Imagine a world in which all FX brokers have your best interests at heart, show you the quick and easy way to astronomical profits, the market moves only in your favour and your earnings appear in your bank account as if by magic… Sounds good, right?
If only this were the case. But, as anyone of us who has been in this industry for more than a minute knows only too well, it is sadly not.
how do you choose your first broker? Or, if you’ve been trading for a while, how do you choose a new one?
If you’re in the process of trying to find a FX broker, chances are you belong to one of two categories. You either have some (or a lot of) trading experience and consider yourself a FX veteran who is (or isn’t) disappointed with their current broker and are looking for a better one, or you belong to the ‘newbie category’.
If so, you’re probably feeling a little bit confused, and rightfully so. In what is certainly a thriving industry, with new brokers popping up left and right, upset traders in seemingly every corner of the web and conflicting reviews wherever you look, it’d be almost peculiar if you didn’t feel this way.
So, how do you choose your first broker? Or, if you’ve been trading for a while, how do you choose a new one? How do you overcome confusion, uncertainty and exasperation and step into that beautiful peace of mind that comes with finding a broker that is actually not looking to steal your money? Let’s see:
1. Regulation, regulation, regulation
FX trading 101: Find a broker that is regulated. Ideally, find a broker that is regulated by an authority people have actually heard of, like the UK Financial Conduct Authority (‘FCA’).
If a broker has a licence to operate, this ensures that they are expected to meet the highest of standards and very specific capital requirements at all times, that they handle deposits as required by legislation and not as per your worst nightmare, and that they act in accordance with all accepted codes of conduct.
Truth is, online forums are brimming with horror stories of traders who signed up with unregulated brokers and never saw their money again. You don’t want to become yet one more scam victim now do you?
2. Word of the moment: Transparency
It all seems to be about transparency nowadays, and there’s a good reason for this. A broker that is transparent is forthcoming about the procedures being followed, discloses clear (and coherent) metrics about their operations and, generally, doesn’t behave like there’s something (or a lot) to hide.
Before you register with a particular broker, however, it’d be wise to ask about other transaction costs, deposit and withdrawal fees
A number of brokers frequently publish their execution statistics, trading volumes and other details which may be of use to you, especially if you want to get an idea of a broker’s operations prior to opening an account with them.
3. Beware the hidden costs
Ok, the truth is there are no costs that are actually hidden, just costs waiting to be discovered, and discovered they will be. Costs are usually associated with a broker’s execution model, as well as with the quality of trade execution that is offered.
This is of course a lengthy subject to be discussed in detail in a future article but, for the time being, suffice it to say that it’s almost necessary that you familiarise yourself with how everything works.
You probably know that a broker will either charge you for the spread or charge a commission. Before you register with a particular broker, however, it’d be wise to ask about other transaction costs, deposit and withdrawal fees, as well as swap rates if you are planning on holding positions open overnight.
We should point out, though, that cheap doesn’t necessarily equal quality – lower spreads at Broker A don’t equal better trading conditions than those you may get at Broker B if they come with requotes or slippage (which may indeed make trading with Broker A more expensive than trading with B), and low transaction costs alone definitely do not make either broker good.
4. It’s all about fund safety
Yes, it really is. Do you really want to worry about whether you’ll ever get to see your deposited funds or profits? Now, you should bear in mind that fund safety and segregation is usually associated with whether or not a broker is regulated, and reputable brokers usually keep client funds in separate bank accounts in major banks. Such brokers are usually also members of compensation schemes to ensure that your funds are further protected, should disaster strike.
5. The details
see which instruments are available for trading, learn about available leverage
Learning more details about the trading conditions at different brokers could really take a while, but it’s a necessary step you just have to take.
Very simply put, you should compare the downloadable, web-based and mobile platforms offered, see which instruments are available for trading, learn about available leverage and whether you can trade mini or micro lots, and ask if hedging, scalping, algos or anything else you have in mind are permitted.
6. And… customer support
In case you’re not already aware of it, your broker’s Customer Support Team will soon turn out to be more important than you ever thought possible, simply because there will come a time in your trading career when you will have a question or two, a concern or a request, and you will want to have someone to speak to.
So consider the following: does the broker you’re thinking of registering with offer prompt and reliable support? Can you contact Support Officers via not only email but also telephone and live chat? Are they available at any given moment and capable of answering your questions? *Hint: The answer to the above questions should be ‘yes’.
To sum up, while the scenario you’re hoping for is something akin to what was described at the beginning of this article, scenarios you want to avoid have to do with you spending sleepless nights worrying about your broker’s actions, your funds’ safety and the quality of execution you’re receiving. To get a taste of what to expect you can sign up for a demo account, which is a service that many brokers offer and is usually free of charge.
Learn more about the right broker for you here!