Having run multiple vendor selection "beauty pageants" for customers as well as designing business rules for major trade surveillance software vendors, the answer is not a simple "of course you do". Because there is a simple fact, trade surveillance software automates finding the needle in the haystack. So, the first question is - do you have a haystack that needs to be sorted?
That is not as "well, duh" a statement as it seems. DCM has consulted with clients where they look at our initial data request and say "what does this have to do with anything?"
For example, a primary question is "how many different products do you trade and how many trades do you execute a week or month - both on average and maximum activity"? Let's see why that is important.
Let's assume a buyer is hedging their supply pricing - all of their purchases are index related and they are buying futures to lock in prices. They execute no more than 100 trades per month which many buy side companies may think as a huge number - I have seen a dozen trades per year for some clients. Let's say they are trading Henry Hub natural gas and two power contract locations. That would mean they execute roughly 33 trades per month per contract. Over 20 business days, that is less than 2 executions per day. That level of activity can be handled in Excel spreadsheets. Even developing simple spoofing models could be done in VBA or Python or something simple. It only would require getting your order level data from your exchange activity (you get one free data feed for this). How much time, effort, and cost is this? Not a lot.
The rationale for a trade surveillance solution becomes much more compelling when you start talking about hundreds of trades per day and thousands of orders per day across twenty or thirty or forty products on three or four or five exchanges. Now, to continue the analogy, you have multiple haystacks in multiple fields and trade surveillance cuts down on the number of people you have to have sorting through the haystacks. If you have a backyard garden, you don't need a John Deere tractor and combine to grow your veggies - if you have 100,000 acres under cultivation, you better have a lot more.
Next week we will talk about the utility of trade surveillance software in physical energy markets (hint - the answer will depend on where you trade these products).