An electronic communication network
) is the term used in financial circles for a type of computer system that facilitates trading of financial products outside of stock exchanges
. The primary products that are traded on ECNs are stocks
. The first ECN, Instinet, was created in 1969. ECNs increase competition among trading firms by lowering transaction costs, giving clients full access to their order books, and offering order matching outside of traditional exchange hours. ECNs are sometimes also referred to as Alternative Trading Networks or Alternative Trading Systems
To trade with an ECN, one must be a subscriber or have an account with a broker that provides direct access trading
. ECN subscribers can enter orders
into the ECN via a custom computer terminal or network protocols. The ECN will then match contra-side orders (i.e. a sell-order is "contra-side" to a buy-order with the same price and share count) for execution. The ECN will post unmatched orders on the system for other subscribers to view. Generally, the buyer and seller are anonymous, with the trade execution reports listing the ECN as the party.
Some ECNs may offer additional features to subscribers such as negotiation, reserve size, and pegging, and may have access to the entire ECN book (as opposed to the "top of the book") that contains important real-time market data regarding depth of trading interest.
ECNs are generally facilitated by electronic... Read More