Market Makers & ECN’s Is the grass greener ?

Discussion in 'Forex Brokers' started by 4x Steven, Sep 15, 2006.

  1. -Here is a cut and paste from a thread in Forex Factory-

    Market Makers & ECN’s Is the grass greener ?

    This topic is discussed constantly by traders, journeyman and newcomers alike. And to answer the question we have to get to the truth, examine the differences and define our needs. This writings purpose is to bring what I have learned together in a manner that will save many from hours of searching, reading, trial and error.

    The Stage

    Broker complaints and debates have gone on since they have existed. But lately, this topic has been hotter than ever. Why? Because, things are changing. And, when you change things people get upset. Hey, my spreads never widened before or what the heck! I never got slipped like that! So, why is all of this happening now?

    Retail trading strategies around news have been changing. The little guys are getting in on the data game. It is not hard to see the tremendous profit potential possible on many of these economic reports. Some retail traders are getting news services, some are joining data release signal clubs and a large number are just straddling their favorite pair before the release.

    The market makers dilemma

    So, how does this change anything and why would ECN style brokers be any better? Well, the answer lies in the market makers liquidity providers and their relationship with the global interbank market. This is not so easily defined because these relation ships can come in many forms. But, this explanation will apply to most retail brokers.

    As most of you know, retail brokers are the counter party to all of your transactions. When trading on the exchanges, Joe sells and another member Mary buys and the exchange broker merely gets a commission for facilitating the deal. At BigretailFX when Joe buys BigretailFX is selling and when Joe sells BigretailFX is buying. BigretailFX may take Joe’s position and cover it with their liquidity provider, they may put it into a pool and then take a position with their liquidity provider that equals their total position or they may just hold it in house knowing that Joe is probably going to lose anyway. In any case, there is a step or most often two between Joe and the community of banks, hedge funds or other brokers that would have the other end of Joe’s position in an ECN type environment.

    These 1 or 2 steps are where the problems start for Joe’s market maker broker during high volatility trading such as economic releases. You see Joe’s broker may have promised him “fixed spreads”, “guaranteed fills”, and/or “zero slippage”. Or, they just may not have slipped him or widened his spreads in the past because it always worked out in their liquidity pools and they want to keep Joe happy.

    Then, suddenly, the world changes. More and more of BigretailFX’s customers start trading the news. And, at the same time they are start having incredible success because the market reactions have been very predictable and they have been educated on strategy. Now BigretailFX is in trouble, their business model is not working and they are loosing money like crazy during economic releases. Why? It is those darn 1 or 2 steps between Joe and the greater market. The fact is, good old BigretailFX is selling Joe and hundreds of their clients Euros when no one else in the Forex community would. And, you guessed it, no one will sell them to BigretailFX so they can cover either.

    So what does BigretailFX do? If you are a Forex trader, you know the answer oh so well. They widen their spreads, introduce slippage or just shut down during economic releases altogether.

    Suspicion and the want for something better

    When a trader clicks on buy or sell, he has an expectation of what he thinks will happen. When he ends up in a lesser position than he expected he thinks “What the ….? They screwed me!!!” We have each been there a time or twenty. This very experience starts the thought and from there on forward you are looking out for being “screwed”. So what now? You have decided that your broker is no good. You talk to your fellow traders and they say “I’m getting screwed too”. So, you all start searching. And everywhere you look it seems to be the same old thing. Why? Because everywhere you looked it was pretty much the same old business model.

    continued next post----
  2. --coninuation---

    Are ECNs our savior?

    Then one day a new player shows up with promises of a better deal. We have all heard the new sales pitch. “Spreads as low as 1 pip”,“No dealing desk”, “We never take positions against you”, “Straight through processing” and even “True interbank access”. Wow, woohoo this is just what we were waiting for! We quickly open a demo account and see the spreads. Man oh man, we are impressed! “Look at that! One pip on the pound!” But as we begin to try it out suddenly it is not exactly what we had assumed it would be.

    The ECN experience

    Let’s face it. We all create our expectations based on what we know. And, the fact is, most of us did not really know what to expect out there in the “real” market. So we thought the ECN style brokers will be just like the good ol’ days only days but with tighter spreads and no lousy, cheating dealing desk. This is where we come to terms with those ever present expectations.

    The first thing you find out when you open your ECN style account it that there is still slippage. But why? If there is no dealing desk to cheat us, why is there slippage? The reality is, in a true ECN environment,
    slippage is a misnomer. Nobody is slipping you. Your ECN style broker is merely providing you what you asked for. You ask for a market order to go long on the euro and that’s what you got. The problem is many of us had no clue what a real market place is about. We thought we could buy the euro at the price on the screen like a tomato with a price tag. Why do we think this? Because, BigretailFX and his competitors trained us to think this way. Retail brokers have spoon fed retail traders simplicity. Some wanted to make it as easy as possible for traders. Others used this trader ignorance of the real market and market prices to steal some additional profits. In a sense, they set themselves up for all of the dissatisfaction and suspicion to come.

    You see in real interbank networks, a market order is just that, a request for a euro at the market price. And the market price is not static. It is moving all of the time. Sometimes it is moving very fast. In those conditions, you may request a euro at 1.2750 but in the time it takes for you to push the button, route the order and match a buyer the price could be 1.2752 or in a really volatile market as during economic releases, the next seller might not be available until 1.2780. How many stupid people do you think are out there that want to sell a euro after the Federal Reserve just released a U. S. dollar negative statement? This is the reality of the real market. Sometimes there just isn’t a buyer at the price you want. Because we have been lied to, and some of us flat out cheated in the past, we immediately go into combat mode. “I can’t believe it! These guys are just as bad as the lousy market making broker I just got rid of!”. Well, no, probably not. They are just giving us what we asked for. Unfortunately for us, we didn’t really know what we were asking for.

    After a few days with your new ECN style platform you observe your first economic report. And the good news is that you don’t get the ridiculous 20,30 or even 50 pip fixed spread that popped up prior to the data on your BigretailFX platform. But the spreads do widen a few pips and the spread starts dancing like crazy, especially on the pound. The spreads widen, narrow and even invert in a frenzy. And for a few seconds before the release it just looks scary. Banks are pulling order and last minute speculators are taking positions. It looks dangerous because it is. Welcome to the cold cruel world of the real interbank networks. There are no guaranteed stop losses here. Just buyers and sellers and whatever the market will bear.

    Commissions are the next consideration. Unlike BigretailFX, the brokers profit is not hidden in the difference between your price and the brokers liquidity providers price. The Bid and Ask you see on the screen is representative of the prices offered in your ECN’s network. So in order for your ECN style broker to profit, they charge you a transaction fee or commission. While the commissions can vary, most retail ECN style brokers commissions average the equivalent of 1 to 2 pips per round turn depending on the currency pair. Just a little math will tell you that in order for your ECN style brokers spreads to be better that your old retail market maker, your ECN style broker must be showing a spread of 1or 2 pips or less. And this may or may not be the case when it is time for you to take a position. So are ECN style broker net spreads really better than your old market maker broker? Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

    So why all the praise for the ECNs?

    In a word, transparency. Or at least the promise of transparency. While some are initially attracted by the spreads, the big draw for ECNs is to see the real market. If we can see the real market, then no one can lie to us or cheat us. And for many, we just want a fair shake. But the thing that must be said here is that, we may have revealed, your old broker may not have been so bad after all. More specifically, your old broker may not have been out to cheat you. BigretailFX is just built on a business model put them in a position that inspires distrust. Throw in the fact that there have been notable amounts of skullduggery by retail brokers over the years and you have a Forex market begging for transparency. Are ECNs style brokers truly transparent? Not really. Unless you have central clearing where everyone, including the retail trader, has access to the feeds then it is not truly transparent. But they are a good step in the right direction.

    Run straight to your nearest ECN? Not so

    As we discovered, your old market maker broker may not be obsolete just yet. In fact, many of them have features that are an advantage or just down right prudent for new or small account traders. Some market maker brokers guarantee no negative balances. Which means you can never lose more money than you have in your account. This is a huge plus and a very smart safety feature. Also, you won’t find any ECN style brokers that guarantee stop losses. These features alone can make them the only choice for many. Many market maker brokers also have leverage up to 400 to 1. This may be attractive to some and makes those stop loss and no negative balance guarantees all the more important. Let’s face it, if you need 400 to 1 you had better have no negative balance protection! Last but not least is the advantage of fixed spreads. If you trade at odd times like early in the Asian market timeslot, fixed spreads can be better than the interbank, especially on the pound.

    So, is the grass greener with ECN style brokers?

    The answer is up to you. We now have a much better idea of each broker’s structure and advantages. In general, I will state that experienced, active Forex traders will probably be happier with and ECN style broker. While a new trader, in need of simplicity and financial safety will likely be better off with a quality market making broker that has these safety features. After all I have learned, for now, I will have one of each.

    -The FxOpportunist-

    Here is the origional thread:
  3. Moe27


    and thats the truth. whole truth and nothing but the truth. good post for all those whiner's out there.
  4. Hayek


    good review
  5. sim03


    Excerpt from the most recent email from Felix of forexbastards:

    "I was testing on this report [The TIC Report yesterday], and they slipped me by about 23 pips. I am really not liking their platform, and I am going to be closing my account with them. And the biggest reason is not really that they slipped me on this report. The biggest reason is last week, I had an order set to buy EUR/USD at 1.2685 on hotspot. I was looking at the prices on my platform, and saw that EUR/USD at the time was trading at 1.2672/1.2673. Then all of a sudden, I see my EUR/USD order executed, and I see an open long position at 1.2685, with around -12 pips loss immediately upon open. And that was not during news, it was after news, when the market was relatively calm. So I call up, talk to one of their reps, explain the situation and ask them what's up? So the guy tells me that supposedly they have multiple interbank feeds, and whatever the market price is displayed on their platform is not necessarily the market price on all those interbanks. So most likely what happened was that one of the interbanks had a buy price at 1.2685, and my order got picked up by them, while the prices on actual platform were reflecting prices on another interbank feed.

    What a f**ck is that supposed to mean? So that means if my stop/loss order gets hit eventually at 12 pips away from the actual price on their platform, they'll always have an excuse that some interbank that's connected to their system picked up the order. Luckily, the price did go over 1.2685, and I made a profit on that position, but still, what happened is absolutely unacceptable.
    Even if they are telling the truth, such technology is unacceptable, where your orders get executed at different prices than their platform actually shows. Then another problem, is when you set an entry order on their platform, it can take like up to a minute or longer to approve that order. It shows "pending" for a while, then like a minute later, it shows "approved". Same thing with cancelling the order. Let's say if you have an order in their system, and there is a sudden event that happens, and you realize "Oh crap, I better cancel that entry order", when you click cancel, it shows "cancellation pending", and then a minute later or 30 seconds later or whatever time period later, it cancels it, and while it's "being cancelled", that order can trigger by the way... Every time I put an entry order, I feel like some person on the other side is approving it, because it takes so long. I don't know if that's the case, or their technology needs so much time to put the entry order on the market, either way that's unacceptable to me. Overall, because of all these problems, I would rate their platform as 2 stars out of 5."

    That doesn't exactly sound like greener grass, now, does it? I'm having a hard time believing that that's something routine on that platform, what with its reputation, market share dominance and all. For those of you who trade live on Hotspotfx, what are your thoughts?
  6. Wow, that is really scary. That is what makes no central clearing such a cluster in Forex. It is all up to HotSpot's software to bring order to the transactions. Trade like that is like throwing out the tic rules, CHAOS.

    HotSpots software should not allow that. Their software should not have allowed that execution till the virtual market that it creates trades there. If the market was as Felix described, there is no way he should have been filled that way without seeing the transactions in between in his platform prices. All those trades in between went 12 pips up and then 12 pips down so fast that it did not show on the platform or charts??? Not likely if the market is as he described. The more partners HotSpot has in its network, the more of a smoothing and stabilizing effect it should have on their platform prices. I am afraid would have to take issue with HotSpot on that if that is truly what happened.
  7. I would like to know if that was or there is a bid diff between the two.

  8. sim03


    Hotspotfx, not hotspotfxi.

    Whatever the differences (e.g., in liquidity pool and multi-account platform features) between the institutional and retail version, both are very well-known forex ECNs. They operate on exactly the same, presumably fair-dealing by design, business model.

    But the email describes 2 specific problems: the routine delays and the off-market fill under normal, non-fast market conditions. The kind of problems you'd expect to get from the least reputable market makers, not some of the largest, most respected ECNs around. So any feedback or comments from other Hotspotfx traders would be great.
  9. I disagree that like saying and is the same currenex I use threw my prime broker. at the end of the day is a retail broker w/ variable spreads

  10. I spoke to a representative today whos company has both retail and true ECN (currenex/Fxall) platforms. He said that their retail platforms don't have stead fast tic rules when matching buyers and sellers. They have a "window" with a "margin of error". This is the perfect explaination for what Felix was complaing about. They said it is adjustable. He also went on to say that if you have access to the API you can adjust that to suit you. But, I really don't think all of the technical stuff is Felix's area nor is it mine. I will leave that technical stuff to the guys who know it.
    #10     Sep 19, 2006