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Alternative Trading System (ATS)


An Alternative Trading System (ATS) is a trading venue that operates outside traditional public stock exchanges. It is a non-exchange trading platform which brings buyers and sellers together for the transaction of securities, typically through a broker-dealer. ATSs are usually used for trading assets like equities, bonds, currencies, and derivatives.


Alternative Trading System: /ɔːlˈtɜːrnətɪv ˈtreɪdɪŋ ˈsɪstəm/ (ATS)

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>Alternative Trading System (ATS) is a trading system that matches buyers and sellers of financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, and other securities. They operate outside traditional public stock exchanges and are designed to provide a more efficient way of trading.</li><li>ATS offers several advantages including lower costs, faster executions, and increased confidentiality. This makes it attractive to large institutional and high frequency traders who value these benefits.</li><li>While ATS can offer many benefits, they also come with their share of risks, such as less transparency compared to public exchanges. This can create an uneven playing field and potentially favor some market participants over others. Therefore, ATS are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the United States to ensure fair trading practices.</li></ol>


Alternative Trading System (ATS) is significant in finance/business because it offers an alternative to traditional exchanges, promoting competition and potentially improving market liquidity and efficiency. It serves as a platform allowing buyers and sellers to come together to transact in securities without a centralized exchange, such as the NYSE or NASDAQ. This system benefits institutional investors who can trade large blocks of shares anonymously, thereby minimizing the impact on the market. Moreover, it broadens investment opportunities through offering unique investment types not available on standard exchanges, such as private company shares, thus facilitating market diversification. Hence, ATS is an essential component of modern financial markets’ infrastructure.


The Alternative Trading System (ATS) serves as a specialized venue created to match buy and sell transactions. It is a non-exchange trading venue that finds counterparties for transactions instead of trading on traditional exchanges. An ATS is typically designed to bring together buyers and sellers and match their trading interest in a manner that they can enjoy a high level of trade execution speed and efficiency. This is particularly beneficial for substantial block trades and institutional participants to get their large orders filled swiftly and quietly, with minimal price slippage.Primarily, ATS is used to improve market liquidity, reduce potential market impact, and ensure seamless trade execution. Often used by hedge funds, mutual funds, and investment banks, an ATS enables these institutions to reduce transaction costs, trade anonymously, and bypass exchanges that may have less favorable pricing. ATSs also contribute to improved market transparency by disclosing quotes to the public. They operate under regulatory oversight ensuring orderly market operations and investor protection. Despite falling outside public view, ATS must adhere to fair and equitable trading principles. They have proven pivotal as electronic platforms fostering significant market efficiency and liquidity.


1. “UPSTOX”: Upstox is an India-based online trading platform that is a prime example of an ATS. It allows for the trading of a variety of financial instruments, including equities, futures, options, and currencies. The platform is known for its low cost of trading, easy user interface, and quick processing times.2. “INSTINET”: Instinet was created in the USA and is widely considered as the first ATS. It began as a way for institutions to match buy and sell orders anonymously. It’s a significant example because it pioneered a system where brokers could trade securities faster and more efficiently, without needing to go through the traditional stock exchanges.3. “POSIT (Portfolio System for Institutional Trading)”: Managed by Investment Technology Group (ITG), this platform offers a venue for traders to engage in equities trading while minimizing market impact. The system’s unique matching algorithm makes it a key tool for institutional investors aiming to trade equities in large quantities while avoiding price slippage.These are all ATS platforms because they meet the criteria of a system that matches buyers and sellers to facilitate transactions, operating outside of traditional public exchanges.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is an Alternative Trading System (ATS)?

An Alternative Trading System (ATS) is a non-exchange trading platform that matches buyers and sellers to find counterparty for transactions. They are regulated as broker-dealers rather than as exchanges.

How does an Alternative Trading System work?

ATS operates much like a traditional stock exchange but within a broker-dealer firm. They match buy and sell orders in stocks, bonds, and other financial products from multiple parties.

What types of assets can be traded on ATS?

A wide range of assets can be traded on ATS including stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies, and other financial products.

Are Alternative Trading Systems regulated?

Yes, in the United States, ATS are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission. They must register as broker-dealers and are subject to regulatory scrutiny.

What are some examples of ATS?

Examples of alternative trading systems include Electronic Communication Networks (ECNs), Cross Networks, and Dark Pools.

How are Alternative Trading Systems different from traditional exchanges?

Unlike traditional exchanges, ATS are not subject to the same regulations as exchange markets. They typically don’t publicly display bids and offers, thus providing a certain degree of privacy.

What is the benefit of using an Alternative Trading System?

ATS systems often provide higher speed of transactions and lower costs. They also offer more privacy since they do not publicly display all transactions.

What are the risks involved in Alternative Trading Systems?

While ATS does provide faster transactions and lower costs, it also has its risks like potential lack of transparency, price manipulation and less regulatory oversight.

Can individual investors use Alternative Trading Systems or is it only for institutions?

It typically depends on the specific ATS, but usually they are more accessible to institutional investors than individual investors.

: How has the role of ATS changed in finance?

: ATS has become a significant part of the financial trading landscape, often providing alternatives for traders looking for more efficient and cost-effective trading venues. However, due to its often opaque nature, it also raises concerns about transparency and fair market operations.

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