Education Corner


What is a consolidated tape?

The US has operated a consolidated tape since the 1970s while the EU and UK continue to develop their own equivalents

Education corner / Regulation / What is a consolidated tape?


A consolidated tape is a foundational piece of data infrastructure providing an amalgamated view of pricing and traded volumes of securities – such as equities, bonds or ETFs – across venues within a defined region. 

A consolidated tape is comprised of an electronic system that compiles data from exchanges, broker-dealers and alternative systems on – ideally – real-time prices and volumes across multiple layers of visibility, on a pre-and-post-trade basis. 

To date, the only established example of a cross-bourse tape is in the US, with the Consolidated Tape Association (CTA) overseeing the dissemination of real-time trade pricing and volume data across ‘Network A’ listed securities on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and ‘Network B’ securities listed on NYSE Arca, NYSE American, Bats and other regional exchanges. 

CTA umbrella organisations – the Consolidated Tape System (CTS) and Consolidated Quote System (CQS) were launched in 1976 and 1978, respectively. Since then, all Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered exchanges and venues trading Network A and Network B securities have provided data to a central consolidator for data streams to be produced and distributed. 

An EU consolidated tape

In Europe, the continent is still without a consolidated data feed, almost five decades after the introduction of the infrastructure in the US. 

The EU started revisiting the subject in 2019 as part of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) review of the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II), followed by a study on the creation of a tape and the Capital Markets Union action plan in 2020. 

In 2021, progress continued with a public consultation, impact assessment and legislative proposals to amend the Markets in Financial Instruments Regulation (MiFIR). 

A political agreement between the EU’s three political chambers was finally reached in June 2023, defining the theoretical boundaries of what should be included within the bloc’s consolidated tape for equities and ETFs, with a tape for bonds to be established separately. 

Following debate between different camps – buy and sell-side market participants on one side and exchange providers on the other – the compromised vision for the EU’s tape notably includes pre-trade data but only a single layer of liquidity and no venue attribution. 

The latter component, venue attribution, enables onlookers to ascertain which venue pricing and volume data can be attributed to and already exists in the US consolidated tape, meaning the EU tape in its current form would start at a disadvantage on this front. 

Debates are ongoing about the commercial viability and use case for the EU’s initial vision for a tape, however, there is scope for changes to be made. 

For instance, the European Commission proposed a two-tier basic-premium model offering differing depths of data. Also, there is potential for the goalposts of the infrastructure to change after a tape for equities and ETFs has already gone live, with a review of its content due to occur in June 2026. 

This window for change also poses a unique challenge, with potential operators of the infrastructure bidding to run a tape they do not yet know the final form of. 

The UK consolidated tape

With the UK not included in the EU’s CMU ambitions, the country’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) published draft proposals in July 2023 to establish a consolidated tape for bonds in the UK.

In December 2020, the regulator updated its framework with key details including requiring the provider of the tape to make payments to data providers to cover their costs of connecting to the infrastructure, requiring the tape provider to offer a historical data service and preventing the provider’s ability to offer ‘value-added’ services.

The FCA said it will provide updates on an equities tape later in 2024, with market participants advising this infrastructure should cover shares, depository receipts and exchange-traded products (ETPs).

Key takeaways

  • A consolidated tape is an infrastructure offering an amalgamated view of prices and trading volumes

  • All SEC registered exchanges have provided data to the US central consolidator since the 1970s

  • Europe and the UK are in the process of establishing their consolidated tapes

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