This article was written by Konstantin Rabin of https://efxto.com
Even though forex is a truly global market, almost every country (especially in Europe) has its own trading preferences, market conditions, regulatory requirements and, most importantly, competitive conditions.
Hence, it is possible to draw an obvious conclusion – a broker’s success in a given country may not be so easily transferred to another country, even within the same region.
As I am currently residing in Poland, I would like to uncover the retail forex sector in this country and show how the competition is different here from the rest of the world.
How does the Polish forex market look?
Poland is certainly one of the most matured markets for the retail FX sector, not only in Europe but generally in the whole world. Don’t believe it?
You have most probably heard of FXCM, a company listed on NASDAQ and founded in 1999. The first retail FX brokerage in Poland, TMS Dom Maklerski, was founded in 1997.
While retail FX started flourishing as of 1996, Poland was one of the first countries to hop on the FX train. Apart from TMS, Poland is also a home country for one the world’s largest brokerage companies – XTB, aka X-Trade Brokers, founded in 2002. Other brokers, like Admiral Markets, have been represented in Poland for around a decade already.
Why is it special?
Here you may ask yourself – “This looks like a regular competition in other countries, how is it different?”.
Well, a few years ago things started to change drastically. While brokers were usually competing against each other, additional competition came from quite an unexpected sector – banking.
In most countries (or at least the ones I’ve been living in), banks stay away from online currency and CFDs trading due to its notorious reputation. However, banks in Poland are not really squeamish, especially considering the fact that most of them have already established their stock broking divisions.
Case study: Alior
Poland is not only a home of innovative FX brokers, but it is also a country where quite a few highly innovative banks have appeared within the last decade. One such company is Alior Bank, a bank that delivered an award-winning technology (Alior Sync), a bank that launched one of the most popular online currency exchanges, and a bank that has taken quite a large slice of the retail FX pie from Polish online brokers, being the first banking broker in Poland to offer leveraged FX trading to its retail clients.
How did the bank do it?
Banks have numerous advantages over regular brokers:
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- Client Base
And, even though the above can significantly contribute to success in establishing brokerage services, Alior Bank decided to focus on technology.
Instead of integrating with MT4, cTrader or any other platform that is designed only for FX and CFD trading, Alior Bank started with a multi-asset platform – Protrader. This also allowed Alior bank to differentiate itself from the direct competition, such as mBank, a company that offered FX trading to its clients via MT4.
This has provided Alior Bank with a few obvious advantages over both banking and broker competitors.
As Protrader supports currency pairs, equities, futures, CFDs and vanilla options and other instruments, Alior Bank could offer online trading services without being associated directly with forex, which is an important branding requirement for the banks.
Next to this, due to a possibility of integrating an extensive range of trading instruments, it is possible for Alior Bank to benefit from cross-selling of financial products: traders that are not happy with FX trading could, potentially, move into stocks and vice versa.
This can be done easily by giving access to all of the instruments within a single platform and single account, and it does not require a client to download any additional software, create new accounts and so on.
Apart from that, Alior Bank was the first company to launch Protrader platform in Poland. This way Alior got a chance to show itself as an innovative company once again.
There are more banks in Poland that offer FX trading services to their clients, yet many of them decided to go for a regular MetaTrader setup.
In contrast to Alior’s setup, mBank supplies FX trading via MT4, yet it is not nearly as successful despite its competitive offer. However, considering that mBank operates a nearly branchless model, perhaps the introduction of FX products was rather a move to offer a needed service for existing clients rather than an attempt to capture a new market share.
From another perspective, Noble Markets (a brand of Noble Securities) went a different way. Instead of supplying just another MT4 setup or relying on a newer, cutting-edge technology like Protrader, it offered both MT4 and MT5 to its clients.
Considering the fact that only a very limited number of brokers that are active in Poland have started to offer live MT5 trading, this can certainly be considered as differentiation via innovation.
On top of that, unlike most MT5 brokers that supply the same set of trading products on a newer platform, Noble Markets actually offers real stock and futures trading. This way the bank can actually move all of the day traders that are familiar with FX trading, yet tired of it, to a new market under a similar platform.
Competition in the retail FX sector is certainly much tougher in the matured markets, however, banks seem to have an easier time onboarding currency traders. When the competition is as severe as it is in Poland, innovation becomes a game changer.