The role of the broker has commonly been found in equities, commodities, derivatives and even insurance and real estate markets since the beginning of the modern era. And until the dawn of the internet age, most brokers operated by phone. Clients could phone in their orders of trades, and brokers would buy and sell assets on behalf of their client’s accounts for a percentage-based commission.
Around the year 2000, retail brokers began offering online accounts to private investors, streaming prices from major banks and the Electronic Broking Services (EBS) system. The brokerages were able to provide retail service by bundling many small trades together and negotiating them in the interdealer market, which is dominated by banks. Because the trade volumes were much larger, participants in the interdealer market were willing to provide liquidity for the retail brokers’ accessible prices. Bid-ask spreads are generally higher for retail customers than they are in the interdealer market, but they have been found to narrow as trading volume rises.5)
With the advent of the internet, many brokers have allowed their clients to access accounts and trade through electronic platforms and computer applications. A broker in the past was considered an individual member of a profession and often worked at a special agency known as a brokerage house (or simply a brokerage). Nowadays, the term “broker” is often used as shorthand for a brokerage.1)
With an internet connection and a computer or mobile phone, traders can now open an account and trade in a market that was previously only accessible to banks, large companies and financial institutions, and very wealthy individuals. Brokers also offer services that can be valuable in assisting traders to understand price movements and potentially make profits.
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