How to Tell if Your Broker is Trading Against You

Published on August 2, 2021

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  1. In this video, we’re focusing on forex and CFD brokers; this discussion does not apply to stocks and futures brokers.

  2. The simple truth is that most forex and CFD brokers are trading against their clients. The details in how this is accomplished vary greatly from broker to broker. Broadly speaking, we can say there are two types of brokers: A Book brokers and B Book brokers.

  3. A Book brokers may technically be trading against their clients in that they are taking the opposite side of the trade, but they generally are taking a risk neutral approach to the market and are looking to immediately offset the trade. So they are not trading against their client in spirit, only in technicality.

  4. B Book brokers will choose what positions of their clients they wish to offset. As such, they are willing to take a directional position in the market, and thus may be trading against their clients in a more material way. For instance, suppose the B Book broker wants to take a long Euro position in the market. To do this, they may not offset the short Euro trades their clients have put on; rather, they will simply take the other side of these trades.

  5. A Book and B Book brokers can both run into big problems — for themselves, and in turn, their clients — if the larger banks and brokerage firms they offset orders with no longer take positions. This risk is known as liquidity risk. We saw liquidity risk have a devastating impact on both A Book and B Book brokers when the Swiss National Bank unpegged the Swiss Franc from the Euro, resulting in a huge move in a matter of minutes.

  6. As a general rule of thumb, the more illiquid instruments a broker offers and the more leverage they offer the more likely they are a B book broker whose positions in the market are a significant part of their business. These types of brokers are giving signals they are comfortable with liquidity risk, which means they are comfortable taking the other side of the customer’s position.

  7. B Book brokers have a conflict of interest that makes it seem like they are dishonest and unethical, but they can offer their clients significant benefits that A Book brokers cannot. Namely, their willlingness to take on liquidity risk means they can offer prices and trading opportunities that would otherwise not be available. They bundle their customer orders to customers with lower trading costs, and offer trading free from restrictions like the pattern day trader rule or any uptick rule. As such, B Book brokers are not entirely bad or useless. What matters is whether you value the advantages they offer and that you trust them not to abuse their position as your counterparty.

  8. You can ask your broker directly about their dealing desk policy, though many will be coy about their status. This is largely because they feel uncomfortable about admitting their status as the counterparty to your trade, and because they generally do not educate their staff in the nuances of how they operate and make money.

Does Interactive Brokers Trade Against You


p style=”text-align: left;”>Does Interactive Brokers Trade Against You, How to Tell if Your Broker is Trading Against You.

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