The trading platform you choose will be your gateway to the forex market. You’ll be spending a considerable amount of time interacting with whichever trading platform you select. In the forex market, there are only a handful of noteworthy trading applications. Most brokers centre their product offering around MetaTrader 4, opting for a one-size-fits-all approach. At Scandinavian Capital Markets, we don’t believe you can paint all traders with the same brush. Therefore, we have pinpointed what we believe to be the three most essential trading platforms. The three trading platforms we offer are MetaTrader 4, cTrader and Currenex. Each of these platforms provides a distinct set of features; hence they cater to specific types of traders.
Every trader will take a slightly different approach to the markets, and therefore will have a different set of demands and expectations from their trading platform. For a busy position-trader who is always on the move and gets little screen time, a mobile application is a must-have. Whereas, for an active day-trader who spends many hours each day monitoring several currency pairs, or even asset classes, a mobile app could be the least of their concerns.
Much like how some people prefer to use Windows rather than Mac; opt for an iPhone instead of an Android; favour driving on the left, instead of on the right, everyone will have a preference for a trading platform. Sometimes the choice is based on a specific set of features, other times it’s based on impulse.
In this article, we shall explore some of the factors to consider when deciding on a new trading platform. As we reach the end of this article, we’ll introduce the three trading platforms offered at Scandinavian Capital Markets and how you can learn more about them.
Introduction to forex trading platforms
The first point to make about forex trading platforms is that it’s customary for a broker to offer access to a trading application free of charge. The forex industry is not like the futures, options and equities trading environment, where traders and investors purchase software licenses themselves and connect their applications to their preferred broker or exchange via API. Instead, the forex trading industry works the opposite way. It’s rare for a broker to charge for accessing a trading platform; meanwhile, it wouldn’t be unusual for them to charge for access to FIX API for trading forex.
Appearance, responsiveness & ease of use
If you show a millennial a popular equities trading platform, they’ll probably cringe and tell you it looks retro, and they wouldn’t be wrong. The aesthetics of your trading platform is absolutely relevant. After all, you’ll be spending many hours a week or even each day glaring into your screens. Make your life that little bit more tolerable by choosing an application you don’t mind staring at for hours on end.
Besides what it looks like, you need to be able to navigate the interface easily and quickly. Even with a powerful computer, high-speed internet connection and a low latency broker, if you can’t find the buy or sell buttons, you’re going to miss your entry and exit points. Being able to access all the tools and functions quickly is essential. Figuratively speaking, if you’re confident enough to operate the platform with your eyes closed, you’ve chosen the right one.
Devices & operating systems
Some forex trading platforms are only available to install and run on Windows. Other trading platforms can be installed on both Windows and Mac operating systems, run as a web browser application on any operating system and as mobile and tablet applications for iOS and Android devices. If you’re a Macbook user, pay close attention to the options available to you.
Arguably the most important decision making criteria for choosing a forex trading platform is, what can it do. Here are some of the main points traders evaluate when selecting a forex trading platform.
- Automated trading capabilities: If automated trading is supported, each trading platform will have its own API. You should review the scope of functionality and suitable programming languages.
- Market analysis tools: Each platform has different types of chart, objects for drawing and annotating on the charts and the range of technical analysis indicators available and settings to adjust the underlying formulas.
- Order types: Some platforms may have the basic market-order and limit-order entry methods; other platforms can have numerous variations of these orders—for example, stop-loss, take-profit and stop-limit-order.
- Customisation: You can find nifty tools inside various platforms. For example, you might feel one-click trading functionality or creating watchlists for bookmarking and tracking your favourite currency-pairs and changing the colour scheme to be very convenient.
MetaTrader 4 (MT4) is legendary within the forex trading community. No matter how hard anyone tries, even MetaQuotes themselves, no one has been able to dethrone MT4 as the most prominent trading platform amongst forex traders worldwide.
The reasons why MT4 has remained so popular for so long is because of the extensive community of algorithmic-traders and developers who have programmed numerous trading bots (expert advisors) and custom technical analysis indicators. What many forget is that the MT4 has all the core features traders need. The majority of traders continue to use candlestick charts invented in the 1800s and a selection of technical analysis indicators developed throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s. Not to mention, MT4 is very light, stable, and everyone knows how it works.
As there has been no significant reason causing a migration of traders to move to another trading platform, they haven’t. Even the MetaTrader 5 platform has been struggling to compete with its predecessor.
The primary advantages of MT4 are the strong community, extensive user-generated content and an endless amount of social proof surrounding the platform and its merits. MT4 is a popular choice for traders looking to operate automated trading systems (EAs) despite having a proprietary programming language, known as MQL4 or MetaQuotes Language version four.
cTrader was characterised as the only real challenger to threaten the position held by MT4 in the forex trading industry. Although cTrader caters to a similar type of trader as MT4 does, the former provides a series of novel differences.
When cTrader was first launched, it broke ground for being able to show the depth of the market inside the application. It was possible for cTrader to do this because it received quotes directly from liquidity providers and ECNs. Besides showing prices straight from the connected LPs and ECNs. cTrader also supported straight-through processing, which at the time was revolutionary.
Over the years, cTrader has one-upped MT4 in many respects. However, despite cTrader offering a distinguished set of features, none of them was compelling enough to render MT4 obsolete for the masses.
Unlike MT4, cTrader doesn’t have a proprietary programming language for building trading robots and custom indicators. Instead, cTrader has an API which allows developers to write scripts using the popular c# programming language.
Currenex is a purpose-built trading platform for institutional and professional traders. Few brokers offer the Currenex platform due to the scope of features leaning away from tools for analysing the markets to find opportunities to speculate on price fluctuations and focuses on order management, execution and reporting. Therefore, it makes Currenex less appealing to the average retail trader, so fewer brokers offer it.
Typical users of Currenex, i.e. banks, corporations dealing in multiple currencies, hedge funds & asset managers or brokers, generally don’t need to use the tools that retail trading platforms like cTrader and MetaTrader 4 invest so heavily in developing. If a broker or a bank needs to hedge an exposure of a few million dollars all that is needed is fast and efficient entry for an order of that volume. Business factors had determined the order needed to be placed, rather than market conditions; there was no need for charts or Bollinger Bands.
As Currenex is positioned for professional and institutional traders, it’s worth noting the minimum ticket size is 100,000 units or base asset, i.e. 1-Lot. In contrast, the minimum order size on MT4 and cTrader is just 1,000 units, i.e. a micro-lot.
Conclusion: How to choose a forex trading platform
The best way to find the right forex trading platform for you and your needs is to reach out to one of our expert relationship managers, who knows each of the applications mentioned above inside-out. We’re lucky to work with forex traders from all backgrounds, which gives us great insight into what different clients need. Personalisation is our forte, and that’s why we go as far as building custom price feeds for our clients.