2019 Best Online Brokers Awards
Pepperstone Group has emerged as a top-tier player in the Australian brokerage industry since opening its doors in 2010, building a highly competitive and full-featured trading portal that focuses on forex, commodity, and index instruments. Numerous desktop, mobile and web-based platforms, excellent educational resources, tight spreads and multiple account types will appeal to novices and professionals alike, while a sophisticated and lightning-fast “back room” network structure supports all sorts of execution styles, including fully automated algorithmic trading.
The Melbourne-based broker has grown rapidly in recent years and has added customer-pleasing features at an equally torrid pace. They now offer MetaTrader 5 in addition to the industry standard MT 4, a significant upgrade since our last review in 2018. In addition, an impressive list of over 80+ tradable instruments now includes cryptocurrencies, in derivative form to avoid the need for a digital coin exchange.
An AUD $200 minimum opening deposit helps new traders get into the game, underpinned by leverage as high as 500:1. Customer accounts are segregated from company funds, providing an additional layer of security in an industry that can go through turbulent periods. There’s no dealing desk, reducing potential conflicts of interest while leveling the playing field for all types of accounts. Support options are plentiful, highlighted by 24/5 chat/phone support and a comprehensive FAQ that includes clearly stated policies on deposits, withdrawals, and trade disputes.
Web site well-organized and easy to navigate
Excellent trading guides
Conditional orders lack sophistication
No single stock CFD coverage
Scattered and hard to find fee disclosures
Pepperstone holds professional indemnity insurance through Lloyd’s of London. They are an Australian-based broker, regulated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission (ASIC) under ACN 147 055 703 and AFSL 414530 and the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) under Company Number 08965105 and FRN 684312. ASIC requires financial services firms to “meet strict capital requirements and to implement and comply with internal procedures including risk management, staff training, accounting and audits." UK traders receive protection up to £50,000 under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme Protection (FSCS)
Client funds are held at National Australia Bank in a segregated account to avoid misuse. Pepperstone Group is independently audited by Ernst and Young. Trading platforms utilize automatic stop-out systems to eliminate negative balances but the web site admits that “losses may exceed your deposit amount” in volatile market conditions.
Pepperstone offers a broad range of platforms to suit every investment and trading style. Customers can choose between MetaTrader 4/5 and cTrader, a higher end system with direct liquidity provider pricing and advanced technical features that include detachable charts, back-testing, and algorithmic strategy support. Smart Trader Tools for MT4 extend technical functionality, adding a suite of apps that assist trade execution, market research, and depth of market analysis.
The broker’s web site is easy to navigate but recent developments and initiatives aren’t well integrated. For example, account type descriptions refer to MetaTrader 4 but not 5, raising confusion that required clarification through online chat. As the live representative admitted: “MT 5 is new while the web site is old.” A similar issue was found with research materials no longer available at a dedicated web site that has been taken off line. Fee disclosures would also benefit from a single web location or menu drop-down.
Impressive mobile options include MT4/5 and cTrader for iOS and Android. cTrader Web and the MT4 WebTrader provide tablet and iPad access but there’s no MT5 web version. All mobile versions are useful but limited in functionality, which is expected, but some customers may wish for more sophisticated feature sets.
Research and Tools
Metatrader 4/5 and cTrader provide few research features but the Smart Tools add-on for MT4 partially remedies this deficit. Web-based research is plentiful but disorganized compared to our 2018 review because the dedicated thefxlounge.com research portal has been taken offline. Account holders must now navigate to the “Market Review” section of the web site to access forex and commodity analysis by industry experts that include Kathy Lien and Boris Schlossberg. Pepperstone’s YouTube portal is regularly updated, but poorly integrated with the website.
Customers can subscribe to “Daily Market Reports,” described as “high-impact economic events and actionable trading opportunities for your preferred trading session.” Trades can be executed directly from the email, without opening other software. Pepperstone Head of Research Chris Weston also provides regular forex and market content, with YouTube links, through his Twitter handle @ChrisWeston_PS.
Web site contains comprehensive educational resources through a dedicated section that includes “Learn To Trade Forex” tutorials, numerous archived and live webinars, and an impressive list of trading guides. Commodity trading is also covered in detail, along with discussions on slippage, hedging, and margin. In addition, Pepperstone uses this section to highlight support options that include platform comparisons, platform guides, and deposit/withdrawal procedures. The site also includes standard educational features that include a market glossary and technical analysis tutorials.
An impressive roster of social and copy trading partnerships include ZuluTrade, Myfxbook, and Mirror Trader. Social trading features can also be accessed through desktop trading platforms. The broker adds comprehensive technical analysis to MT 4 limited capacity through a free Autochartist Plug-In.[MD1]
They’ve also partnered with Equinix to provide low latency access to the global interbank system, centered through the Equinix Financial Exchange in New York.[MD2] High-end clients can choose from a wide range of VPS options through this facility.
Pepperstone offers more than 60 currency pairs, 14 index CFDs, 7 commodity types, and 5 cryptocurrencies. All instruments are available in all account types but cryptocurrency fees aren’t well documented, which is disappointing due to that category’s high volatility and relatively wide spreads. They offer no share trading, either directly or through CFDs, forcing some account holders to miss trading opportunities in Australia and Asia
New clients can choose between the Standard account with a 1 pip + spread cost and no commissions, or the Razor account with 0 pip + spread and commission. Current commission for a 1-lot ($100,000) forex transaction is USD 3.76 each way (buy and sell). Account holders can access leverage up to 500:1. Pepperstone also offers a no-swap Islamic account that incurs administration fees after a two-day holding period.
AUD 200 minimum is required to open an account, backedup by a comprehensive list of funding sources that include Visa, MasterCard, PayPal, Bank Transfer, Skrill, and Neteller. Standard credit/debit card deposits get charged 1.8% for AUD currency and 3% for all other currencies. Withdrawal fees vary, with no charges when using Verified by Visa or Master Card SecureCode. At the other end of the fee spectrum, $20 is charged for international withdrawals. No dormant or inactive fees were found when reviewing site disclosures and FAQs.
Required margin varies with contract value and trading platform. MT 4/5 requires .5% of notation value for major index CFDs while cTrader caps leverage at 200:1, with leverage on both platforms dropping on more exotic instruments. Daily financing (benchmark rate + 2.5%), contract roll over and swap fees are discussed in the fine print but are not transparent in the web site FAQs or marketing materials.
A comprehensive FAQ will address most inquiries. The broker offers 24/5 chat/phone support as well as social media portals and an online form entry. Two chat requests at different times of day were answered by a live representative within 2 minutes. Local clients can walk into the main Melbourne, Australia office, but online support options are likely to produce more rapid results. They also maintain offices in Dallas, London, and Bangkok.
What You Need to Know
Pepperstone offers an excellent choice for Australian traders but is less attractive for European traders due to the lack of share CFDs. Their lightning-fast execution systems, multiple account types, competitive pricing, and multiple platforms outshine the vast majority of worldwide forex brokers. Professionally handled trust issues add to an already outstanding reputation while their commitment to new features and perks should keep this broker on the fast growth track well into the next decade.
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