Spread betting is undoubtedly one of the greatest advancements to be made available to the financial markets over the last two decades for retail and professional traders. It has helped open up markets and new trading strategies for the private and professional home traders in ways that have previously not been possible.
Spread betting is popular in the UK and there are currently more than 50 brands and platforms to choose from. The trader bets on the movement of the share price and use leverage to trade. Traders have the ability to go short and potentially profit in bear markets and also gain access to major indices such as FTSE, DAX and S&P. One major advantage of spread betting is that it is categorised as a bet and consequently no capital gain tax is charged in the UK.
Before you dive into the spread betting world, you need to sign up with a spread betting broker. The spread charges that brokers charge might at first look insignificant. However, for a trader that will place thousands of trades every year, these fees and other nominal charges quickly add up to substantial amounts of money. In some cases, the charges for extreme spread betting can even wipe out the profits made in successful trades.
Below are some important factors to consider when choosing a spread betting broker:
Compare Spread Prices
The first thing that you should always take into account when choosing a spread betting broker is the up-front charges. Each trade is charges two different fee: the bid price and the ask price. The difference between these prices is what is known as the spread. Betting companies make money through these spreads.
This fee is paid by the trader for the privilege to access the stock market. Brokers, therefore, do not charge commissions when traders place bets. As a trader, you would of course be best served by a broker who charges fairly.
Margin Trade Requirements
The margin requirements of different spread brokers vary a lot. This is usually dependent on the broker you choose and the underlying assets you have chosen to trade. Margin trades require a small percentage of the total value of trades to be paid as deposit. The percentage is usually between 3%-10% and depends on the liquidity of the underlying asset.
Another important factor that you will need to consider is the kind of market provided by the broker. This will help you reap maximum benefits during certain market conditions. Brokers that provide a wider variety of underling assets give you more opportunities to profit from trades, and diversify your portfolio by having high risk instruments such as indices with lower risk instruments such s commodities.
Broker’s Interest Charges
For long-term traders, the interest charge becomes an important factor to take into account. Financial spread betting are leveraged and you have to borrow capital for trading from brokerage firms. Interest is charged on the borrowed funds and can accumulate rapidly. The interest can either work in your favour or cut into your profits depending on the asset being traded. Be sure to check the broker’s interest policy.
Customer service in spread betting is an important factor just as it is in other types of trading. The broker should be available at all times. This is important when the trader needs to quickly withdraw from certain positions or if the platform breaks down during trading time.
Is the Broker Regulated?
Reputable and trusted spread betting firms in the U.K. are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The Financial Conduct Authority helps to secure a degree of protection for consumer’s funds. The Financial Conduct Authority also prohibits the spread betting firms from pushing any financial advice to their clients, meaning brokers are not allowed to recommend certain trades or advise clients to take profits. The broker can, however, offer the clients advice on the most suitable type of spread bet.
To protect traders, the Financial Conduct Authority requires spread betting firms to segregate their clients’ funds from those of the company.
When choosing a spread betting broker, always ensure you are going with a regulated broker as a minimum.
Other key considerations that are often overlooked by traders when choosing a spread betting broker are:
Will the broker go bust?
Can the broker fix any trading errors that occur?
Admittedly, it’s usually hard to determine with a high degree of certainty whether a spread betting brokerage firm will go belly up. But there certain precautions that, nevertheless, you can take. You need to check whether the firm is well capitalised and financially sound, whether you are doing spread betting to hedge longer term positions, or simply to speculate. Remember that even segregated funds are only segregated from the company’s money. If the client encounters a massive loss, the broker might be forced to use client’s funds to cover the equity shortfall until the difference is made up for. Luckily, for amounts larger than £48,000, the clients’ funds are fully insured; so this is not a potential risk.
It’s usually advisable to disregard the lure of white labels. A white label platform is one where the spread betting company places its logo on the spread betting platform. Usually these companies will entice you with offers like matched funds on your initial bonus. Some large firms offers as much as £10,000. While those kind of offers can be hard to resist, it’s important for the trader to remember that a quick bonus can be easily wiped out by a single bad trade. The trader should consider the other factors mentioned here as first priority; then all things being held equal, the broker that offers a bonus is of course a more attractive proposition.
Using a white label broker means that you will be using a middleman and not dealing directly with the provider. A customer of a white label is essentially a customer of the underlying brand and not the actual brand. This can complicate things like when the trader tries to get some recourse whenever a trading error occurs. This can make the whole resolution process much lengthier.
The fact of the matter is that all companies experience trading errors both from dealers and clients. Your broker should be able to sort out such problems. This might give a slight edge over public companies compared to private ones because they are required by law to make their financial accounts public on a regular basis.
This, however, does not in any way mean that brokers from public firms are inherently better than traders from private firms. It’s better to check their track records and reviews to get an idea what you will be dealing with.
In the final analysis, you have to do adequate research before settling for any spread betting broker. While a good broker cannot save you from bad decisions, they can nevertheless make your trading experience mush smother and increase your chances of winning.