Leaders in Trading 2022: Meet the nominees for the…. Outstanding Dark Trading Venue

Learn more about the five firms shortlisted for our Editors’ Choice Award for Outstanding Dark Trading Venue this year: including Cboe BIDS Europe, Instinet Blockmatch, Liquidnet, Goldman Sachs’ SIGMA X MTF and SwissatMid.

Next up in our series of introductions to our distinguished nominees for Leaders in Trading 2022, we bring you the shortlist for the Editors’ Choice Outstanding Dark Trading Venue award. This year brings you a star-studded line up including Cboe BIDS Europe, Instinet Blockmatch, Liquidnet, Goldman Sachs’ SIGMA X MTF and SwissatMid. Let’s take a look at their activities over the past year…

Cboe BIDS Europe

Cboe’s European block trading platform, Cboe BIDS Europe, is a relatively new player to the market but already a force to be reckoned with. The indication of interest (IOI) execution platform – formerly known as Cboe LIS – was rebranded to Cboe BIDS Europe in February and offers trading in more than 6,000 symbols across the equities, depositary receipts and exchange traded funds (ETFs) markets.

The platform has gained significant ground against its competitors in the last year, becoming the largest block trading platform in April and maintaining this title throughout this year. In September, the platform accounted for 36% of Europe’s Large in Scale (LiS) market – a record high.

Its broker neutral model allows the buy-side to trade anonymously with one another and with brokers while also selecting the broker with whom they settle trades and pay commission to. It’s buy-side user base has grown to 236 and boasts average trade sizes for buy-side transactions of above €1.2 million.

The platform has continued to expand upon its broker-neutral offering throughout 2021 and this year to date, also introducing capabilities that allow brokers and buy-side users to leverage Cboe BIDS for high touch trading flows through a directed IOI service.

Cboe BIDS is available as part of a US and Canadian marketplace also and the exchange operator has confirmed plans to expand to Cboe’s Australian and Japanese equity platforms from 2023 subject to approval from regulators.

Instinet Blockmatch

Instinet BlockMatch has obviously committed to expanding its geographical reach and product offering in the last year, and this trend looks set to carry on into 2023. What started as an alternative liquidity pool in the UK that delivered an array of interesting sessions and order types for equities, such as RFQs and conditional orders, the BlockMatch brand has now expanded to operate new pools across continental Europe and Asia.

Instinet BlockMatch’s pitch focuses on offering execution quality through the sourcing and aggregating of different and unique types of liquidity for different trading experiences. The dark book, while also minimising information leakage through non-display functionality, offers the ability to apply minimum quantity and execute at the midpoint. Participants can benefit from Reference Price Waiver (RPW) and Large in Scale (LIS) pre-trade transparency waivers with their orders, which are therefore not made public. The RFQ book enables traders to target outsized order opportunities to specific types of counterparties. Users can apply either limit prices or bid, offer, or midpoint pegs. The platform uses actionable Indications of Interest (IOIs) to allow providers to advertise liquidity while limiting risks that typically come with the traditional all-to-all model. Ultimately, Instinet asserts that these alternatives all seek to optimise unique, natural flow and more block-like executions.

How is this strategy working? Based on regular communications depicting growing volumes and an expansion of their conditional orders, they seem to be gaining traction. The latest new iteration – Instinet BlockMatch Europe — is still in the early launch phase, operating RFQs now with near-term plans to launch a new dark crossing book. Watch this space.


Now part of TP ICAP, Liquidnet’s institutional liquidity pool boasted a strong year in 2021 that followed through into 2022. The firm claims to have maintained an average trade size of $1.38 million and the highest market share of any block trading venue within Europe with a 29% share of the above Large in Scale (LiS) market last year.

This success continued in 2022, where the firm achieved the four largest equities dark prints in EMEA with an average size of $83.8 million, the largest of which was $96 million in May. The firm operates 46 equity markets with a network of more than 950 buy-side firms globally. It’s this extensive network that Liquidnet attributes its average daily liquidity of $77 billion to.

On the back of its success the firm has continued to develop its offering with new functionalities including ETF and portfolio trading capabilities which it added in 2021, printing its largest ETF trade of $33.8 million later that year. It also introduced its Smart Blocks components onto its algo trading platform to help clients improve their execution performance by executing blocks at their favourable price. With volumes in Europe continuously becoming more concentrated at the Close, Liquidnet also added a new dark order type to help clients access the closing market inventory without revealing size. The platform also extended its liquidity reach to the new SwissAtMid platform.

SIGMA X – Goldman Sachs

Goldman Sachs’ multilateral trading facility, SIGMA X, is not a new player in the dark market by any means and as the saying goes, with age comes experience. The investment bank has shown a devotion to expanding the functionality of its venue for clients to improve their user experience throughout the course of this year.

Goldman Sachs launched the European sister MTF to the venue at the end of 2020 in a bid to allow its clients within the European Union to continue accessing liquidity post-Brexit and since then the pair together have continued to gather momentum on either side of the channel.

Market share of the European continuous non-displayed markets grew to 5.32% across the UK-based and European-based venues from 2021 to 2022, on the bank of a strong performance in both its periodic auction and dark book.

As its volumes and market share have grown, Goldman Sachs has continued to demonstrate a commitment to investing in the expansion of its product including the recent launch of conditional orders to the SIGMA X dark book to further encourage its growth. In light of this continued expansion, the dark platform has experienced continued growth in volumes, seeing its market share grow to 1.7% in the third quarter to date according to data from big xyt.

SwissatMid – SIX Swiss Exchange

Since its launch in 2016, the SIX Swiss Exchange’s dark pool has continued to grow in terms of the number of clients and the functionalities available to them. Last year, 72 institutions were using the dark pool – all of which when combined represent 97% of the overall trading volume in Swiss equities.

The exchange operator boasts the title of first primary exchange in Europe to introduce a dark book on the same matching engine as its central limit order book (CLOB) which it claims ensures clients never trade a stale mid-point price to prevent latency arbitrage.

This zero-latency aspect led SIX Swiss Exchange to develop a Plus Order which allows participants to seek dark block liquidity in SwissAtMid whilst their order captures the spread on the CLOB. These same benefits also apply to block orders after the exchange operator added block trading to the dark book in December.