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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A forex broker, also known as a retail forex broker, or currency trading broker, in modern financial and commercial trading means an intermediary who buys and sells a particular asset or assets for a commission. Thus, a broker may be thought of as a salesman of financial assets. The origin of the term is unclear, though it is thought to stem from old French.
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)
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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)