Stockbrokers decry glitch-ridden DTS platform

Published October 27, 2021
People walk outside the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in Karachi. — Reuters/File
People walk outside the Pakistan Stock Exchange building in Karachi. — Reuters/File

KARACHI: Stockbrokers are up in arms following the implementation of the Designated Time Schedule (DTS), a trading and surveillance platform that the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) introduced at the beginning of the current week.

The new trading platform “lacks basic features” and its frequent glitches resulted in a reduced volume of traded shares on the country’s only stock exchange in Monday and Tuesday sessions.

Speaking to Dawn, Pakistan Stockbrokers Association Secretary General Bilal Farooq Zardi said the new platform is causing frequent order confirmation delays as well as problems in viewing outstanding positions. “There’s a real possibility of double buying/selling. There are issues with price summary, market summary and pre-opening bids,” he said. In its formal letter to the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday, the association of brokers demanded that the old system — Karachi Automated Trading System (KATS) — be immediately restored to “avoid further credibility and financial loss”.

“The users are not willing to accept this incomplete and insufficient system… Any delay in acting on the above could result in serious losses to investors and may open the PSX to face extreme reactions,” it said. The PSX held 18 mock sessions before formally adopting the platform. But the brokers claimed the new system went live without fixing errors, which put public money at stake.

“Our association suggested that the PSX should implement the new system after holding at least two error-free mock sessions. The PSX management didn’t listen to us. As a result, volumes have shrunk significantly in the last two days,” said Mr Zardi whose association has around 150 members.

The average daily trade volume on the first two days of the current week has been 164.3 million shares, down more than 46 per cent from the daily average of 306m shares in the preceding week.

“We fail to understand the logic behind its abrupt implementation during the rollover week,” it said.

Five days before the formal launch of the DTS, as many as 57 stockbrokers sent the PSX CEO Farrukh H Khan a scathing note, which is available with Dawn.

“We regret to put this on record that this system is not fully ready at this stage to go live. Responsibility for any damages is on the exchange, and not on the market participants, especially when you have already been apprised pertaining to the risk associated with this incomplete system,” the brokers said in their October 21 note.

The PSX acquired the new system from the Shenzhen Stock Exchange (SZSE), a related party, for Rs461.26 million, according to its latest annual report. It’s supposed to be the “safest and most advanced” system with the “utmost reliability, superior performance and low latency”.

There’s an “astounding safe-operation record of 17 years without trading interlude” in the SZSE. The trading system has been tested for 2,000 orders per second and 4m transactions per day, which is “more than 10 times the current volume,” said the PSX annual report.

According to the PSX spokesperson, the CEO was in a meeting until late night and could not be reached for comment. He didn’t respond to the question whether the Chinese vendor had ever sold the same trading system to any stock exchange other than the PSX.

One stockbroker who requested anonymity fearing reprisal from the frontline regulator told Dawn that the new trading system relayed order-level, live data in raw form to the SZSE, which makes the country’s capital market vulnerable to foreign attacks. The PSX CEO had yet to respond to the claim till the filing of this report.

Published in Dawn, October 27th, 2021

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