Most retail forex brokerages act in the role of dealers, often taking the other side of a trade in order to provide liquidity for traders. Brokers make money with this activity by charging a small fee through a bid-ask spread. Before the emergence of retail forex brokerages, individual trading amounts less than US$1 million were discouraged from entering the market by high bid-ask spreads.4)
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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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Retail forex brokers typically allow traders to set up an account with a limited amount of assets and let them trade online through internet-based trading platforms. Most trading is done via the spot currency market, though some brokers deal in derivative products such as futures and options. Forex trading has been popularised among individual traders because brokers have offered them the chance to trade with margin accounts. These allow traders to effectively borrow capital to make a trade, and multiply the principal that they use to trade by large amounts, up to 50 times their initial capital.3)