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Amid the sweeping restrictions imposed on unlicensed brokers, it would seem that this model is obsolete, but such brokers are still there in numbers, and new companies continue to enter the market quite successfully.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?
Contrary to skeptics’ expectations and predictions, the volume of cryptocurrency transactions continues to grow. The so-called stablecoins show the greatest stability, as they are used in payments more often than super volatile Bitcoin or Ethereum. Let us remind you that Bitcoin was losing more than 60% of its value last November. It does not make much sense to use such currencies in transactions. Stablecoins, tied to fiat and backed by bank reserves, are a different story. According to coinmarketcap.com, the most popular stablecoins with the largest capitalization are currently Tether (USDT), USD Coin (USDC), and Binance USD (BUSD). Taken together, these findings allow us to make long-term predictions for the continuous increase in cryptocurrency transactions, and this is a good sign for Forex brokers.
Why Forex brokers are better off with a crypto gateway
Those brokers who don't yet have a cryptocurrency gateway to accept payments should take care of it now. Regulators are closely monitoring financial companies. As a result, licenceless brokers can no longer accept payments by bank cards. This means that if a company cannot have a bank account, accepting Visa or Mastercard payments is not available to it. As an option, the broker can accept payments through electronic payment systems and other intermediaries who charge exhorbitant commission, easily in the 8-10% range. Also, due to the tightening regulation in the financial sector, customers from some countries in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East no longer have access to bank processing. In addition, cryptocurrency holders are interested in working with companies that are willing to accept it. From what we have seen in recent years, the trend of financial overregulation is going to continue all over the world. So if a broker wants to expand their geography and get more varied customers, gain a competitive advantage or just stay afloat, it is better to start learning how to work with cryptocurrency now.
Is accepting cryptocurrency always a good thing for a company, and which companies are better off avoiding cryptopayments altogether?
What is a cryptocurrency payment gateway?
A cryptocurrency payment gateway is a service that allows merchants to accept cryptocurrency as a payment method. Crypto gateways make it easy for businesses to accept cryptocurrency as payment alongside fiat money and settle transactions in real time.
Crypto gateways are growing in popularity due to the widespread use of cryptocurrencies and the security benefits they provide. Many companies are starting to accept cryptocurrency payments to get ahead and enter new markets.
With UpTrader Pay already built into the UpTrader CRM, every broker can automate cryptocurrency payments in literally two clicks. If your company uses another CRM, integrating UpTrader Pay crypto gateway is just as easy because it's a standalone product.
So what are the pros and cons of accepting cryptocurrency?
Most often, brokers accept payments directly to their own wallets. This way, they are able to completely avoid some sensitive issues. For instance, cryptocurrency transactions exclude chargebacks and risks associated with intermediaries. Every broker has probably encountered a situation where large amounts of money are stuck with payment intermediaries for months and sometimes years. In some cases, this money is never returned and the broker bears reputational and financial costs.
The difficulty with accepting payments in cryptocurrency may arise for licensed brokers who avoid dealing with cryptocurrency so as not to anger the regulators. The best way for them to de facto not deal with cryptocurrency is to use cryptocurrency gateways such as BitPay, PayPal, and Coinbase Commerce. In return, companies get fiat currency into their bank accounts and stay within legal bounds. This way, companies can offer customers alternative payment methods and eliminate uncertainty related to cryptocurrencies.
Accepting cryptopayments automatically
Manually accepting crypto payments may overburden your financial department, because processing these transactions is quite a task: you need to compare the requested amount in the CRM and in the wallet, then you need to identify the customer who made the request by the amount they requested, and often two sums are not the same. Then you have to call your customers to find out who transferred the money, and so on. Of course, it is better to automate the process, and we have already written a piece on how to do this:
Last year MetaQuotes suspended selling White Label that caused the forex industry to start looking for alternatives. Most sensitively it was perceived by small brokers who can’t afford to spend a couple of extra thousands dollars for the MetaTrader 5 Full license. Therefore the good alternative for them turns out to be с-Trader White Label, whose policy is pretty mild and price is reasonable. However MetaQuotes remains the main trading platform provider and it still sells the Full License MetaTrader and companies are still looking forward to the opportunity to work with MetaTrader. It’s still possible, but the price for the base version has been increased from $5000 to $7500. For those companies who can’t handle this price, a good alternative is c-Trader White Label.
Please learn more about c-Trader and MetaTrader Full License from our previous article.
Or contact us directly to get more information.
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