Time is money: Timing in Financial Networks

5 mins read

Having recently attended a series of webinars titled ‘Time and Sync in Vertical Industries’ covering Broadcasting, Automotive, Power and Finance, it continues to amaze me just how many industries rely on extremely tight time synchronization. I found one of the talks on ‘Timing in Financial Networks’ to be especially fascinating. The expert spoke about the concept of sovereign time. This was the idea that regulators specify the time reference to which you must synchronize. To paraphrase him, ‘it is never just a simple matter of synchronizing to UTC’.

Regulatory agencies may specify sync accuracy to between 50ms and 100µs but this is just the start. Timestamps need to have a resolution of 1µs in many cases. He also pointed out that even greater accuracy is required within Financial Networks to maintain data coherency when databases are maintained not just across a datacenter but across multiple datacenters globally. This is a problem shared by all large networks today.

1588-2019 offers some genuine options to be secure and preserve timing precision for PTP. However, a case has been made for stricter security measures even if they affect timing – better that than the whole network being compromised!

That said, while not a regulatory requirement, ultrahigh speed trading applications are pursuing accuracies measured in 10s of nanoseconds – yet another driver for increasingly precise synchronization.

When asked if CEOs of financial companies are aware of the importance of time synchronization to their business, he pointed out that yes they are and in fact the whole issue has become so mainstream that it is now popping up in airline magazines. It may be a while until we can check that data point!

I think we all know at some level that accurate and regulated time synchronization keeps honest people honest in this industry but the expert concluded that some of the big brokerages transact billions if not a trillion dollars a day and that being forced to stop trading for even a day due to sync issues could have a devastating impact on a particular countries economy that day.

Time really is money.

Related products: Sentinel