may be one of the smaller electronic communications networks on Wall Street volume-wise, but it has been busy building up its war chest.
were securing major private placement investments last month, Strike was working on its own round of financing, according to three people familiar with its plans. (ECNs, or electronic communication networks, match buy and sell orders and have been taking market share away from the traditional exchanges.)
Joining some traditional Wall Street powers in the Strike family, options trading firm
and global trade-execution and settlement company
each bought 5% stakes in the ECN.
BancBoston Robertson Stephens
also bought a small stake in Strike, according to two of the people. Robby Stephens officials couldn't be reached to comment. Hull declined to comment. TIR confirmed the purchase.
Strike, which about a month ago said it was raising money, also is working on signing up one other major investor and some smaller partners, according to two of the three people familiar with its plans. That brings Strike's total investors and partners up to around 25 from 19, according to one of the people. The value of the new stakes couldn't be determined.
Strike was started last year by
, which is still a significant shareholder in the company, as a means for its broker-dealer clients to trade electronically. Other early shareholders are
Donaldson Lufkin & Jenrette
Strike has gotten off to a slow start and is one of the smaller of the nine ECNs, but observers say investments in Strike and other ECNs are a way for firms to hedge their bets in the rapidly changing marketplace.
Arthur Pacheco, Strike's president and chief executive who came out of Bear Stearns, said during the
Putnam Lovell de Guardiola & Thornton
conference last month in San Francisco that the firm began primarily as an ECN for broker dealers but that the company's goal is to be a technology firm that changes with the market. "Plans for the future are considerably more aggressive than just an ECN," he said.
In fact, the securities business is morphing so quickly these days that, since Strike signed the deals a few weeks ago, two of its three new investors have agreed to takeovers.
Hull, one of the more technologically sophisticated trading firms, agreed to be
on Monday, and on Tuesday,
agreed to buy TIR to help fulfill its plans for international cross-border retail trading.
For TIR, Strike will give it exposure to ECNs and an outlet for its institutional order base, says Jarrett Lilien, TIR's chief executive. Lilien says some of the firm's clients already use TIR's existing electronic trading applications overseas.
"I really think that's the future of the business," Lilien says.
For E*Trade, which will pick up the stake as part of its planned $122 million-in-stock purchase of TIR, Strike will complement its 25% stake in Archipelago, another ECN in which Goldman and J.P. Morgan also own stakes.
"We don't see a conflict in also having a stake in Strike," says Judy Balint, E*Trade's international president.
According to one of the three people familiar with Strike's plans, Hull also won't flinch at having a stake in more than one ECN. Hull's future parent Goldman already owns a 25% stake in Archipelago and also owns about 10% of ECN
But it seems there's something else at stake that harks back to the old Wall Street days: good company.
TIR's Lilien says the fact that so many people are involved in ECNs these days is a plus in and of itself. "I've been on a couple of board-type conference calls, and it's really a great group of shareholders. I was pretty impressed."