Ethics of High Frequency Trading: Insider Information

18 Pages Posted: 5 Jun 2016 Last revised: 24 Jan 2018

See all articles by Daphne Sobolev

Daphne Sobolev

School of Management, University College London

Date Written: June 3, 2016


Aim. High Frequency Trading poses a large number of ethical questions. The purpose of this study is to examine the ethical perceptions of those who work inside the HFT industry.

Method. The research consisted of a case study. Participants (N=30) were high frequency traders, algorithm developers, consultants, quant analysts, quantitative strategists, ultra low-latency data scientists, or managers of HFT companies. Participation involved an interview (N=27) or a completion of a questionnaire (N=3). HFT actors were asked to report what ethical considerations are involved in their work.

Results. Participants’ answers showed that many HFT actors considered legal and regulatory issues a central component of their ethical conduct. However, a proportion of the participants was concerned with the social contribution of their practice and with the public image of HFT. In particular, perceiving HFT as having neutral or negative effect on the market was related with sense of meaninglessness.

Conclusions. Ethics perceptions of HFT actors are characterised by a personal nature. Beyond the overlap between the notions of ethics and legality, they reflect the human tendency to search for meaning and the need to have a positive image.

Keywords: High Frequency Trading, Ethics, social contribution, public image, meaninglessness, Regulation

Suggested Citation

Sobolev, Daphne, Ethics of High Frequency Trading: Insider Information (June 3, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Daphne Sobolev (Contact Author)

School of Management, University College London ( email )

Gower Street
London, WC1E 6BT
United Kingdom

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