Operating with no license: is it realistic in 2021?
The situation with licensing in Forex has drastically changed over the last five years: above all, new regulations hit the ability of unlicensed companies to accept payments, thus creating a significant obstacle for their operation
By Vasily Alexeev, CEO UpTrader.io
In this short review, we have covered the viable operating models of Forex brokers today. Perhaps surprisingly, despite the stricter legislation, there are always ways to work around the rules.
Amid the sweeping restrictions imposed on unlicensed brokers, it would seem that this model is obsolete, but such brokers are still there in numbers, and new companies continue to enter the market quite successfully. So, is it possible to work without a license? Easy: it takes one month and $2–3K to register a business in, say, the Grenadines, and only your passport is required.
There’s a downside, however—you won’t be able to accept payments through the banking system, bank card transfers, and well as advertise your business legally. You’ll also likely face problems with popular payment systems, you won’t be able to operate officially in jurisdictions where providing Forex services without a license is prohibited, and there are fewer and fewer counties where licensing is not a requirement. However, it’s not all bad. China and Thailand have long banned Forex, but hundreds of brokers continue to exist there. They work with local payment systems and operate perfectly fine. These systems work almost with any brokers—the key is to reach an understanding. Other than that, cryptocurrency payments are getting more popular every year.
There’s also the issue of trust—it inevitably arises because of the stigma attached to an unregulated broker. As a proof of reliability, brokers can connect to Serenity—it’s a smart contract-based blockchain escrow. Serenity guarantees the security of deposits and completely eliminates any potential misappropriation of funds in the accounts of clients. Serenity has already earned the trust of a wide audience of traders. The system is easy to integrate, and with the growing popularity of cryptocurrency, it’s important that all payments in Escrow can be processed through the crypto exchanger SerenityPay.io. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
“Offshore lite” licensing
The second option is more complex and more expensive: registering your broker with at least some kind of legality. The most popular licenses are in Seychelles and Labuan (Malaysia). You’d have to pay €50–70K, and the registration would take about nine months. As a result, the broker receives a permit to operate in these countries.
The access to banking and the international transfer system SWIFT allows brokers to attract bigger clients. Such a license also means access to liquidity providers, and hence better trading conditions, which gives a competitive advantage. A Labuan license means access to Malaysian banks.
The main downside—such a license allows operating only as an STP (Straight Through Processing) broker. If a broker plans to work with A-book, STP is a plus. However, if we’re talking about a B-book broker or a hybrid model, this would make things difficult. Another downside is the annual expenses on staff and office in these countries, as it’s required by the jurisdictions: about $70K a year.
It’s also worth noting that these licenses still don’t give access to bank card transfers.
Mastercard doesn’t accept transfers from brokers without European or American licenses, Visa still does, but more and more reluctantly, and is expected to follow the example of Mastercard. Plus, these licenses don’t open the way for official advertising.
The most valuable licenses
The third path, the most valuable and most expensive, is acquiring a European or American license. The price tag starts at €1 mln, the waiting period is at least two years. As a rule, during this time, the company passes all conceivable procedures of business auditing, upon the completion of which a license will or will not be issued for your business. The upsides are obvious—all payment methods: SWIFT, VISA, Mastercard, any payment systems. All kinds of advertising: online, radio, TV. This option is obviously great for reputation and trust, and so forth.
The downsides are also there: aside from the high price, licensing also imposes restrictions on the trading conditions: the leverage is limited to 1:50, and it’s prohibited to offer and advertise bonuses. Any violations can result in massive fines. Revoking of the license is also a reality: in 2019, Russia’s central bank terminated the licenses of four brokers out of five.
The bottom line is that there always ways to operate despite the stricter regulations.
Read more about how to choose jurisdiction?
It is now possible to log in to UpTrader Trader’s Room via Telegram messenger. Now each broker can set up this feature for their clients in a few clicks in the Admin interface.
“Telegram is known for its strong position regarding free speech protection. That is why it has become the most popular messenger in the crypto community. UpTrader’s clients live in different countries and for many of them free speech means a lot, so they prefer to use Telegram. In the latest months Telegram popularity has been growing among lager groups. In respect to that we have made convenient authorization in the UpTrader Forex CRM.” - commented CEO UpTrader Vasily Alexeev.
More questions left? Contact us [email protected]
The conflict between Russia and Ukraine revealed a global crisis of confidence and strained relations between countries. The US is talking to any opposition only to imply sanctions: "If you do not do as we say, we will impose sanctions against you, if you do as we say, we will lift the sanctions imposed on you earlier".
This rhetoric cannot help but anger world powers like China or Turkey, who see themselves as entitled to pursue their own policies. Markets react sensitively to each statement; country and sector indices, stocks, and currency are turbulent. While some are rising, others are falling. How does it affect the brokerage business?
Market turbulence and crises always attract investors. Some venture in to preserve their capital, others want to earn more money. In the last month, UpTrader saw an increase in the number of requests from companies in Asia which focus on trading gold and currency pairs. Gold is rising as a safe haven for investors during the storm. Others are looking at the energy sector, as Brent rose to $129.47 a barrel as a reaction to sanctions against Russia. Stock markets are falling. The currency market is far from being calm.
In addition, cryptocurrency and digital currencies are booming. Russia decided to make cryptocurrency legal in January 2022. Taiwan, on the other hand, introduced a ban on cryptocurrency payments, as China did a year earlier. But China's digital yuan is being successfully tested. Experts believe that it can successfully compete with the dollar in international payments in commercial exchange. After all, the dollar is losing the vote of confidence from many countries due to overusing sanctions.
All these developments are encouraging investors to open accounts with brokerage companies. An important trend that we noticed over the last couple of years is that small local companies are earning more trust and interest from customers while the giants are losing ground. As we can see, this is due to the fact that local companies are much more client oriented and aiming to meet the needs of their small target audience. They are also very flexible and quick to adjust to changes in trends, which big brokers do with a big delay.
It is common in Asia for former big Forex broker IBs to start their own brokerage companies. They have a reputation and loyal clients. To open a company, all they need is a MetaTrader server (recently, it seems, everyone only buys MT5) and Forex CRM. Separating from their former bosses allows them much more flexibility to serve clients and not depend on the policies of another company. All Asian clients who came to UpTrader in the past few weeks are asking for MT5 and Forex CRM.
Finally, working with Asian clients has always been simple and straightforward for us. This is another feature that makes working with Asia quite promising. And the time to enter the market is perfect, because it looks like the beginning of a new era.
Does it make sense to buy external forex or crypto liquidity when an internal liquidity model, or so-called B-book, already has a great track record? Some companies decided a long time ago to work strictly by the B-book, others stick to the A-book, while some monosystem partisans are gradually switching to a hybrid scheme. Which option is the best?
Forex or crypto Liquidity
Liquidity is the ability of a currency pair to be sold quickly at close to market prices. That is, liquidity translates into the saturation of supply and demand and the ability to execute trades quickly at the best prices. Liquidity can be internal and external. B-book means internal liquidity, and this liquidity is provided by the company itself or its clients. If a broker has many clients, their trades are mutually covered, and the broker just has to monitor the total sum. As a rule, each individual client does not affect it too much. If the broker acts as a counterparty, they have to pay on profitable trades themselves. This model is rather vulnerable for many reasons. A-book means external forex liquidity. It has high demand/supply characteristics and better prices, since orders are routed to external providers who have a large pool of traders and therefore a greater order execution capacity.
B-book, or internal forex liquidity: pros and cons
Many brokers mistakenly believe that B-book is the most profitable business model, as it provides maximum profit. The orders are never placed on the market, which means that all the money clients lose stays with the company. It sounds very attractive: someone will get that money anyway, why not keep it for yourself? On the one hand, all of it is true, but this model has one significant drawback. If a client earns money, the broker will have to pay it “out of their pocket”. And as we already know, brokers working with B-book offer very high leverage so that the payouts are significantly higher compared to the initial deposit amount. To avoid paying, the broker can dispute the trade and not pay the profit. They can also manipulate the prices to help the trader lose. It is a dirty job that quickly becomes obvious. In these cases, the broker loses its reputation and clients and may as well leave the market for good. That is why in-house crypto or forex liquidity is only suitable for big brokers who have a large order flow, their own wide internal market and enough funds to pay fairly on profitable trades. A small start-up can end up with big financial losses thanks to this model. If they decide to cheat, they can also lose their reputation and clients. Finally, this model has a significant disadvantage in that principal revenue earnings vary from month to month, depending on the market. That is, it may be 30 or 70%... of losses per month.
A-book, or external forex liquidity: pros and cons
A-book is an external liquidity model, i.e., the broker brings all the trades to the market and earns on spread and swaps. They get money from every trade made by the trader. Another advantage is that the broker does not care whether the transaction is profitable or not. They receive the same commission on each transaction. Consequently, the broker is not interested in playing against the trader. The most important thing for a broker in this situation is to increase the trading volume: the more trades are made, the more money they make. It is a classic win-win model with predictable profit and minimal reputational and financial risks. It is the safest choice for a first-time broker: you only pay for the volume, which makes the business manageable and cost-effective. At UpTrader, we also offer a volume-based CRM fee which allows you to start a company with literally a few thousand dollars in your pocket.
Hybrid model: A-book and B-book
Brokers are increasingly opting for a hybrid operations model. After all, from the point of view of financial markets, it is reasonable to keep traders with small deposits on B-book because their profitable deals will not cause the company much financial trouble while unprofitable ones will turn into income. If a client has a lot of funds, however, any of their profitable trades can exceed the broker’s financial capacity. In this case, it is better to transfer that trader to A-book. Alternatively, such clients can be partially transferred to A-book in order to reduce risk exposure.
The advantages of the hybrid model are obvious: first, competent account management allows the company to receive profit both from commissions and from losing trades without risking its own funds. The broker fulfills its obligations to clients, thereby earning loyalty and building reputation. It is important to understand, however, that clients generally do not care whether the trades are brought to the market or not. They pay much more attention to trading conditions and profit payments. If a broker does everything correctly, all parties win. The only downside is that you will need competent risk managers. There are some on the market, but they are usually either employed by other companies or quite expensive. Therefore, you have to choose the hybrid model responsibly.
If have any questions related to forex or crypto liquidity, or if you need liquidity, contact UpTrader team please using our registration form and we will give you the best offer.
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