Less Is More in Bond Market as Technology Eases Smaller Trades

(Bloomberg) -- Investors are finding less is more when it comes to corporate bond trading.

Electronic-trading technology has matured to the point that about three-quarters of credit investors say they can easily buy or sell orders up to $5 million, according to research by Greenwich Associates. That compares with about one third in 2016, the financial-services consulting firm’s report showed.

The issue of liquidity -- or the ability to buy and sell securities-- has long plagued the corporate bond market, where Wall Street maintains a strong grip on a business largely done by phone or instant messaging. While stock trading is almost entirely done electronically in the U.S. and Europe, fixed-income trading has been slower to adapt, especially for larger orders.

“A decade on from the financial crisis that triggered balance sheet reductions by major bond dealers and drained liquidity from fixed-income markets, institutional corporate bond investors are finally feeling some relief,” Kevin McPartland, the firm’s head of market structure and technology research, said in the report published Thursday.

Still, trades greater than $5 million in size remain difficult for investors to execute over electronic platforms, McPartland said. While they only make up 1 percent of the total orders in the market on any given day, that accounts for 40 percent of the notional traded. As such, larger trades are becoming the focus for corporate bond solutions providers, according to the report.

Trumid Financial LLC, a bond-trading startup backed by billionaires Peter Thiel and George Soros, has already traded more than $3 billion this month, surpassing a record set in January. And in another sign the shift toward computerized buying and selling is gaining traction, Colm Kelleher, president at Morgan Stanley, said this week he’s ready to embrace digitizing dealing bonds.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.