The foreign exchange (FOREX) market is the largest traded market in the world. Tapping into this industry by becoming a Forex broker can be extremely lucrative and rewarding. In most jurisdictions, in order to become a Forex broker, you will need to acquire a license. The process of getting a license varies in each country, so you will need to understand the specific requirements in your jurisdiction of choice, and choose the most conducive location to set up your Forex brokerage.
In this article we will provide a brief overview of the Foreign Exchange market, the process and requirements of becoming a Licensed Forex broker in some of the top jurisdictions, and the advantages which it offers.
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The global forex market records in excess of $6 trillion of daily trading volume, making it the largest financial market in the world. The foreign exchange (forex) market is a worldwide market where different national currencies are exchanged for each other. Large financial institutions such as commercial and central banks, hedge funds, money managers, as well as global corporations account for the majority of the volume in forex markets. Individual retail traders also make use of forex markets to speculate on currency fluctuations.
In order to make trades/exchanges on the forex market, participants will be liable to pay exchange trading fees to a broker. With the immense volume traded in forex on a daily basis, this makes it an extremely profitable industry in which to become a broker.
The process for becoming a licensed forex broker varies from country to country. The decision of where to incorporate your forex brokerage business is of utmost importance. Not only are the costs and requirements different, but there are also vast differences in the reputation of each country. This itself can have an impact on the types of clients you attract, as well as your ability to open an offshore bank account, and have the right to operate legally in certain jurisdictions.
In some countries, such as St Vincent and Grenadines, you do not actually need a license at all to operate as a forex broker. However, these are often associated with scams, and operating as an unlicensed broker is certainly not recommended if you want to be successful in the long run. In contrast, top tier forex jurisdictions like the US and Japan have stringent requirements for acquiring a license.
A forex license provides the following major benefits:
A forex license in one of the favourable mid-range offshore jurisdictions outlined below provides the following major benefits:
As mentioned, the process for acquiring a forex license differs significantly depending on the jurisdiction. Fortunately, the jurisdiction in which you choose to incorporate your forex brokerage does not need to be the same as the country where you are physically based, especially as most of your operations will take place remotely.
The most popular jurisdictions in which to obtain a forex brokerage license are generally in top-tier economies like the US, UK, Australia, and Japan. These jurisdictions offer high quality FCA forex licenses and/or ASIC forex licenses.
The main attraction of acquiring your license in one of these jurisdictions is the high reputation that it adds to your brokerage business, which instils a greater level of trust in your clients. On the downside, the costs involved, and upfront capital required, is much higher in these jurisdictions, and the process can be more arduous. For this reason, many new brokers choose to obtain their licenses from good 2nd-tier jurisdictions. These countries still offer reputable forex licenses, but for a much lower cost and with less stringent requirements.
When deciding upon the right jurisdiction in which to obtain a forex license, you should consider the following factors:
We will now outline some of the best jurisdictions in which to obtain a forex brokerage license, and outline the requirements for obtaining one.
The US and Japan are arguably the most highly respected countries in which to become a licensed forex broker. However, the requirements are also stringent. You will need to prove that you have $20 million of accessible capital (excluding client funds). You will need to register your brokerage with the NFA (National Futures Association) and the CFTC (Commodity Futures Trading Commission) which are both overseen by the SEC. You will also need to register as a futures commission merchant (FCM) to complete your NFA membership. The costs are exorbitant for a retail foreign exchange dealer, coming to $125,000 initial setup plus $125,000 - $1,000,000 annual fee depending on annual gross revenue. If you decide to instead register as an individual Introducing Broker, the initial setup fee and annual fees are both only $750.
Japan is another highly respected country in which to acquire a forex license. You will need to comply with Japan’s Financial Services Agency (FCA). The startup costs are also on the higher end, and there are strict capital compliance requirements and due diligence procedures.
You can get an FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) approved forex licence from the UK, which is highly trusted and respected globally. The reporting requirements are less stringent compared to Japan and the US, and the capital requirements are reduced. The total cost for obtaining the license is $35,000 - $50,000 and the initial capital requirement is $100,000. A physical office is required.
The capital requirements for obtaining a forex license in Australia are similar to the UK. The main regulatory body is ASIC. Be warned that the process is quite lengthy, taking up to 12 months. Australia is also one of the most highly regarded jurisdictions issuing forex licenses.
The aforementioned jurisdictions are among the most trusted and respected in the world for incorporating a forex brokerage; however, the fees and capital requirements may be out of reach for many new brokers. Fortunately, there are some good quality offshore jurisdictions which are much more affordable.
A forex license in Cyprus is issued by CySEC. Cyprus is a popular jurisdiction in which to become a licensed forex broker, as it has EU membership status and is highly regarded. It allows brokers to access the entire European market. It also offers favourable corporate taxes. In order to become a licensed forex broker in Cyprus, you will need to obtain a Cyprus Investment Firm (CIF) license, which cost between EUR 40,000 – EUR 100,000. The entire process takes about 6 months.
Malta has been attracting many forex and cryptocurrency exchanges to incorporate on their shores in recent years. This is due to their friendly regulatory framework, affordable setup costs, and solid global reputation. There are different tiers of forex licenses available in Malta. A category 2 license gives the rights to handle client funds, but not to operate your own trading facility. A category 3 license provides the additional right to provide investment services. The Malta Financial Service Authority (MFSA) is responsible for issuing forex licenses.
The British Virgin Islands are a renowned tax haven and popular jurisdiction for offshore company formation. It is no surprise that they are also one of the more favourable nations in which to incorporate a forex brokerage and obtain a forex license. Obtaining a forex license from BVI has many benefits. The process takes only 3 – 4 months, and the total cost is under $30,000. Although BVI is not considered a top-tier jurisdiction like Japan or the USA, they are well respected, and the license issued by the British Virgin Island Financial Services Commission is legitimate. As a tax haven, BVI also offers corporate tax benefits and access to greater financial privacy.
The last jurisdiction on our list is New Zealand, which also offers good quality forex licenses at a much lower cost than the top-tier nations. The regulatory body which issues forex licenses in New Zealand is the FSP. In addition to the fact that forex licenses are more affordable in New Zealand, the forex regulation also tends to be more lenient, making it easier to qualify for a license and adhere to the regulations. Another popular jurisdiction in the Pacific Ocean is Vanuatu, whose licenses are issued by the FSC.
In order to become a truly successful forex broker and make the most of this highly lucrative industry, you need to incorporate and obtain your license in the right jurisdiction. There are many good options available, and deciding which one is best for you comes down to your specific needs, time constraints, and budget. While it is possible to become an unlicensed broker in some countries, this is certainly not recommended. You will be joining thousands of other unlicensed brokers, and it will be extremely difficult to gain clients’ trust and operate anywhere around the globe.
We have looked at some of the most popular jurisdictions in which to obtain your forex license, as well as an overview of the basic requirements. There are of course many other good options to choose from. It is advised to do your own additional research, and speak to an expert who can help you through every step of the process.
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