A guide to algorithmic trading options in the UK

Charlotte Miller

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A guide to algorithmic trading options in the UK

If you live in the UK and are looking to get started in algorithmic options trading, there are a few things you need to know. Algorithmic trading, also known as algo trading or black box trading, is a system that uses computerised models to make trades on behalf of the trader automatically. This type of complicated trading has become increasingly popular as technology has advanced and more traders have access to sophisticated software and data.

One of the benefits of algorithmic trading is that it helps traders make logical trading decisions, which can help them avoid costly trading mistakes often made when trading on gut feeling or emotion. Algorithmic trading can also help reduce transaction costs as trades are executed automatically at the best price.

Traders can use algorithmic trading for various purposes, including market making, arbitrage and trend following. 

  • Market-making algorithms aim to provide liquidity to the market by posting bids and offers. 
  • Arbitrage algorithms exploit differences in prices between exchanges or different asset classes. 
  • Trend-following algorithms attempt to profit from momentum in the market.

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How to start algo trading:

  • You will need a computer with an internet connection that can access your trading platform and allow you to place trades.
  • Access to a trading platform, which is where you will execute your trades. Some platforms require you to download software, while others can be accessed directly through your web browser.
  • You need an account with a broker that offers algorithmic trading. Make sure to check what fees they charge and what features their platform offers before opening an account.
  • You will also need data to develop and backtest your algorithms. This data can be sourced from exchanges, brokers or third-party providers.
  • Once you have all of the above, you are ready to start developing and testing your algorithms. When developing an algorithm, you must consider market conditions, transaction costs and risk tolerance.
  • Once you have developed and tested your algorithm, you must implement it on your trading platform. This process can vary depending on the platform you are using.
  • Finally, you will need to monitor your algorithm to ensure it performs as expected, which includes keeping an eye on market conditions and changing your algorithm if needed.

How can you use algorithms to trade options?

Options are derivative, meaning their value is derived from an underlying asset. The UK’s most common underlying assets for options trading are stocks, indexes and commodities.

UK traders can trade options independently or as part of a more complex strategy. Traders can use algorithmic trading to trade both simple and complex option strategies. 

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Some common option strategies that can be traded using algorithms include:

  • Buying or selling call or put options to bet on the underlying asset’s direction.
  • Writing covered calls to generate income from an underlying asset you already own. 
  • Creating a collar strategy to protect against downside risk while allowing for upside potential.

What are the drawbacks?

Algorithmic trading is not without its risks. The most significant risk is that of technology failure. If your computer or platform fails, you might miss out on actual trades or even lose money.

Another risk is that of market manipulation. Algorithms can be programmed to place trades based on false or inaccurate data, which can result in losses for the trader. It’s also important to remember that algorithmic trading does not guarantee success. While it can assist you in making rational decisions as well as executing trades quickly and efficiently, it’s still up to you to come up with a sound strategy.

If you’re new to algorithmic trading, starting with small amounts of capital and practising with a demo account before risking real money is essential. This can help you to learn the ropes and get comfortable with the process before putting your capital at risk.


Algorithmic trading can be a helpful tool for traders, but it’s important to remember that it doesn’t guarantee success. It’s crucial to practise with a demo account before putting real money on the line. Be sure to monitor your algorithms carefully to ensure they perform as expected. When done correctly, algorithmic trading can help you execute trades quickly and efficiently.