The trading of currencies can be traced back into antiquity, but though historic it does not show any signs of fatigue. On the contrary, and especially after the onset of the internet and the boom in online retail forex brokers, which have given the chance to literally anyone across the globe to set up an account and start trading, the foreign exchange market experiences a healthy growth year on year, it reaches record levels of transaction volumes, while it becomes popular across demographics, with more women and youngsters assuming the role of forex traders than ever before. And as those ready, willing, and able to trade forex increase, correspondingly so are those who enter the market on the providers' side, i.e. the firms/brokerages through which online forex trading transactions take place.
A highly lucrative market that holds the promise of significant financial gains is usually the main rationale in the mind of those who seek to enter this market and set up a forex brokerage and to reading this you probably are one of them. However, besides dreaming of the money you could be making, you should first and foremost be aware that the forex brokerage business is not a walk in the playground or a lazy sail on calm waters. Rather, it is an endeavor that should be undertaken with caution, following a phase of careful forward planning. Moreover, with the regulatory authorities across the globe becoming stricter and more demanding in an attempt to protect traders, as well as combat fraud, money laundering, etc., all brokers are faced with complex and demanding legal procedures. Finally, building a forex brokerage from scratch entails a significant necessary investment in terms of financial and development costs, as well as in time and effort.
The difficulty and complexity of setting up a retail forex brokerage from scratch, has led many key players in the industry to offer white label forex brokerage solutions, which many aspiring new entrants to the market turn to in order to overcome the numerous entry barriers that may inhibit them to enter this lucrative market.
The foreign exchange market is the most actively traded market in the world. Trading in foreign exchange (FX) markets averaged $6.6 trillion per day in April 2019 (up from $5.1 trillion three years earlier), according to the 2019 Triennial Central Bank Survey of FX and over-the-counter (OTC) derivatives markets.
Setting up a Forex brokerage business from scratch is an endeavor to which you will need to devote time and effort and of course a significant amount of start-up capital. The process is pretty linear and can be roughly broken down into the following essential steps:
Now, let’s explore each of those in greater depth.
In order to effectively attract clients, you will need to have a pretty accurate idea of who your target market is and what characteristics they share. As forex trading is a business governed by different regulatory obligations in each jurisdiction, it is important to be able to define the location of your target customers, in order to decide which is the best jurisdiction for you to register your forex brokerage in. Make sure you identify the several jurisdictions available and compare their requirements and overall approach towards brokers under their authority in order to be able to determine which licensing requirements you can fulfill and which setting best serves your own goals and aspirations as an aspiring market participant.
The amount of capital you will need to set up a forex brokerage firm from scratch is largely determined by the rules applied in the jurisdiction you chose to register under. However, on top of regulatory requirements in terms of capital sufficiency, you will also need to count in the costs of setting up and running the business per se, costs for technology, salaries, etc., and ensure you have enough money to cover all the initial expenses comfortably, at least those you anticipate to incur during the first year of operation, giving you enough time to develop your customer base and establish your presence in the market.
Since you are setting up a forex brokerage from scratch you have to do it right from the beginning and your journey will be short-lived if you don’t ensure adequate access to liquidity through a reliable liquidity provider. The importance of the liquidity provider for any forex brokerage cannot be stressed enough, but it is beyond the scope to analyze it further here. It suffices to stress that connecting with a Forex liquidity provider that has direct market access to all Tier 1 Forex liquidity venues, is a must.
Payment service providers are another essential component of your endeavor to set up a forex brokerage it is through their own services that you will be able to execute all payments and offer different deposit and withdrawal methods for your clients to choose from. This is an aspect to which potential customers pay particular attention, so you need to ensure that your payments solution provider is honest and reliable, allowing you to effectively compete in the market. Another point to keep in mind is that if you are going to include cryptocurrencies in your offering of tradable assets, then it would also make sense to integrate a cryptocurrency payment gateway that will enable you to send and receive crypto payments online.
This is the most crucial step in the process and the one that will take the longest to complete, since it entails the setup and design of the website through which your brokerage will operate, deciding on and incorporating the trading platform you will use and identifying the array of additional features and services you will also want to include in your offering. Moreover, during this stage, you will need to hire your staff, including people to handle IT matters, compliance issues, financial aspects, sales, and customer support.
The two final phases are also critical for your overall success. Once you are all set up and ready to launch, it is imperative to dedicate enough time and effort to pilot-test all your systems and technical aspects, including the trading platform, mobile applications, and payment systems. This testing, pre-launch phase will allow for problems to emerge before you start taking on real customers, giving you the opportunity to make any necessary adjustments, improvements, and remedies. Once this step is completed and you also have your marketing campaign set up, then you are ready to launch your site.
This is a valid question to which the answer is pretty straightforward. You should choose the option of white labeling instead of setting up your own forex brokerage from scratch because it is faster and easier. Especially if you are a new entrant to the forex market, the landscape is so fiercely competitive and the entry barriers so high, that you stand little chance of succeeding without the backing and collaboration of a reliable, expert, established provider, who will offer you the white label solution, either partially or as a full, turnkey solution package. In a nutshell then, to avoid all the headaches and troubles associated with setting up a forex brokerage on your own, from start to end, you can rent a part of the server from any company that offers such service, or in other words to start a White Label company or WL in exchange for a monthly fee plus a small set-up fee.
A forex white label solution is the best suited solution for individuals or companies with little or no experience in the field wanting to become forex brokers and create their own brands in the forex industry, through which to offer retail trading services. According to the USA National Futures Association (NFA), white labeling “refers to the practice of leasing the right to place the lessee’s name on and market another firm’s trading platform as its own and then passing the trades through to the lessor. In the typical white labeling arrangement, the lessee’s customers do not have a contractual relationship with, and in fact may be unaware of, the firm that owns and operates the platform. For regulatory purposes, the lessee is the counterparty to the customer’s trades and the corresponding transactions with the lessor are separate transactions between the lessee and the lessor to hedge the lessee’s customer obligations”.
Saying it simply then, though a white label solution you rent out part of another firm’s offering and rebrand it to offer as your own, thus you can start your brokerage without having to either buy your own trading platform or having to develop it from scratch. This arrangement comes with many advantages, but also with some disadvantages, as will be discussed below.
Not many know or realize that even several current top-tier forex brokers, have actually started out as white labels and gradually built their way towards the completely independent operation of their firms. This is natural because a white-label solution makes it easier to enter the market and once a brand is established, it can then further consolidate its position and undertake all steps in the process. In fact, running a white-label brokerage does not differ much from running a regular forex brokerage. You will still have a website through which to offer your services, you will be using a trading platform and you will be able to set your own spreads and commissions. And exactly because as a white label you will be earning income from each trade placed by your clients, the higher the trading volume you attract, the higher your revenue will be. Your actual white label partnership agreement will contain provisions setting out the revenue and compensation model applied in your case, and most white label providers adopt a quite flexible approach on this matter, offering a variety of options for you to choose from.
The most obvious advantage of adopting a white-label solution for your forex brokerage is that it almost obliterates entry barriers to the market. It removes the challenge, complexity, excessive cost, and risk of purchasing or building your own platform and the entire retail trading operation necessities, thus giving you a fast-track entry into your online business journey. You can have the same proposition offered to potential customers as your white label service provider, but under your own brand!
Besides being able to start at a much lower cost, what is also great about white labeling is that it takes away the headache of having to deal hands-on with all the technical aspects of a brokerage, the trading platform configuration, and trade dealing specifics. Ideally, all these should be dealt with by your white label service provider, who will be in a position to offer you extensive and continuous support, including back-office support, end-of-day reports, and other requirements, be they trading-related or administrative. Ease of maintenance will mean peace of mind for you, and your white label provider should be ready to supply you with anything you might need, especially if you partner up with a provider that offers a true Forex turnkey solution, that covers all aspects.
Another advantage is that you will gain the hands-on experience of the industry that you will need if your ultimate aim is to grow your customer base to the extent that it will make more sense for you to get your own platform and achieve economies of scale.
On the downside, resorting to a white label solution provider lessens your independence and room to maneuver, as it also makes you dependent on your solution provider, who is also the owner or the platform through which your brokerage operates. When simply renting part of someone else’s server this will mean you cannot configure every to suit you, add plugins or add-ons as you wish or have access to the overall security of the system, as this is controlled by the solution provider. Such problems though are insignificant compared to the advantages to be had, and they can be overcome through various solutions, such as choosing technological solutions that do not require physical installation on the platform or opting for a “bundled label” solution, which, for the right price will give you much more capabilities.
Further information or help regarding The Pros and Cons of Starting a Forex Brokerage as a White Label can be found in our published article with the title Why and how to become a White Label Broker.
If you are interested in becoming a white label forex broker then you have two available options in order to do so, namely to resort to a partial white label partnership or a full one.
To put it simply, under a full white label forex solution partnership you get both the trading platform that you can brand and the ability to directly accept deposits from your trader clients, while under the partial solution scenario, you forego the ability to take such customer deposits directly and this is then handled by the primary broker, i.e. the licensed solution provider. In essence what this means therefore is that a partial solution is easier to operate on your part, but takes away your liberty to actually work with your own clients, since account management functions such as deposits and withdrawals are undertaken by the provider and not you. What you also forego is ensuring the anonymity of your clients, since their deposits and withdrawals will be handled by another party and not you. If you go for a full white label forex brokerage solution, then that anonymity is safeguarded, plus since your forex site will be fully branded with your own company name and logo, traders may never know who the real owner of the platform you are using actually is.
As expected, a partial solution comes with a lower fee, though the difference is not sizeable, while there are also differences in pricing in terms of full white label solutions as well, with full turnkey brokerage solutions usually having a higher price tag as they literally have you covered for all your needs.
Under all scenarios, however, the same fees apply in terms of platform customization and platform rebranding, while the same functionality options are available.
We have already established that under a full white label brokerage solution your customers would be funding their accounts directly with you, i.e. you will be taking their deposits, while under the partial white label solution this will be done through the primary broker who is sub-licensing their software to you. Which scenario you will adopt depends on your situation and the objectives you set to achieve. However, to be able to take a wise decision, it is best if you carefully consider the pros and cons of each of the two options.
Obviously, the first advantage of going with the partial solution and not accepting deposits is simplicity, peace of mind, and speed in terms of entering the market and getting going. If you go with this option and only have to deal with branding the platform and creating your corporate image under which you will be marketing your services as a WL brokerage, this means you could be up and running in a matter of a few days. Another advantage is that many of your potential customers may feel safer depositing funds with a regulated, long-established firm in the forex market, which we assume your forex solution provider will be, rather than with an unknown, new entrant, which your own private label brand will be.
On the other hand, the partial white label option and not taking deposits ruins the anonymity factor all around. Your customer data and details are not entirely between them and you, but the licensed, primary broker gets full access to all such information. Even worse, your customers, whom you lured under your own private label brokerage, will suddenly know that there is actually another company behind you, that you are depending on others to operate, and may lose confidence and see you as a mere façade. If your long-term goal is consolidating your position in the market and you aspire to grow and become a truly independent brokerage one day, then it is perhaps wiser to protect your brand and leave the solution provider anonymous in the eyes of your own customers. To achieve this, you have to go for the full white label solution and accept customer deposits.
The problem with this proposition, however, is that accepting deposits directly from customers is not easy, in fact, it is particularly challenging. The first challenge is the one already touched upon and has to do with earning the trust of customers and convincing them to deposit money with a new, unknown, fresh brand. This is not easy and to have any chance in overcoming this hurdle, you need to ensure that you make available as many different deposit and withdrawal methods as possible.
This is also necessary because different clients prefer different methods. For example, small retail traders will most probably prefer to use a credit card or electronic wallet, while more professional or institutional clients, who fund their accounts with larger amounts, are likely to fund their accounts through wire transfers. To be able to accept deposits then, you will need to have in place the apparatus through which to process them, that will be secure and reliable. Moreover, and besides being able to accept payments online you will also need a merchant account in which these funds will be deposited. But banks consider forex brokerage a risky business, so they might not easily grant you the opening of such an account or they may charge you disproportionally high processing fees. Another fact that further increases the cost on your side is the common practice among brokerages to absorb the credit card fees incurred from client deposits, and if you want to be competitive you should do so too, but this will mean you will have to foot a bigger bill.
Offering additional and alternative payment options such as PayPal, Skrill, or Neteller is also essential and it is also equally challenging. Both because again the fees charged are sometimes even higher than those charged for credit cards and also because such online payment systems also consider the forex business risky and require you to go through a long and strict process of due diligence before they accept you as a new merchant.
Clearly then, the decision to accept deposits or not, in other words, whether you will go for a partial or a full white label brokerage solution, depends entirely on how ready you are to jump into the deep and where exactly it is that you are aiming to arrive, well and obviously how good a swimmer you are!
It goes without saying that it costs less to run a partial white label forex brokerage rather than a full one, since with the partial solution you don’t incur all the costs associated with being able to accept customer deposits directly. This difference in cost is not necessarily a good or a bad thing, it is a plain fact. Other than this difference however, the other costs of running a white label forex brokerage are pretty much the same, under both options They are made up of the original setup fee and the fees for the rebranding of the platform and marketing it under your own brand name and logo, as well as management expenses for the platform.
Besides these costs, running a white label forex brokerage entails the same costs as any other business, for example renting a space, if you decide you will not only offer services online, and pay the operational expenses of such a physical location. It is good if you do have an office, where you will be able to meet clients or prospective clients, or maybe offer training and seminars to either traders or collaborators. Having a brick-and-mortar location will add prestige to your brand, but it will obviously increase the costs.
Another potentially significant type of cost is the cost of hiring and maintaining the right staff that will help you excel. What roles they will be performing and how many they will be will depend on how you will choose to structure your business and which model of operation you will choose to adopt. Keep in mind, however, that you cannot possibly do it yourself and that your brokerage will stand little chance of succeeding if you don’t have the right people handling marketing, customer service and support, accounting, management, and IT issues.
The Approximate costs of Starting your own white label Forex Company can vary from $15,000 to $25,000 USD which is much more affordable compared with the costs of a total ownership plan of a Forex brokerage that vary from $50,000 to $500,000 USD.
As you venture out into the wilderness that is the online retail forex landscape and as you try to build your own customer base for your brand, it is obvious that you will not only aim to attract people who have never traded before but also existing traders who would be ready to abandon their broker and open an account with you instead.
This is an important fact to remember when trying to decide which trading platform and/or software you will choose to be using. Luckily, the forex industry has an industry standard when it comes to trading platforms. A platform that is reliable, proven, and trusted, enjoying huge popularity among traders ever since its initial launch more than 15 years ago. And since such a platform exists, it would be stupid to go with any other option, especially little-known, obscure, proprietary platforms that might be offered to you at very low prices or even for free! Resorting to one of those would be like shooting yourself in the foot, since it would make the burden of attracting customers double, getting them to trust you as a new brand and also trusting the unfamiliar, new, untested platform that you will be offering. The steeper learning curve associated with an unknown, new platform is a sure put-off for potential customers and will surely increase their reluctance and hesitation to become your clients.
Thus, the White Label Trading Platform to go to when deciding to embark on a forex brokerage endeavor is none other than MetaQuotes’s MetaTrader 4 platform, MT4 for short. Although in 2010 the same company went on to launch the MetaTrader 5 platform, the MT4 still remains the most popular and widely used forex trading platform and it has managed to gain the vote of confidence of the hordes of traders and brokers alike, who consistently choose it as their preferred trading venue.
The MT4 puts at the disposal of brokers an abundance of historical data, ample free demos and guides, free charts and charting tools as well as algorithmic trading through the use of so-called robots or expert advisors, which in turn they can offer to their trader clients, thus greatly enhancing their trading experience. Due to its dominant position in the market and the fact that it has been around for so long, both brokers and traders feel confident, secure, and at ease when trading in the MT4 environment and are familiar with its numerous additional features.
Of course, getting hold of your part of the MT4 platform comes with a fee, both in the form of an initial upfront payment as well as a recurrent monthly installment, since all licensed brokers need to pay this fee to MetaQuotes for every white label they sublicense. It is not possible to name exactly the height of these fees, firstly because they do change over time and secondly because they depend on the kind of agreement you will strike with your white-label solution provider. However, since the trading platform is at the core of the operation of a forex brokerage, there is no room for experiments and unnecessary risks. Pay to get the best platform so that you ensure reliability and work hard and smart to customize and rebrand it to make you stand out and be able to attract customers.
Are compliance and legal issues a burden when setting up a white label forex brokerage? Well, unfortunately, the short answer to this question is a resounding yes! Many years ago setting up a forex brokerage was far less complicated but the industry’s boom meant that today regulators across the globe are tightening their grip and imposing strict rules and regulations that brokers should abide by and comply with. In some countries, like for example in the USA, such compliance requirements are impossible for small, new entrants to the market to meet, so if you are just starting out as a white-label brokerage you can immediately rule out the option of operating in the USA or taking on US customers.
However, it is not all gloom provided you approach all legal and regulatory matters with due caution and care, without taking rash or impulsive decisions. The decisive factor that will determine how high a hurdle such legal requirements will pose for your white-label brokerage is the location. When we talk about location, we do not only mean the location of the licensed broker that will be your white label solution provider, but also the location where your own business will operate, where it will be registered, and of equal importance the location of the customers you will be targeting.
Fortunately, there are still several countries that apply a more lax regulatory framework against which you could set up your white label forex brokerage. It is still necessary though, even in such cases, to be aware of the difference between your place of incorporation and the actual base of your operations. In other words, remember that it is possible to be incorporated in one location and have your base in another.
In a nutshell, and though a fair share of legal complications and implications do exist when trying to set up your white label forex brokerage, these can be adequately remedied and not prove detrimental to your effort provided you prepare carefully and take wise decisions when it comes to who your white label solution provider will be and which jurisdiction you will decide to set up under.
Admittedly the possibility of high profits to be made and the fact that a white label solution, especially a full, complete turnkey solution obliterates entry barriers to the market, make many individuals or firms become new entrants to the forex market by setting up white label brokerages. It is equally true however that many such ventures, soon fail dismally, especially if they were ill-prepared and based on the wrong assumptions or an overestimation of one’s true condition and real circumstance. This is not said to put you off but to alert you that you should only take the next step if you are sure you are absolutely ready to take it.
To help you evaluate if you are truly ready to jump on the bandwagon then, here are three reasons you shouldn’t just yet go there. Don’t do it if you don’t have enough funds, if you have no experience in forex matters whatsoever, or if you cannot deliver that something extra, the wow factor that will help you stand out and effectively be differentiated from the rest. Let us discuss these three concerns a bit further to better illustrate how you can know for sure if you are ready or not.
In terms of the necessary funds to start out, remember that there are no freebies or cheap solutions, as these will reflect on your actual offering and thus render it unattractive. Bear in mind that traders are knowledgeable and demanding and you should be able to meet their demands if you are to gain them as clients. Therefore, you need to ensure you have enough funds available to cover the expenses of getting your share of the MT4 platform and maintaining it every month, the cost of effectively rebranding the platform and marketing it, the cost of being able to process payments if you decide to accept deposits directly, the cost of salaries for expert staff that will ensure you are running without glitches and your customer support is excellent. And in order to be able to keep funding all these needs, you will need to be attracting enough trading volume to keep the wheels turning. So, if you don’t have the funds or the confidence and know how to start generating income fast, then you should better wait a bit longer before you set up your own forex brokerage as success will not come through drive alone or through wishful thinking.
Similarly, you shouldn’t start a white label forex brokerage if you have no experience in forex matters. If you don’t understand what is going on and how the game is played, you should sit it out. Besides, it is true that forex trading is inherently risky, not only for traders but for brokers as well, thus it is unthinkable to want to assume the role of a broker if you lack the necessary knowledge and experience, because the stakes are high and failure is costly, all around. And the learning process takes time and effort so don’t even contemplate that you can become a top-notch broker overnight.
Even if you do secure adequate funds and possess or amass the necessary knowledge and expertise, however, these two elements alone are not enough to turn you into a successful white label forex broker. Why? The simple answer lies in the fact that because it is potentially lucrative and thus attractive to new entrants, the forex brokerage landscape is also fiercely competitive. And since, as a white labeler, you will not have much room in differentiating your actual offering, you will need to possess the extra skill of being able to offer, or at least appear to offer, something extra, something better, something that will urge potential customers to choose your as their broker over your many competitors.
Success as a forex broker is measured in how many customers you convert, how many you retain, and how big trading volumes you are able to generate. In essence, then that will need intelligent, smart, clever, innovative ways to incentivize potential clients effectively so as to seal the deal. And you will need to keep finding ways to portray your own brokerage in the eyes of customers as the one that has an edge over the rest.
If the above analysis has made you think again about starting your own white label forex brokerage and if you feel you are somehow not quite ready to take the leap, then perhaps you should explore the available alternatives to white labeling, that will however allow you to still try your hand in the world of online forex trading. The best alternative is becoming an introducing broker or IB for short. This kind of venture presents a path of lesser resistance that will allow you to enter the world of online forex trading in a manner that incurs lesser risks and is less demanding on your side, at least at its initial stages.
Being a step down compared to a white label broker, by being an IB you will not be working with your own clients, but be referring them instead, so the extent of your control is more limited, but this is not necessarily always a bad thing.
Moreover, by being the simplest form of partnership between a primary forex broker and another entity that solicits and refers clients to them, you can be an IB either as an individual or as a company, and earn your commission under both scenarios. According to the glossary of the US NFA, an IB is “a firm or individual that solicits and accepts futures orders from customers but does not accept money, securities or property from the customer. An IB must be registered with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission and must carry all of its accounts through a futures commission merchant on a fully disclosed basis.”
The actual process through which the referral is done may vary according to the arrangement and agreement the IB makes with the licensed broker, but the only true prerequisite to succeed as an IB in the forex industry is having access to and influence on the potential traders, so as to effectively lead them towards the direction of the broker you are soliciting for. Already having, or being able to open such channels of effective and convincing communication with wannabe forex traders is the key that will lead you towards success as an IB. If you yourself are a successful trader, a money manager, or an investment adviser, then you are perfectly geared to become an IB and earn revenue for your referrals. Similarly, it is easy to become a successful IB if you already own a website, a blog, or a service that relates to forex trading matters and you enjoy a healthy level of traffic, as it will be easier to simply divert traffic than having to create it from scratch.
What is more, an IB partnership may be just the practice you need to master the necessary skills and amass the hands-on experience in order to be able to move on to the next level and set up your own white label forex brokerage. If you are good at earning clients for others, then you will most probably be good at getting them for yourself as well.
Actually becoming an IB is a pretty straightforward task, that usually entails filling out the relevant application of your chosen broker and then receiving your unique identifiers, links, promotional material, and anything else you need in order to start soliciting clients. Following this you will be able to immediately start receiving your commission for every client that you can prove has been referred by you, e.g. for every trader that reaches the forex broker via your own unique referral link.
There are different commission structures being offered to IBs by brokers, but the most common types are either in the form of a flat fee for every referred client, which may range from 30 or 50 USD to even 300 or 400, depending on the broker, or in the form of a percentage from each spread for each trade placed by the referred client, for as long as that client keeps funding their account and keeps trading with the specific broker.
To neatly sum up the discussion, the main points to takeaway would be that starting your own forex brokerage from scratch, especially if you are not already in the forex business in another capacity is simply too much of a hassle and the mountain is too steep to attempt to climb it. A more viable option that allows smoother entry to the market is via a white label brokerage solution, be it partial, that is simpler, or full that will enable you to also accept customer deposits and allow you full power and control over your own clients. Bear in mind that there are ready-made complete turnkey solutions from reliable providers that will make it even easier for you to start your forex brokerage. However, irrespective of how good partners you find, success is still not guaranteed and none says the ride will not be bumpy or that you will not need to work hard, try harder and invest both in money, but also in time and effort. If a forex white label is not for you, you can always consider the option of becoming an introducing broker and gradually work your way up the forex business ladder if you so wish.
The most important conclusion however, is that the field of forex trading keeps recording massive volumes of trading day in and day out and this trend is set to continue, therefore for those who have a resilient stomach and the drive, vision, inspiration and commitment to succeed, the promise of multiple lucrative options to be had is very much possible and plausible.
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