Which Trading Agent is Best? Using a Threaded Parallel Simulation of a Financial Market Changes the Pecking-Order

Michael Rollins, Dave T Cliff

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

6 Citations (Scopus)


This paper presents novel results, generated from a new simulation model of a contemporary financial market, that cast serious doubt on the previously widely accepted view of the relative performance of various well-known public-domain automated-trading algorithms. Put simply, we show here that if you use a more realistic market simulator, then trading algorithms previously thought to be the best-performing are shown to be not as good as people think they are, and some algorithms previously thought to be poor performers can be seen to do surprisingly well. Automated trading is now entirely commonplace in most of the world's major financial markets: adaptive algorithmic trading systems operate largely autonomously, interacting with other traders (either other automated systems, or humans) via an electronic exchange platform. Various public-domain trading algorithms have been proposed over the past 25 years in a kind of arms-race, where each new trading algorithm was compared to the previous best, thereby establishing a "pecking order", i.e. a partially-ordered dominance hierarchy from best to worst of the various trading algorithms. Many of these algorithms were developed, tested, and evaluated using simple minimal simulations of financial markets that only very weakly approximated the fact that real markets involve many different trading systems operating asynchronously and in parallel. In this paper we use BSE, a long-established public-domain market simulator, to run a set of experiments generating benchmark results from several well-known trading algorithms. BSE incorporates a very simple time-sliced approach to simulating parallelism, which has obvious known weaknesses. We then alter and extend BSE to make it threaded, so that different trader algorithms operate asynchronously and in parallel: we call this simulator Threaded-BSE (TBSE). We then re-run the trader experiments on TBSE and compare the TBSE results to our earlier benchmark results from BSE. Our comparison shows that the dominance hierarchy in our more realistic experiments is different from the one given by the original simple simulator. We conclude that simulated parallelism matters a lot, and that earlier results from simple simulations comparing different trader algorithms are no longer to be entirely trusted.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of The 32nd European Modelling & Simulation Symposium (EMSS2020)
EditorsMichael Affenzeller, Agostino Bruzzone, Francesco Longo, Antonella Petrillo
Number of pages6
ISBN (Electronic)978-88-85741-44-7
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2020


  • Financial Markets
  • Market Simulators
  • Simulation methods
  • Trading Agents
  • Experimental Economics


Dive into the research topics of 'Which Trading Agent is Best? Using a Threaded Parallel Simulation of a Financial Market Changes the Pecking-Order'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this