I was thinking to connect a market making software to the Interactive Brokers API (see IB API), but it seems it is not the best solution as per the information provided by this question: Is the Interactive Brokers API suitable for hft?.

Interactive Brokers does not offer execution or even a market data feed with speeds required for HFT. With HFT trading systems now competing for micro-seconds, as opposed to milliseconds 4-5 years ago - a typical retail trader connecting over the Internet is out of league, even with dedicated lines just the network round-trip time will render any HFT attempt impossible.

That question is quite old, so I believe it is relevant now to get an update.

Questions :

  1. Is it relevant now to interact my market making software with the IB API?
  2. What is the best HFT broker to use with a market making strategy?
  3. Can it still be profitable to trade with a market making strategy via IB API instead of NASDAQ directly? I can't with NASDAQ directly because I do not satisfy their minimum capital requirements.
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    $\begingroup$ Do you have enough capital to be a market maker and have you been approved by Nasdaq as a MM? nasdaqtrader.com/Trader.aspx?id=marketmakerprocess $\endgroup$
    – Alex C
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 22:35
  • $\begingroup$ @AlexC What is the minimum capital? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 22:52
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    $\begingroup$ This information can be attained trivially with an internet search: nyse.com/markets/nyse-arca/market-making $\endgroup$
    – Theodore
    Commented Aug 12, 2018 at 22:57
  • $\begingroup$ I see you have added a third question, I will include it in my answer soon. $\endgroup$
    – Theodore
    Commented Aug 13, 2018 at 0:28

2 Answers 2


Pete's seven year old answer is just as relevant now as it was in 2011. None of the limiting factors of their API has changed since then, so this is essentially an extensive reiteration.

The Interactive Brokers API is not suitable for high frequency trading execution. However the main reason that this is the case is not necessarily what would come to mind when thinking of this problem.

The data feed itself is not fast enough nor is it optimized for high frequency trading, nor can you even have access to enough streaming real-time data to make HFT-type trades (even if we completely disregard latency). From the "order limitations" section on the Interactive Brokers Docs, the following is stated:

Aside from the TWS API's inherent limitation of 50 messages per second implying a maximum of 50 orders per second being sent to the TWS, there are no further API-only limitations. Interactive Brokers however requires its users to monitor their Order Efficiency Ratio (OER) as detailed in the Considerations of Optimizing Order Efficiency IBKB article.

Additionally, please note IB allows up to 15 active orders per contract per side per account.

In fact, the better answer to that question also states something very crucial to take note of (and something that hasn't changed in the past 7 years). And that's that the order cancellation fee is EXTREMELY tough, and a major if not one of the most important aspects of a high frequency trading strategy is how it reacts to changes in the order book. High frequency traders cancel tons of their orders, and a fee as large as $0.12 makes any HFT activity totally outlandish.

The fact that Interactive Brokers runs Timber Hill is also something important to consider as the other answer stated however it isn't as big of a factor as the 50 messages per second limitation and order cancellation fees.

Question 2: What is the best HFT broker to use with a MM strategy?

Any broker that has you sending and receiving information through the internet is going to be too slow period.

HFT is a game dependent on hardware, speed and how close your are to whatever exchange you decide to use. Every single other player in the field will have better hardware and will be closer.

The only retail-ish broker I know of that can potentially provide the co-location you need is Lime Brokerage.

Edit #1 to include a third question:

Question 3: Can it still be profitable to trade with a strategy MM via IB API instead of NASDAQ directly?

For the most part, the answer is no. Even if the feed the Interactive Brokers API provides was suitable for market making activity, latency wasn't an issue and their cancellation fee did not exist you would still run into problems.

The capital requirement for being a market maker isn't just some arbitrary value: the number exists for a very important reason!

The NYSE had an empirical basis for this number. The NYSE Market Maker Capital Requirements website has information regarding how much is needed to be a market maker on their exchange. The minimum net capital is \$100,000, plus \$2,500 for each security registered as a market maker, with the exception there being that if the market value is under \$5.00 the number is \$1,000 rather than \$2,500. Note that these values are for Market Makers subject to the Aggregate Indebtedness Requirement, whereas other market makers subject to the Alternative Net Capital Requirement need a base of \$250,000 and 2% of aggregate indebtedness.

Also see: Key. SEC Financial Responsibility Rules

The Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) 1 uniform net capital rule (15c3-1) and customer protection rule (15c3-3) form the foundation of the securities industry's financial responsibility framework. The net capital rule focuses on liquidity and is designed to protect securities customers, counterparties, and creditors by requiring that broker-dealers have sufficient liquid resources on hand at all times to satisfy claims promptly. Rule 15c3-3, or the customer protection rule, which complements rule 15c3-1, is designed to ensure that customer property (securities and funds) in the custody of broker-dealers is adequately safeguarded. By law, both of these rules apply to the activities of registered broker-dealers, but not to unregistered affiliates

TL;DR: Market Making is not something to pursue if you are on a strict budget: Minimum capital requirements and the infrastructure required make it quite the expensive venture.

You cannot be a market maker routing your orders through a market maker, it would be "cheaper" however it would also not be market making.

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    $\begingroup$ I think the accepted answer is wrong. Market making is still possible without being registered as a market maker. Pegged orders can be used so that the quotes follow the inside market without having to cancel and place new orders at high frequency. The program really needs to handle inventory managenent well and its not like a little latency is going to blow it up $\endgroup$
    – crow
    Commented May 29, 2019 at 22:55

I find this thread very interesting. I agree 100% that it would not be possible to run an HFT program through IB for the reasons noted. However, HFT and market making are not the same thing in my mind. HFT is front running other market participants by detecting their orders before anyone else does and them buying or selling in front of them, which is why speed is so essential. True market making is earning the spread on a security by posting a two sided market and having successive trades both long or short, but being flat at the end of the day. So, the fact that you can't run a HFT program doesn't necessarily mean you couldn't run a market making program. Although, the market maker is taking on different & greater risk that is the case for a HFT program.

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    $\begingroup$ HFT is not front running. Front running has a precise definition that doesn't apply to any legal activities undertaken by any firm. $\endgroup$
    – Bob Jansen
    Commented Aug 29, 2021 at 19:53

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