Barclays Trading Hub services are provided by Gain Capital U.K. Ltd. through an introducing broker agreement, an unusual arrangement given the bank's sophisticated wealth management and institutional trading operations. The site offers contract for difference (CFD) trading and spread betting on more than 10,000 markets through a web-based trading platform and mobile applications for both iOS and Android. A demo account allows prospective clients to paper trade and to review specific commissions and fees, which vary greatly across instruments.
The browser platform uses Adobe Flash technology, which is no longer supported by Chrome or mobile devices; Microsoft and Adobe will also cease support in 2020. Many security and privacy advocates recommend disabling or uninstalling this program, which has been a well-documented conduit for malware. In addition, the platform manual hasn't been updated since February 2016, adding to the sense of vulnerability in using this product.
A commission is charged for opening and closing CFD positions; rates are published for each ticker within the platform's context menu. There are no published rates at the primary website. Spread bets do not incur a commission but may include a "market maker charge." For overnight CFD and spread bets, you must pay a daily financing fee for long trades in addition to applicable commission and spreads, computed by multiplying the trade value and financing rate (based on LIBOR plus a fixed percentage). That charge is paid to the client for some but not all overnight short sales.
Barclays Bank PLC is registered in England and authorized by the Prudential Regulation Authority (Financial Services Registrar No. 122702). It is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (Registered No. 1026167). The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) provides U.K. investment protection up to GBP 50,000 and cash protection up to GBP 85,000.
The broker uses an inherently unsecured web trading platform based on Adobe Flash technology that is no longer supported by many browsers. Adobe support is scheduled to be discontinued in 2020. The platform's manual hasn't been updated since February 2016, indicating possible neglect in providing needed updates while adding to security concerns. In addition, the platform provides no secondary log-in verification layer through smartphone or token. Mobile platforms may offer more secure alternatives because modern Android and iOS apps do not run Flash technology.
The Barclays Trading Hub website is surprisingly bare-bones, with typical marketing materials but limited educational and research resources. CFD and spread-betting FAQs are useful but rudimentary, while educational and research sections haven't been updated in several months. The same holds true for a single social trading page, listing the 10 most common trades made by clients, with the last entry on July 7, 2017. Two primary web pages simply direct viewers into other venues: Barclays' direct investment service, called Smart Investor, and Saxo Capital Markets, which provides access to international equities.
Guaranteed stop orders, which require an additional fee, lower the odds for executions outside the published spreads. The website's Insight section promises "powerful trading tools, the very latest research, and professional-level analysis," but many sections haven't been updated for months. The Learning sub-section currently contains just four entries: a video-based platform tutorial, two trading "examples," and a report on Japanese assets.
The proprietary Adobe Flash-based platform provides a rudimentary trade entry terminal, with basic charting, news, and research. Limited order types reduce trader flexibility, and security issues raise red flags. Variable spread minimums make it difficult to project final costs for winning and losing positions.
The easy-to-navigate proprietary platform gets new traders up and running quickly, while context menus allow quick access to news and alert management. Markets are segmented by broad categories and countries of origin, while a trending markets section identifies fast-moving opportunities. Diverse CFD and spread-betting choices in bonds, interest rates, and metals supplement more traditional equity, index, and commodity offerings. The platform manual is well structured, easy to read, and augmented with hyperlinks to help traders develop skill.
The platform does not meet modern web security standards or provide the comprehensive menu of features found in the industry standard, MetaTrader. The security issues and dated web pages are especially troubling considering the bank's international scope and reputation. It's also unclear why Gain Capital is providing the dealing and clearing on top of a Barclays shell, given the bank's massive resources.
Well-organized mobile trading platforms for iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows devices offer functionality similar to the desktop version's. Users can place trades, analyze charts, customize watchlists, set alerts, and view the latest market news. Accounts can be funded and managed directly through the applications, which support monthly statement look-up and display.
Mobile apps offer industry standard features in an easy-to-navigate format. Menu choices are robust, allowing customers to perform most desktop operations. New users can build skills through Getting Started and New Features buttons as well as Help and Feedback functionality. Trades can be placed with a single click on well-organized watchlists; a top level cash, margin, P&L, and balance window keeps track of short-term performance. A 'Close All Positions' button allows quick risk management in highly volatile or adverse market conditions.
Help functionality is limited as information on many platform categories is missing. The New Features section isn't dated and therefore could be providing stale information. Platform settings include an activity timeout but there is no second security layer through token or authentication procedure, which means the auto-resume feature may be inherently insecure, exposing the account if the device is stolen or hacked. Simplified trading screens don't offer more complex entry types, including trailing stops. Charting offers limited indicator feature set, no tick charts, and a 10-minute minimum view.
Barclays Trading Hub provides telephone, email, and postal support for CFD and spread betting but offers no chat or in-person access. Frequently asked questions (FAQs) are limited to CFD and spread-betting topics, and do not cover broader account issues, fee structures, or unusual funding/withdrawal protocols. A platform context menu, for example, reveals that a phone call is required to withdraw funds (no web-based withdrawal) and funds will be returned only through the same method as account funding.
Telephone support is provided between 20:00 GMT Sunday and 21:15 GMT Friday, covering the majority of world market trading hours. While FAQs are provided for basic CFD and spread betting topics, there are no FAQs or knowledge base outlining broad account issues. In addition, the most important client-specific information is buried within legal documents that many customers will find indecipherable.
The Insight section promises "powerful trading tools" through six subsections, but most haven't been updated in several months. Basic chart lookback periods and indicators are adequate for research and strategy building.
The news features are broad-based and adequate. Insight sections of the website would provide value if updated. The basic platform charting works as intended, with a variety of basic indicators enhancing research. Chart settings are saved between sessions and within custom workplaces.
The website's research sections have not been updated for months, without explanation. Platform context-based research reveals an economic calendar and nothing else. Charting provides no special features, extended lookback periods, or alternative display options. There's no feature to save news by ticker symbol or to receive custom news alerts.
Learning facilities are well below industry standards. A single website learning portal offers just four items, including a trading platform video tutorial. The platform interface contains just a single educational asset--another platform video tutorial.
Learning sections offer limited materials that follow no specific theme other than how to use the trading platform. A single article on Japan, for example, feels out of place given that there are none on any other geographic zones. The platform manual offers a "List of Tutorial Videos" but contains just one entry, an alternative trading platform tutorial. That page lists three other videos, with dead white space to be filled later. The bottom of the manual states it was last updated in February 2016.