The technology can also be applied in market monitoring and regulation. Some estimates put the level of insider trading around mergers and acquisitions at around 30 per cent, but the best that analysis that’s not in real time can do is pinpoint irregularities long after the event. “If you find there has been nefarious action after a market move, it’s too late,” Bates says. “Sure, the offender might be caught and punished eventually, but the market has already been artificially distorted.” Creating algorithms in real time has the potential to detect unusual movements before the event. The technology could also pick up other illegal activities that are currently difficult to monitor, such as brokers front running large clients’ orders or traders “painting the tape” – that is, trading small amounts of a specific security among themselves to create the illusion of high investor interest, in the hope of artificially inflating the price.
“We’re talking to regulators all around the world,” Bates says. “You can’t afford to wait for manpower to encode algorithms.”