IC Markets has become the latest broker that has decided to cover client negative balances. The decision to absolve clients who sustained negative balances from losses due to the Swiss franc’s volatility earlier this month has become a heated industry topic. On one hand, clients are in essence taking loans when they trade with margin with an obligation to cover the loan in the case of a loss. On the other hand, very few retail forex customers are aware that they could lose more than their deposit amount.
The question is especially an issue for brokers utilizing a straight-through processing model where each of their customer’s trades is hedged with external liquidity providers. As a result, client negative losses are losses that brokers have also absorbed with their liquidity providers. Failure to collect negative balances from their retail customers means they are sustaining an uncoverable loss with their counterparties.
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In IC Market’s case, the firm made a decision to forgive negative balances for 90% of their clients. Overall, similar to other Australian brokers who have a large concentration of their customer base in the APAC region, IC Markets wasn’t believed to have held large exposure to the Swiss franc. The firm confirmed this to Forex Magnates, adding that franc exposure was also reduced when the firm decreased leverage in franc forex pairs in December. They added that the majority of their negative balance exposure was limited to three account holders.