Forex Broker 101
There are many forex brokers in the retail forex market these days, and most of them call themselves the best in the entire market. It can be very challenging task to sort out between them seeking those that are best suited to your needs, however,
I have learned some of most key features of a trusted broker by reviewing some of the most reliable brokers in the market. Here I would like to explain the importance of the various criteria according to which you can screen the brokers we have reviewed, and make your choices. Due to the vast diversity of options, it is not possible to speak of a broker who is perfect for all kinds of traders. Instead, you should carefully consider your own expectations from trading, and compare that with what is offered by the broker, and choose the one that is best suited to your needs.
What is the point of opening a forex account if the funds we deposit will be unsafe with the broker, or worse yet, will be stolen and misappropriated? What is the logic of studying analysis and currency fundamentals if the profits that we make are pilfered by shameless crooks, or squandered by irresponsible individuals who cannot even manage themselves decently?
Thus, the first necessity for the right broker must be the safe and reliable track record of the firm. On the other hand, it is clear that the retail trader possesses neither the tools, the time, nor the expertise for determining which of the brokers are reliable, and which are not. Fortunately, the regulatory authorities in this country and in other financial centers of the world do their best for screening and weeding out the unreliable ones among the many decent firms. Our best course is to ensure that the broker we choose is a member of NFA, and is registered with CFTC in the US, and with other relevant authorities in other parts of the world.
And last but not least, to make the task even easier for you, we have reviewed some of what we believe to be the best and most reliable firms in the market. All that you need to do is to go and check out the relevant section.
Unavoidably, the second most important variable in our equation for comparing brokers is the initial deposit requirement. Many traders prefer to begin their careers by risking very small amounts which leads them to seek the broker offering the lowest initial deposit requirement naturally. This reasoning certainly has its merits; however, the initial deposit requirement should in fact be one of the last considerations in choosing the best broker for you, unless you really have a very small amount of capital that you want to risk for forex trading.
A serious broker offering excellent services may choose to keep the initial deposit requirement relatively high (around $500, for example) in order to ensure that the clients are serious about their trading practices. In addition, forex is usually so volatile that a less than optimally capitalized account is highly likely to be wiped out during the ordinary fluctuations in the market. We have already discussed the difficulties associated with undercapitalization, and those who have read that article should have little trouble in understanding the reasons behind our deemphasizing the importance of initial deposit requirements.
It is self-evident that a beginning trader should only risk the amount that he can comfortably afford to lose. In that sense, the initial deposit requirement of the broker should never be more than what we can afford. On the other hand, beginning our career with a pittance like $10-50, and trading at 10:1 leverage cannot be considered a wise choice. Trading with such small sums is similar to trading in a demo account, and the emotional lessons gained will probably be of little value.
Spreads are extremely important for forex traders, seasoned, or novice. Since the broker usually receives the compensation for its services by widening the bid-ask spread beyond the quoted values in the wholesale interbank market, a wide bid-ask spread represents a larger amount of money leaving your pockets, and entering those of the broker’s. You pay this fee regardless of the profit or loss you make with your trade: so there’s always good sense in ensuring that you choose the broker which offers one of the more competitive spreads in the market. Sometimes it may be advisable to open an account with a broker that charges slightly higher spreads in exchange for the safety offered by its long history and track record. But even in that case, a spread beyond three for the EURUSD pair, for example, is not a very good idea.
Deposits and Withdrawals
It is not a good idea to trade forex if you cannot withdraw your earnings with ease. Conversely, the broker must facilitate your termination of the account in case that you’re not entirely satisfied with the services offered, regardless of the reasons. This should be non-negotiable: since the broker is only the custodian of your funds, there’s no justification for any unreasonable delays or excuses when you make the request to withdraw your funds.
Similarly, you, as the client, should have no headaches at all when depositing funds with the broker. Come to think of it: if the broker is not even capable of ensuring that your deposit process is smooth, how likely is he to guarantee a painless and satisfactory trading experience for you?
Margin requirement and leverage ratios are the second most important aspect that must be considered during the choice of the broker. For the beginner, the lower the leverage the better. Since higher leverage is only advisable for traders with a proven track record of profits and success, the beginner should be uninterested in the maximum leverage offered by a broker. Instead, since he must be allowed to get used to leverage on a step-by-step basis, the minimum leverage available is far more useful as a criterion.
For an experienced trader, evaluating the value of a high leverage options can be a bit more different. Since, by definition, successful traders use highly divergent techniques in their trades, there is no general rule for determining the optimal leverage ratio for a seasoned trader. However, for traders who plan to hold a position for long term, 10-to-1 may well be the highest sensible value.
In short, beginners should choose brokers that offer the lowest minimum leverage option, and the greatest customizability. With such a setup, it is possible to increase leverage gradually, in tandem with our improving and developing skills.
In online forex trading, almost all activity is conducted through the trading software. Indeed, for a safe trading experience, this is also a must: in order to ensure that the broker doesn’t temper with your trades, and misquote currency prices to you, you should always seek those offers which allow the greatest automation, and reduce human interference to the lowest level possible. This is only possible with a successfully implemented trading platform.
What should you look for when choosing the trading platform? Does it offer a wide array of charting tools and technical indicators for evaluating the price action? What about financial news? Is the interface clean and uncluttered? Since you may spend a long time looking at the graphics and examining charts, is the appearance of the platform physically pleasing and relaxing?
Are the servers of the broker reliable? Do you have connection problems in the middle of something important while using the demo account? How wide are the spreads during market volatility and news releases? Is slippage and misquoting a problem? Can you customize the platform to suit your trading needs and language requirements? Does the platform receive frequent updates and bug fixes?
These are the most basic issues related to the trading platform. Needless to say, an advanced, easy-to-use, and uncomplicated trading platform can make the task of the beginner a lot easier. But even the seasoned traders will find that using a well-crafted, well-maintained forex software can greatly reduce the element of stress during trading.
Software is prone to generating errors. This has always been the case, and will remain so for the foreseeable future. When there are problems with the trading software, or delays, or issues with deposits and withdrawals, you will need to seek the aid of the customer service.
A friendly, patient, and helpful customer service can be profit multiplier if used correctly. In those cases where the customer service is run by individuals with trading experience and understanding of economics and analysis, you can even hasten the learning process by asking questions.
Before opening your account, it is perhaps a good idea to read our reviews on customer service of various brokers to receive a preliminary impression of how competent the people are. While we cannot just pick a broker because its customer service department is professional, success in this department is certainly a promising sign for overall competence.
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.
Some brokers offer a large number of account packages. Others choose to offer one package with many customization options. In general, the number of account packages is not very important, provided that the broker offers a highly customizable main offer with adjustable leverage and margin requirements suitable to the needs of clients from different backgrounds and experience levels.
Finally, it is a good idea to choose a broker that offers the widest array of tradable currencies. In evaluating the currency pairs offered, you should try to make sure that different currency pairs of different classifications are available, instead of concentrating on just the number of the total offers. For example, if a broker offers three pairs of major economic powers, three pairs of emerging nations with floating currencies, three of fixed or pegged currencies, and three rare pairs (like the Saudi Riyal, or the Chinese Yuan), the offer is much better than that of a firm which offers 12 pairs all of which belong to major, developed economies.
Such details are especially important for the experienced trader, but the beginner can focus on the more important, basic aspects of the broker’s package before worrying about the intricacies of the various currency pairs on offer.