It seems that all the big trading firms out there use High-Frequency Trading (HFT) to make their transactions and maximize returns from portfolio investments. I was wondering if it is possible for individuals to set up their own HFT system, perhaps on a personal server or something?
The answer is to your question is somewhat complicated. You will be unable to compete with the firms traditionally associated with High Frequency Trading in any of their strategies. Most of these strategies which involve marketing making, latency arbitrage, and rebate collection. The amount of engineering required to build the infrastructure required to run this at scale makes it something which can only be undertaken by a team of highly skilled engineers. Indeed, the advantage of firms competing in this space such as TradeBot, TradeWorx, and Getco comes from this infrastructure as most of the strategies that are developed are necessarily simple due to the latency requirements.
Now if you expand the definition of HFT to include all computerized automated trading you most certainly can build strategies that are profitable. It is not something that you probably want to tackle on your own but I know of a couple of people that did go it alone successfully for a couple of years before joining an established firm to run a book for them.
In order to be successful you will most likely need to develop a unique strategies. The good news is because that you are trying to deploy a very tiny amount of capital you can engage in trades that larger firms would not because the strategies cannot hold enough capital relative to the firms capital base.
I am the co-founder of a small trading firm that successfully trades the US Equities and Equity Derivatives markets. A couple of things to note is that if you want to do this you should consider building a real business. Having some more smart brains around you will help. You don't need exchange colocation for all strategies. Many firms, including ours, colocate in a data center that simply has proximity to the exchanges data centers. You will need to keep things simple to be effective.
Don't except all the group think that this is impossible. It is possible although as a single individual it will be more difficult. It will require long, long hours as you climb the algorithmic trading learning curve. Good luck.
Nobody is going to stop you if you want to try that. But you should keep in mind that you have to invest a lot in getting the best hardware you can lay your hands on, best fail-safe connectivity to the exchanges, best trading algorithms and software that money can buy and loads of other stuff. This all needs quite a big amount of upfront investment without guaranteeing returns. That is why you see institutions with deep pockets i.e. banks and trading firms only involve themselves in HFT.
Yes you can, but to do so successfully, you need lots of money. You also need to be able to meet the criteria for being classified as a "professional trader" by the IRS. (If not, you'll be buried in paperwork.)
The fact that you're asking about it here probably means that you do not have enough money to succeed at HFT.
I just finished a high frequency trading project. Individuals can do it, but you need a lot of capital.
You can get a managed server in Times Square for $1500/month, giving you access to 90% of the US exchanges that matter, their data farms are within 3 milliseconds of distance (latency). You can also get more servers in the same building as the exchanges, if you know where to look ;)
thats all I can divulge good luck