speed and efficiency are the end all and be all.”
Other exchanges like Nasdaq, the New York Stock Exchange and Bats Global Markets have opposed the idea of IEX gaining regulatory approval as a U.S. stock exchange and there are expected to be attempts to legally challenge the SEC’s decision.
Reuters cited the head of Citadel Execution Services at Citadel Securities, Jamil Nazarali, as saying: “Today's decision will test and potentially reverse the gains in fairness, efficiency and transparency that have been made to our markets over the last decade,” adding, “We must be vigilant to identify unintended consequences, and firm in our commitment to equitable and consistent treatment for all investors.”
IEX said it expects to implement trading in all stock symbols on Sept. 2. This will also mark the ceasing of operations of its private trading venue, IEX Alternative Trading System, also known as a dark pool.