Traditional exchange operators complain dark pools lack transparency but it is precisely this ability to keep trades away from the glare of the public eye that makes them so popular with many institutional investors.
A British fund house trader said dark pools 'help to keep orders less visible from other participants, particularly in markets like Hong Kong where broker codes provide an over-transparency in executing equities'.
Kent Rossiter, head of trading for Allianz Global Investors Asia-Pacific, said Chi-East's closure hardly meant dark pools were not working. 'Single-market dark pools in Asia are still growing exponentially in some cases, albeit from relatively low bases,' he said, adding that similar operators such as Liquidnet, Japan Cross, ITG and Instinet had successfully attracted traders and continued to grow.
One of Chi-East's problems is that it is a regional dark pool offering trading on several markets' stocks via a platform run from one country.
'The problem with some regional dark pools is that they're not so user-friendly, the platform involves multiple country-clearing, and in cases where automation isn't in place, require manual order submission,' Rossiter said.
Desmond Ng, chief operating officer and head of sales and marketing, Asia ex-Japan, of Invesco Hong Kong, said the Chi-East shutdown would not slow the emergence of dark pools in Asia. 'We still see a niche for dark-pool trading platforms. However, such platforms have to be transparent to participants and the dark pools should align into one virtual venue in order to maximise market flow,' Ng said.
David Jenkins, head of business development of Fidessa, a technology firm serving dark pools and brokers, agreed. Jenkins said Asian dark pool operators could voluntarily do more post-transaction public reporting to aid transparency. Some European dark pools voluntarily disclose information to show trading activity. Asian operators seldom do that.
'More voluntary reporting would help the public feel more comfortable about dark pools,' Jenkins said.