Analysis of The Hummingbird Project movie

Analysis of The Hummingbird Project movie

Akshit Gupta

This article written by Akshit Gupta (ESSEC Business School, Master in Management, 2022) analyzes The Hummingbird Project movie.

Analysis of the movie

Also known as The Wall Street Project, the Canadian movie was released in 2018 featuring the evolution of high frequency trading and ultra-low latency direct market access (DMA) in one of the most developed financial markets in the world. The name ‘The Hummingbird Project’ is well suited as it relates to the time a hummingbird’s wing takes to beat. The title of the film impeccably connects with the project the movie is based upon. The movie portrays how the line between success and failure is sometimes very thin. It correlates with the SimTrade course as it teaches us how to make use of technology in markets and stay ahead of others.


Summary of the movie

The The Hummingbird Project movie starts by presenting Mr. Vincent Zaleski, a stockbroker working for Eva Torres, keen on convincing Mr. Bryan Taylor, an investor, on investing in his idea of installing fiber optic cables between the Kansas Stock Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange, at a distance of approximately 1,000 miles, to front-run the orders into the system giving a time benefit of at least 1 millisecond. The high frequency trading operation would have led to an increase in profits by millions of dollars.

Buying into Vincent’s idea, Mr. Bryan shows his faith in him. In order to execute the plan, Vincent convinces his cousin Anton Zaleski, a genius programmer, to resign from their current stockbroking firm, owned by Eva Torres, and work tirelessly to achieve the new feat.

Both the brothers start working on their dream project with Anton handling the technical aspects of the technology of improving his previously coded software and Vincent working on the ground for the installation of the fiber optic cables. Anton has previously coded a software that had the capability to run trades in 17 milliseconds and now, it is required to be brought below 16 milliseconds in order to gain from the system. Since success doesn’t come easy, they encounter many difficulties in attaining their dream.

Meanwhile, Eva becomes aware of their dream project and threatens Anton against using the proprietary software he developed while working for Eva. She also finds a student, at New York University, who wrote a research paper on boosting high-frequency trading using microwave pulses. Seeing a chance to beat Vincent and Anton, Eva immediately hires the student and begins with the building of a series of cell towers to make trades using microwave pulses. As a revenge for deceiving her, Eva gets Anton arrested by the FBI under charges of stock market fraud of utilizing proprietary software owned by Eva’s company.

While Vincent struggles with the digging and the installation of the cables, Eva’s company starts their operations using the microwave impulses, and thus, the front runs the market. Meanwhile, Anton being furious with the arrest unwinds a bug that he has installed in the software, used at Eva’s company, which results in a 20 second slowdown in the high-frequency trades leading to losses of millions of dollars. In order to regain access to her system and save her company, Eva agrees to take back the charges against Anton.

Due to delays and an unforeseen health condition, Vincent fails to roll out his fiber optics project resulting in losses to the investor.

The movie ends with Anton introducing a new idea to his cousin which can bring down the processing time to 9 milliseconds, named neutrino messaging.

Relevance to the SimTrade course

The The Hummingbird Project movie perfectly blends with the structure of present-day financial markets and shows how in just a matter of a few seconds, a person can gain or lose a great fortune. The concepts taught in the movie deals with ‘High-Frequency Trading’ and ‘Direct Market Access’ which are relatively new. These correlate with the courses on exchanging orders and market makers in the SimTrade course. These orders, if executed at ultra-high speed, can help in bringing liquidity to the market and narrow the bid-ask spread. If applied with great precision and knowledge, a trader can earn big fortunes using high-frequency trading which is changing the face of financial markets.

Most famous quotes from the movie

“But the thing is, if all traders use the same system, and have the same information, how do you beat the others? By having the fastest line” – Anton Zaleski

“High speed is not our priority. We don’t believe that making things faster makes things better.” – The Amish guy

“One millisecond faster!” – Anton Zaleski

Trailer of the movie

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About the author

Article written in October 2020 by Akshit GUPTA (ESSEC Business School, Master in Management, 2019-2022).

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