February volumes were in line January’s totals and with 2020 monthly averages. Profits, on the other hand, were much improved over January’s subpar figures. Gold was the primary driver of profitability as the majority of retail clients were long into sharp downward movements early and late in the month. GBP pairs were also profitable for brokers as they broke from January ranges. Unlike other instruments, indices were primarily range bound and therefore not a consistent source of profits for most brokers.
FNG Excusive Interview
London based Prime-of-Prime institutional FX services provider IS Prime set up shop in Hong Kong four years ago, and has seen significant growth as the Asia region has continued its emergence on the global FX scene. FX News Group spoke to Will Robbins, IS Prime’s Head of Asia in Hong Kong, to find out more about the trends in the region and the reasons behind the firm’s success.
January volumes were in line with 2020 monthly averages, but profits slipped rather markedly. Losses were driven by a rebound in USD and EUR retracement. Gold volumes were up primarily from its move lower early in January, and gold showed consistent profitability for brokers overall during the month. The latter part of the month was relatively flat but closed with an uptick in volume due to US equity volatility impacting the broad market.
Activity in the first two weeks of December was enough to make the month a relatively strong one for brokers despite volatility waning as the month progressed. Early month profitability was driven by retail clients shorting EURUSD into what ended up being a broad-based USD selloff. As the holidays approached, markets became range bound and profitability and volumes suffered, but full month figures ended up in line with 2020 averages.
22 December 2020 – embargoed until 14.30 GMT - IS Prime, part of ISAM Capital Markets, has partnered with FDCTech to extend its liquidity distribution to the innovative Condor FX Pro trading platform.
Buoyed by early month volatility that arose surrounding vaccine news, November volumes exceeded October’s even though activity trailed off sharply late in the month. The vaccine news prompted a sharp gold selloff that many brokers were on the wrong side of, but total monthly profits far exceeded the depressed figures from October and finished in line with 2020 monthly averages. December is historically a slow month in the markets, but with Covid cases still surging and a Brexit deadline looming, this year could prove to be an anomaly.
A key and often overlooked issue that we have been seeing time and time again, with LPs and brokers alike, is that of inaccurate market data. In times of extreme market volatility and high volumes, such as we have experienced recently over the US election results and the announcements in the press regarding a Covid-19 vaccine, these issues have become particularly apparent.
September volumes slumped slightly from August figures, and profits dipped as well. However, most brokers were able to post respectable overall statistics due to relatively strong early to mid-month gains. The month also saw a reversal from August trends, with equity indices pulling back and both oil and gold selling off. The movement in gold drove the majority of PL volatility during the month.
Retail brokers generally state that around 75% of retail investors lose money - the majority of these losses are in the spread value of their trades (because they are trading on wide spreads) rather than because they call the market wrong.
However, studies have shown that over the long-term (if you take out transaction costs and spreads), clients’ trading P&L is generally no better or worse than that of their brokers.
Whenever a firm decides to work with a new Prime of Prime (PoP), there are a number of steps involved and various factors to consider. Firms – particularly retail brokers servicing their own end clients - may not realise that the way the PoP approaches their initial onboarding process, their technology integration and their continued, ongoing support, will all become key factors in the success or failure of their business and their ability to service their own end clients.
After a relatively quiet start to the month, the second half of July brought strong profits for brokers, allowing most to far exceed the results seen in June. Although volumes were only up marginally from the prior month, revenues were robust because of broad-based USD selling and the late month rally in metals. By the beginning of August, metals had reached all time highs and EURUSD was at a level not seen for 16 months.
June profits and volumes were front-loaded with the bulk of PL in the first 10 days of the month, primarily due to broad-based USD selling. Profitability in that period was focused in EUR and JPY pairs, along with indices and gold. Mid-month activity was relatively flat, but the month finished well primarily because of the continuation of the gold rally. Overall, both profits and volumes recovered well from the lows seen in May.
In a follow-up to my recent post on Aggregation & Spreads: The Race to Zero, I’d like to drill down on the best practices that we use to help brokers distinguish between true retail flow and institutional or proprietary trading flow.
How can they tell which is which, and what can they do to ensure they are receiving the appropriate liquidity for each?
May volumes were very similar to April totals, but still far below the highs reached in February and March. Although volumes were in line with April, profits were far lower. Losses in oil suppressed profitability in the early weeks of May as the majority of retail clients held their long positions into the rally at the start of the month. Movements in indices later in May helped salvage respectable, though below average, overall profits for the month.
In the last year we have seen a dramatic fall in interest from our clients and prospects, particularly retail brokers, in “True Prime of Prime” offerings , i.e. where a broker uses a Prime of Prime (PoP) purely as a credit intermediary and has ‘direct’ relationships with Tier1 Liquidity Providers (LPs).
Following IS Prime’s recent announcement about our partnership with Pelican Trading to integrate their social copy-trading technology into our trading platforms, it’s worth exploring some of the potential issues that copy trading can raise for both retail brokers and Liquidity Providers (LPs), and how IS Prime helps address those issues.
April saw broker volumes fall off significantly from the near-record numbers recorded in February and March. Profits, though down as well, were respectable as a result primarily of mid-month moves in oil markets that saw prices fall briefly into negative territory. Profits were also buoyed by movements in gold and US indices. Oil prices will likely be in focus again in May as we approach the expiration of this month’s futures contract.
The recent rise in market volatility has left all brokers susceptible to being taken advantage of by predatory traders but this is particularly true for startups and smaller brokers. While the opportunities for traders to attempt to exploit brokers have always existed, current market conditions have exacerbated the risk with strategies ranging from weekend gap loading to depth of book and spread arbitrage.
Volume totals in March matched the strong numbers from February, though daily figures trailed off late in the month. Daily profit figures also softened in the second half of the month, but monthly totals exceeded February as volatility in a broad range of markets brought strong early month results. After the turbulent market movements in February and March, volatility will likely continue while markets try to discover their true bottom.
Recently, there have been some new offerings coming on to the market offering retail brokers direct access to liquidity. The implication is that by accessing the primary market “directly”, the broker will get better trading terms.
This is actually not the case, and it shows a fundamental lack of understanding on the part of the technology companies who are providing the offering, and even more surprisingly, the “Prime of Primes” who are “clearing"it.
3 March 2020 – London headquartered IS Prime is the 15th fastest growing financial services company in Europe, according to the Financial Times’ list of Europe’s 1000 fastest growing companies, published on FT.com on 2 March 2020.
February was an excellent month for brokers as Covid-19 coronavirus fears brought volatility to a wide range of markets. Volumes were up substantially from January, with some brokers reaching record monthly totals.
Profits were also robust, driven primarily by late month declines in stock indices and gold. With the uncertainty surrounding coronavirus continuing, the volatility may persist well into March, if not longer.
2020 is off to a strong start as volumes and profits rebounded from a pedestrian month of December.
Early month profits were driven primarily by Gold, and the month finished strong on late month movements in the Euro. Indices also produced profits throughout the month as reactions to the spread of the coronavirus added volatility to equity markets.
When the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) introduced its new trading rules in 2018, retail brokers had to rethink their strategies due to the more demanding regulatory environment and the corresponding squeeze in profits. In particular, following the Product Intervention Measures, brokers have been looking beyond Europe in order to diversify their client base and maintain volumes.
Liquidity is one of, if not the most important parts of a broker’s business and is one of its key differentiators - without the right pricing in the right products delivered in the right way it is extremely difficult for brokers to survive in this increasingly competitive environment. As a result, the proper assessment and selection of an FX Liquidity Provider is something that brokers should undertake very carefully.
At IS Risk Analytics, we oversee over 1 Trillion USD in notional volume on a monthly basis. This includes startup brokers, established powerhouses and everything in between.Within our client books we see all of the tricks malicious “retail traders” use to take advantage of brokers. This includes cross broker arbitrage, malicious Expert Advisors (EAs), spraying the market, spoofing, the list goes on.
When I sat on a panel at the FX Week conference in London alongside representatives from industry peers, we were all asked “how does the cost of your service compare to the cost of a Tier 1 PB?” The response of our peers was unanimous and astonishing, all of them stating that their service will be “a little more expensive” than a Tier 1 PB.
Today we were delighted to learn that IS Prime has been voted by readers of Profit and Loss as the Best FX Prime of Prime Services Provider, in their 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards, otherwise known as the FoXys.
Imagine the situation… you are sitting on the trading desk reviewing activity for the day and you come across a pocket of traders who were able to arbitrage your feed systematically. It has been a few hours since the transactions took place. The traders have already transferred the profits to linked accounts which have since withdrawn the funds. Now you must explain how this happened to your Head of Risk and CEO, who will undoubtedly not be pleased to hear the news.