It’s a given that we all bash MetaTrader 4 at some time or another. It doesn’t do this or it doesn’t do that. Natively it was created exclusively for market making, and integrating STP means utilizing some liquidity bridging hacks. Reporting of individual trades isn’t available in real time. But the bottom line is that despite the platform’s disadvantages, it remains synonymous with the online retail forex industry, with around 45% of global volumes (excluding Japan) transacted on the platform. Despite other platforms arriving as meaningful challengers, MetaTrader’s real competitor are broker proprietary platforms. But even in that battle, MetaTrader is gaining meaningful momentum as broker’s with their own platforms such as IG Markets, Saxo Bank, and FXCM have launched MT4 in recent years.
But, if you had to show one point that shows just how strong MT4’s position in the market is, it’s the fact that it is a downloadable platform in the new world of cloud computing and mobile technology. According to statistics from Comscore, between the latter part of 2013 and middle of 2014, mobile surpassed desktop for both consumption of the internet in minutes and number of users.
MetaTrader accounts for around 45% of all non-Japanese online retail forex and CFD trading
Among the largest corporations in the world, the mobile and app trend has caused them to reorganize their businesses and how they market to the world. Perhaps the greatest example is at Microsoft, the software company dominated by its downloadable Windows and Office Suite products. Evolving to fit user preferences, they have pivoted their focus towards mobile and the cloud, creating the Office 365 cloud offering as well as a new hybrid operating system with Windows 8. But, despite the trend towards the cloud, MetaTrader hasn’t shown any shown signs of downloads slowing down.
During the first day of last week’s iFX Expo, panelists during the Business Trends panel were asked about whether MT4 was vulnerable to the move towards mobile trading and overall public sentiment against downloadable desktop products (Editor’s note: author was the moderator of the panel). Panelists, which included representatives from Divisa Capital and CFH Group that include MT4 in their white label solutions, answered that the platform’s strong position in the industry allows it to be the exception to the mobile trend. Part of that appeal is the uptake of EA’s being developed, distributed and sold by third parties both through MetaQuotes and externally. With EA’s, customers can operate automatic trading strategies on the downloadable desktop platform.
The continuation of desktop growth for MT4 occurs even as brokers such as CMC Markets, OANDA, and Saxo Bank have reported greater than 50% penetration of their mobile platforms among customers, as well as reports of over 30% in volumes originated from these trading apps. Therefore, while every major broker platform is seeing mobile trading as a major component of their business model, MT4 remains strong without it.
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One could counter that MetaQuotes does provide a mobile version of MT4 for smartphones and tablets. However, while concrete usage figures are difficult to calculate as MT4 Manager reports don’t naturally segregate between desktop and app volumes, rough estimates are that the app only composew between 5-10% of trading.
Another interesting statistic that reveals the importance of mobile, were search statistics from Google. Presented by Panos Lamprakos, Forex Industry Manager at Google, during the second day of the iFX Expo, he showed that forex related searches of top 20 keywords was nearing parity between desktop and non-desktop devices. (On a side note, interestingly enough, the mobile search trend wasn’t nearly as strong in binary option)
40-50% of broker leads arrive from mobile devices
According to Lamprakos’s research, desktop searches account for around 60% of forex industry searches, with many Asian and some Middle Eastern countries being closer to 50%. On this, Lamprakos noted that when companies ask for his advice of which are the hot Asian markets to enter, he then asks what type of mobile offering do they have? With around 40-50% of leads reaching brokers on mobile devices, not having a suitable platform to match their internet consumption preferences poses greater challenges to convert these potential traders.
Nonetheless, an executive from a MT4 broker pointed out to Lamprakos that their internal research showed very little interest for mobile trading among their customers. Following up with the executive after the Google presentation, he pointed out that due to lack of demand the broker had discontinued a mobile platform they had licensed, but continue to support the simpler iOS and Android app available from MetaQuotes.
Overall, the industry may have different reasons to explain the success of MetaTrader 4. Regardless of what is behind its domination, user statistics of continued desktop downloads in the face of rising mobile internet uptake, clearly show that MT4 is doing a great job of positioning itself as the de-facto platform of the online retail trading industry.