What is High-Frequency Trading? | Kotak Securities (2024)

Meaning of HFT

HFT full form is High-frequency trading. In HFT, trades are executed at high speeds and a large number of transactions are executed in a short time frame. In HFT, special computers are used to execute trades quickly. Due to its complexity, it is usually used by large institutional investors like hedge funds and investment banks.

In HFT, complex algorithms analyse individual stocks to spot emerging trends in milliseconds. If the analysis finds a trigger, hundreds of buy orders will be sent out in seconds.

What is Algorithmic Trading?

Algorithmic Trading involves using pre-programmed trading instructions to execute trading orders quickly on the financial market. Traders and investors use trading software to feed instructions based on time, volume, and price. As soon as the set instructions trigger on the market, the trading software executes the investor's orders.

The main purpose of algorithmic trading is to execute a large number of high-volume trades that would otherwise be impossible for humans to execute. This trading is commonly used by mutual funds, hedge funds, insurance companies, banks, etc. Algorithmic trading allows investors to make more trades in less time without being affected by human emotions.

How does High-Frequency Trading Work?

It is fairly simple to understand how HFT works. The more trades you do, the higher your profits.For someone engaged in HFT, even a fluctuation of Rs 1 or 2 makes the trade profitable. A quantitative model determines all portfolio allocation decisions. Owners feed models specific information, and their success depends on their ability to process huge amounts of data, which is impossible for human investors. High-frequency traders compete by executing the most trades in the shortest amount of time. Those who succeed in achieving that objective make the most money. Moreover, to trade confidently on the financial market, you need to understand what is trading account and how it works.

Strategies of High-Frequency Trading

The following are some HFT strategies:

Market MakingIt's a company or investor who buys and sells shares at a publicly quoted price. By using predetermined HFT strategies to place limit orders to sell or buy, many high-frequency trading firms used market making as an effective strategy. These firms do this to earn the bid-ask spread and make money.

Quote StuffingIt involves buying and selling a lot of orders fast to create confusion in the market. Due to this confusion, the trading volume rises, giving high-frequency traders profitable trading opportunities that they use to start multiple trades.

Tick TradingIn tick trading, powerful computers watch the flow of quotes and the market information embedded in the market data. In tick trading, you're looking for when HFT traders are starting to place huge orders.

Statistical ArbitrageIt's a way to identify price differences between securities on different exchanges or markets. Statistical arbitrage is used in liquid markets like bonds, equities, currencies, futures, etc. A HFT strategy can also include traditional arbitrage strategies like interest rate parity.

Advantages of High-Frequency Trading

HFT has the following advantages:

Quick ProfitsBy executing a lot of trades, high-frequency traders can make quick profits. Even if there are small price fluctuations, investors can make hefty profits using HFT strategies through the bid-ask spreads.

Increased OpportunitiesHigh-frequency trading involves powerful computers and software that can scan and analyse multiple markets simultaneously. As a result, investors can find arbitrage opportunities and profit by buying on one exchange and quickly selling on the other.

Enhances LiquidityHFT enhances liquidity in the market. By increasing competition and trade volume, HFT results in a decline in bid-ask spreads, resulting in more efficient prices. Additionally, as liquidity increases, the market becomes more transparent and flexible, making it less risky for other investors.

Human Error Is ReducedDue to the absence of human interference, HFT is always more effective than traditional trading. When trading, humans are prone to making mistakes or entering or exiting at the wrong time. Moreover, humans are not capable of executing such a high volume of orders at such a rapid pace. In addition, before you decide to open trading account, explore various trading accounts in order to find the best trading account.

Disadvantages of High-Frequency Trading

HFT trading has a few downsides. Here are they:

**Lack Of Regulation **Since high-frequency trading involves complex algorithms and software, it is difficult to monitor and regulate. Scholars and finance professionals disagree about HFT, making it a controversial topic.

ReplacementIn general, HFT is criticised because it has replaced many brokers and dealers with software and algorithms. At most times, a person's intellect is required to make profits when investing, which is why it is considered to be a bad process. Also, a comprehensive trading strategy cannot be based solely on data and information.

One-Sided ProfitsHigh-frequency trading is not possible for retail investors due to their lack of infrastructure. Due to this, only large companies with the required infrastructure can profit using the strategy, and retail investors lose out. Hence, the liquidity that arises is called 'Ghost liquidity'.


The high-frequency trading (HFT) process involves executing trades at high speeds and completing a large number of transactions quickly. A special computer is used to execute trades quickly in HFT. Because of its complexity, it's usually used by institutional investors like hedge funds and banks. Using complex algorithms, high-frequency traders spot emerging trends in milliseconds. To navigate the complexity of trading, you can get assistance from Kotak Securities, a reputable firm known for its expertise and valuable guidance.

What is High-Frequency Trading? | Kotak Securities (2024)


What is the high-frequency trading? ›

High-frequency trading (HFT) is an automated trading platform that large investment banks, hedge funds, and institutional investors employ. It uses powerful computers to transact a large number of orders at extremely high speeds.

What is an example of high-frequency trading? ›

The common types of high-frequency trading include several types of market-making, event arbitrage, statistical arbitrage, and latency arbitrage. Most high-frequency trading strategies are not fraudulent, but instead exploit minute deviations from market equilibrium.

Can you make money with high-frequency trading? ›

High-frequency trading strategies

Although the strategy can be extremely risky, even a small difference in price can yield big profits. HFT algorithms can detect very small differences in prices faster than human observers and can ensure that their investors profit from the spread.

How successful is high-frequency trading? ›

A high-frequency trader will sometimes only profit a fraction of a cent, which is all they need to make gains throughout the day but also increases the chances of a significant loss.

Are high-frequency traders really market makers? ›

Abstract. The current academic literature on HFTs considers them as the present-day de facto market makers.

What is needed for high-frequency trading? ›

A very important aspect is the use of advanced algorithms and machine learning techniques to analyze market data. This includes techniques such as statistical arbitrage, market making, and news-based trading. These algorithms help HFT firms to quickly identify patterns in the market data and make trades accordingly.

What are the negative effects of high-frequency trading? ›

High-frequency trading offers significant benefits to online Forex brokers, including speed, liquidity provision, risk management, and data analysis. However, it also comes with disadvantages such as increased market volatility, concerns about market manipulation, high infrastructure costs, and regulatory scrutiny.

What math is needed for high-frequency trading? ›

So the math that is useful to know is linear algebra, statistics, time series and optimisation (to some extent it's useful to be familiar with machine learning, which encompasses all of the above). Don't go into HFT thinking that you will primarily be doing advanced math.

How much does a High Frequency Trader earn in USA? ›

The average salary for High Frequency Trading is $1,34,946 per year in the United States.

What is the problem with HFT? ›

Algorithmic HFT is a notable contributor to exaggerated market volatility, which can stoke investor uncertainty in the near term and affect consumer confidence over the long term. As the markets move lower, more stop-losses are activated, and this negative feedback loop creates a downward spiral.

Why do high-frequency traders never lose money? ›

One strategy is to serve as a market maker, where the HFT firm provides liquidity on both the buy and sell sides. By purchasing at the bid price and selling at the ask price, high-frequency traders can make profits of a penny or less per share. This translates to big profits when multiplied over millions of shares.

Do high-frequency traders still exist? ›

Yes, high-frequency trading does occur in the cryptocurrency market. It works the same way that HFT does in other markets. Using algorithms, it analyzes crypto data and facilitates a large volume of trades at once within a short period of time—usually within seconds.

Is high-frequency trading a good career? ›

The firms have grown, and their reputations have grown with them. At the forefront of most of these representations is the pay which (unless this is your first time hearing about HFT) you'll know is very good.

What is the disadvantage of high-frequency trading? ›

High-frequency trading offers significant benefits to online Forex brokers, including speed, liquidity provision, risk management, and data analysis. However, it also comes with disadvantages such as increased market volatility, concerns about market manipulation, high infrastructure costs, and regulatory scrutiny.

Do brokers allow HFT trading? ›

Yes, high-frequency trading is legal. That being said, it's possible that high-frequency trading strategies will not be permitted by your broker. Price-driven strategies (such as scalping) or latency-driven arbitrage strategies are prohibited altogether by some brokers.

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