Ballista Securities LLC

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Ballista Securities
Ballista Logo.gif
Founded 2007
Headquarters New York, NY
Key People Mark Monahan, CEO; Robert Newhouse, Founder

Keith Landsberg, Executive Vice President, Business Development Daniel Marques, Chief Technology Officer

Employees 25
Products Ballista ATS for Options

Ballista Securities LLC is a registered broker/dealer that operates an alternative trading system (ATS) for equity options, specializing in the execution of block-sized volatility trades, complex multi-leg strategies and directional orders. The Ballista ATS is a fully integrated electronic platform that anonymously matches orders on a trading network, whose members include volatility funds and major trading firms.[1]

On Feb. 25, 2011, it was announced that the InterContinental Exchange had acquired Ballista Securities.[2] The acquisition enhanced ICE's already existing options market, which began when the exchange purchased YellowJacket in 2009.[3] Ballista would be operated as a wholly owned subsidiary of ICE.[4]

The Ballista ATS links liquidity seekers directly to all potential contras via a limit book interface and with negotiation functionality. Users can choose order exclusivity or order concealment and have a choice of execution pathways - a front-end application for trader interaction, a FIX-based interface supporting programmatic order flow from algorithmic trading engines[5] or through OMS/DMA platforms.[6]

Ballista provides monthly metrics on its site.


Ballista was co-founded in 2007 by Robert Newhouse, part of the team that launched Island ECN. The company received FINRA approval as a broker/dealer in August 2008.[7] Live trading on the Ballista ATS began on Oct. 27, 2008.[8]

Ballista Holdings, parent of Ballista Securities, received a minority investment from Morgan Stanley, International Securities Exchange, Susquehanna Growth Equity and Knight Capital Group on June 9, 2009.[9]

On December 21, 2009, Mark Monahan was appointed CEO, replacing Robert Newhouse, Ballista's first CEO. .[10]

Products and Services[edit]

Ballista specializes in the execution of volatility (tied or delta-neutral) and directional (block trading) options for institutional liquidity seekers.

Ballista’s trading model is based on a patent-pending Reactive Auction Process (RAP). During the RAP, a trader submits a block-sized, directional option strategy or delta-neutral/volatility order, using one of Ballista's order types, defining the parameters of the liquidity a trader wishes to source.[11]

The order is then broadcast to Ballista ATS participants that have indicated their interest in trading that specific option, its sector or index components. If an order goes unfilled, in part or whole, it is then moved into a private electronic negotiation room with the closest counterparty. At this point, terms of price and size may be negotiated in hopes of finding a mutually beneficial trade.

Once matched on the Ballista ATS, initiated orders are then crossed and/or executed on an applicable securities exchange.

Ballista handles the following transaction types:

Volatility (or delta-neutral) Transactions - traders may enter block orders of up to three listed option components, and one additional stock component, with the stock component an equal delta hedge to the options being traded. All legs are traded contingently as a set, with the trader having no leg or partial package risk. Minimum order size is 500 contracts.

Directional (or Non-tied) Transactions - traders may enter up to three option legs with no stock component. Orders for individual option legs or option spread strategies may only be entered within the current NBBO, and are automatically canceled if they lock or cross the public options NBBO. Minimum order size is 500 contracts.

Ballista offers the following order types:

  • Exclusive Order - This order type affords a trader seeking liquidity the ability to retain authority for the duration of the timed auction. By enforcing a trader’s priority to the debit or credit side of an auction, an exclusive order is ensured to trade if sufficient liquidity is available. A trader must display SIDE and SIZE of an exclusive order, but may optionally show/hide price.
  • Phantom Order - This order type offers a trader the ability to leverage a non-displayed order, but allows any other Ballista participant to post both bids and offers in response to an initiated phantom order. As such, a phantom order may not trade due to other participants improving the current quote and establishing priority. Phantom orders display size only - price and side are non-displayed.

Ballista allows access via three interfaces:

  • Java-Based Front-End

Using the Ballista front-end, a trader may initiate orders, indicate interest in specific symbols, sectors, or indices, and receive advertised orders. The Ballista front-end offers the full functionality of the Ballista platform, and provides a visual mechanism to source liquidity in delta-neutral or directional orders.

  • Independent Software Providers / Third-Party Broker-Dealers

Many OMS and EMS vendors now offer access to Ballista, offering the ability to initiate orders, and in some cases, receive orders advertised by other Ballista participants. Various DMA platforms also support Ballista access via their associated broker-dealer units.

  • FIX Connectivity

Ballista supports FIX connectivity by any external application with the ability to communicate using FIX v4.2, 4.3, or 4.4. The entire suite of Ballista functionality is available via the FIX interface, including the ability to initiate new orders, respond to advertised orders, and carry on negotiation sessions with counterparties.

Key People[edit]

Dashonly.gif Mark Monahan Chief Executive Officer
Keith Landsberg.jpg Keith Landsberg Executive Vice President
RobertNewhouse90B-Web-1-.jpg Robert Newhouse Founder
Dashonly.gif Daniel Marques Chief Technology Officer