In January 2015, forex broker Alpari UK applied for insolvency after the Swiss National Bank's surprise decision to abandon the peg against the euro. The event put the spotlight on forex brokers and their regulation, especially in the United Kingdom. In this article, we'll review the leading forex brokers in the United Kingdom and the basics of how they are regulated.
With daily trading volume of over $5 trillion a day, the foreign exchange market, also called forex or FX, is the world's largest market. The size and deep liquidity of the forex market, along with 24-hour trading 5 days a week, make it an appealing choice for traders. (For a step-by-step guide on everything you need to know on currency exchange see Forex Walkthrough).
However, unlike stocks and commodities, forex trading has no central exchange or clearing house. The lack of transparency in the FX market has left it vulnerable to numerous instances of malpractice and manipulation. In the United Kingdom, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) acts as a watchdog to ensure fair and ethical business conduct. FCA-regulated forex brokers must adhere to a number of industry standards. Of particular importance is the FCA requirement that firms keep client funds separate from company funds. These segregated deposits cannot be used as company assets if the brokerage firm becomes insolvent.
The January of 2015 event involving the Swiss National Bank (SNB) underscores the importance of using a broker that is regulated by the FCA. Totally unexpected events, sometime referred to as black swan events, can happen at any time and cause chaos. The financial markets were thrown into turmoil by the Swiss decision and a number of forex brokers suffered severe losses with some going bankrupt. Fortunately for the customers of Alpari UK, the firm was regulated by the FCA.
The following ten FCA-regulated forex brokers are listed in no particular order based on factors including financial stability, execution quality and trading platforms available. In choosing among them one might consider preferences such as markets available, execution software, and the competitiveness of spreads. (Related 5 Tips For Selecting a Forex Broker)
The Bottom Line
Among the leading FCA-regulated forex brokers in the UK, the majority are actually based abroad. In many cases, this means that they are also regulated by other bodies such as the National Futures Association (NFA) in the United States. While the retail forex industry continues to develop and improve, traders must remain vigilant in scrutinizing where they place their funds for investment.