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Ease of use is equally important for beginner traders and professional money managers. Having a platform that is user friendly and easy to operate on all levels is critical. Execution has to be there of course, but platform stability and reliability is also crucial.

There are a few aspects to factor in when it comes to platforms: reporting and back office, look and feel, hosting, stability, security and functionality. Various platforms have features that coincide with particular trading styles also, so selecting a platform is important based on how you trade.

I recommend that you first narrow your list of dealing firms to a few that you are comfortable with based on execution, regulation, capitalization, and adherence to your trading style and than demo each platform and read any necessary reviews.

One platform is called ACT and another is called MT4 and there is a more institutional level platform called Currenex. Many firms use a variation of ACT. ACT is very easy to use, has solid charting capabilities, allows hedging, and has a PAMM and a LAMM for money managers. MT4 is probably the most popular platform. Traders love it because it has its built in programming language and because of its wide use communities have sprung up where traders share various automated systems. The platform also has a nice charting tool and user friendly functionality.

In most cases with MT4 and ACT there is a standard dealing desk system behind the platform. MT4 is not FIX enabled so getting ECN prices into it is difficult. However FXCM currently offers the Metatrader platform with ECN Type excection and pricing. I also know of a few other firms that are on the way.

Choosing the right Platform

When it comes to functionality your own trading style and tools are obviously a key factor to take into consideration. For example, if you are scaling in to trades and want to be able to get out of the whole position at once you need to make sure your platform can do it.

If you are scalping you need to have the ability to do one click entries and exits, so a good way to plan when it comes to functionality is to write down every feature you need and to consult somebody at the dealing firm or a qualified introducing broker about those features. In many cases a qualified independent introducing broker that works with many firms can refer you to a specific platform based on what you need so that you don't have to waste time shopping around. Best of all they usually get compensated out of the bid/ask spread by the dealing firm so their services will cost you nothing and you can get added value.

Make sure you are comfortable with the platform in terms of exiting and entering orders. In some cases because firms make the market they will purposely make order entry or exit slightly difficult functionally so that your slippage increases as you perform a necessary action. So in certain cases you may be better of with a platform created by a third party rather than the dealing firm itself.

If you are trading automated systems and want to integrate it with your platform you need to make sure that the platform/ dealing firm, you need to make sure that the dealing firm's platform has an API that you can write into and that it is FIX enabled so that you can write your system in via FIX protocol.

Another good question to ask is does the firm have an SDK kit. Below is a list of some questions to take into consideration. These are just a few examples. There are many more questions you should ask:

How far can I place stops/limits from my current price

Does the platform allow one-click trading

Can I trade off the chart?

Can I get out of positions all at once if I scale in?

Can I hedge? (Non-US traders only)

Can I set order types where I determine maximum allowable slippage?

Is the platform server based, if so where?

Does the platform allow wireless trading?

Can I flatten out all positions with one click?

Does the platform have its own language?

Is the platform FIX enabled (for automated systems)?

All of these questions should be considered when choosing which platform best fits your needs.

In terms of security, once again we recommend that the bigger the firm and the longer it has been around the better it is for you. If the clearing firm has been around for a while and is well capitalized, it then has much more to lose. The bigger firms have more resources to protect against any type of hacking and identity theft, which is an increasingly important factor in the online world today. When you are dealing with a small new firm with a low adjusted net cap, a red flag should go up.

When it comes to reporting and back office, once again determine how you will reconcile your trades at the end of the month and keep track. Based on that - ask any necessary questions. What kind of statements will the company provide you with at year end for tax purposes? How often do they send statements in the mail with your P/L and trades made?

Most firms show live P/L on their platforms. If you are a money manager, you need to know what kind of statements you can get for all of your sub accounts. All of this should be taken into consideration. Once again Iíve noticed that most bigger firms do this very easily.

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Currenex is something that is used by larger traders and institutions to trade and eliminate dealer intervention. The Currenex system is an ECN type platform that pools various liquidity providers such as banks, FCM's and hedge funds together and gives you the best bid/offer available. If you are looking for quick execution and straight through trading this is the platform for you. The platform is FIX enabled and has great tools for money managers. There are however many distinct differences between Currenex and most retail platforms.

First of all with Currenex you pay a commission to use it. Basically you are paying this to get into the so called "traders club" and receive the best bid and offer prices.

Another difference is that there are no lots; you pick the amount that you want to trade and go from there. Since the platform is designed for institutions and banks that typically only use market orders to enter and exit trades there are no stop losses with Currenex.

Minimum order size is usually $500k. If you want to take your trading to the next level and start using Currenex, I recommend that you take time to thoroughly master the product before you risk your money. When choosing a provider make sure that you have no debit balance risk because in many cases with firms offering Currenex a margin call system similar to futures is used and this may cause problems.

When we discuss particular trading styles and what to look for in a broker for each of those styles, I will touch on more specifics for each particular style of trading. The main thing I would like to stress in this section is create a list of what you our looking for and out of the firms that you or your introducing broker have narrowed down find the platform that most closely fits your needs.

If you have 2 distinct trading styles for example, there is nothing wrong with opening 2 separate trading accounts at 2 separate firms, one for each style. Next >

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