The STP broker businesses model has several benefits for retail forex traders vs ECN and dealing desk brokers. In this review, we’ll discuss the meaning of STP and its pros and cons. We also list the best STP brokers for forex and CFD trading.
What Is An STP Broker?
STP stands for Straight Through Processing and is a type of technology used by brokers to electronically pass trades directly to the market. STP forex brokers execute trades on behalf of clients by sending them straight to liquidity providers, such as banks or interbank exchange houses. Trades do not pass through a dealing desk, instead, they go directly to the market.
No Dealing Deck Vs Dealing Desk
STP brokers are a type of No Dealing Desk (NDD) broker, meaning they do not use a dealing desk to complete a trade. Dealing desk brokers, known as market makers, fill the opposite end of a client’s trade. They do this either by finding another client to take the opposite side or by taking the trade themselves.
Since market makers do not connect directly to the wider market, there is a limited number of clients that can take the opposite side of your trade. Therefore, often the broker will buy the stock you’re selling, for example, making the market themselves.
Regulated STP forex brokers have slightly different licenses to market makers. They are known as A-book brokers, where market makers are known as B-book.
STP Vs ECN
Another type of NDD provider is an ECN (Electronic Communication Network) broker. These are similar to STP brokers in that they both send trades directly to the market. However, ECN brokers act as a liquidity hub, bringing together banks and financial institutions that compete to take the opposing side of your trade.
Pros Of STP Brokers
STP brokers are often favoured by retail traders. Their business model comes with several benefits:
- Processing speed – The STP technology used by these brokers means that trade execution occurs electronically and at high speed. Some market maker brokers also use software to process trades, but many complete them manually via a dealing desk. This can be a slow process and can result in requotes if the market is volatile.
- Quotes reflect the market – STP brokers trade directly with the market. Therefore, their quotes accurately reflect prices. Market makers may offer artificial quotes to improve their margins.
- No conflict – Market maker brokers profit when their clients lose since they’ve often taken the other side of the trade. This can cause some brokers to operate in ways that may conflict with their client’s ability to win. For example, they might offer artificial quotes or pick and choose which orders they fill. STP brokers are linked directly to the market and so have no profit motive behind client losses. In fact, if clients profit, they’ll often invest more with the broker whose revenue will grow.
- Lot sizes – ECN brokers typically restrict trades to a minimum lot size of 0.1 – the equivalent of 10,000 units of the base currency. This is because banks and other financial institutions operate on this minimum trade size. This can be prohibitive to retail traders, who may want to trade smaller values. STP brokers can often offer lower minimum lots. Admiral Markets and XTB, for example, have a minimum lot size of 0.01 while Interactive brokers has no minimum order size – you can place a trade for as little as 1 unit of the base currency.
Cons Of STP Brokers
Since STP brokers operate with most of the benefits of both ECN and market-markers, drawbacks are limited:
- Spreads – STP brokers tend to offer wider spreads vs dealing desk brokers. This is because dealing desk brokers make money from their clients’ losses. Therefore, they do not need to make as much revenue through spreads. With STP brokers, their revenue is coming solely through the spreads and commission they offer.
- Hybrid models – Some dealing desk brokers take a hybrid approach. They may pass some trades onto the market and take the other side of the trade on others. It can be difficult to know which brokers operate in this way. Seeking clarity from the broker’s customer support team via a contact number may help.
Identifying STP, ECN & Market Maker Brokers
It can be difficult to determine if a broker is a true ECN broker, STP or market maker. Some brokers do not make their business model clear to clients. However, some clues will help you work it out for yourself:
- Minimum lot size – If your broker is offering a minimum lot size below 0.1, they are probably not an ECN broker. The lowest minimum lot sizes are usually offered by market makers and STP brokers.
- Spreads – Brokers claiming to have the tightest spreads and be the cheapest around could be market makers. They often make money from client losses and so do not need to create as much revenue through spreads. Also, ECN brokers typically offer tight spreads but charge commissions to generate profit.
- Scalping rules – Scalping is a trading strategy that utilises inefficiencies in market quotes to make a profit. Traders can make healthy returns using scalping strategies, which can hurt a market maker’s bottom line. But most importantly, market makers will find it difficult to fill orders at the speed required for scalping strategies. Therefore, forex scalping is often not permitted at market makers and is instead more common at ECN and STP brokers in most countries, including the USA, UK, Australia, South Africa and more.
Final Word On STP Brokers
STP brokers are those with the technology to execute forex trades directly with the market. They offer quick processing times and accurate quotes whilst allowing small lot sizes which makes them a good choice for retail traders. However, it’s not always easy to know if your broker follows an STP model. If you start to experience slippage, quotes you feel are not in line with the market or requotes that you’re not happy with, you may want to switch to one of the STP brokers in our list above.
What Is An STP Broker?
An STP broker routes trades directly to the market using Straight Through Processing technology. They follow a No Dealing Desk model (NDD). STP brokers are usually the preferred choice for retail traders due to accurate market quotes and fast processing.
How Are STP Brokers Different From ECN Brokers?
STP brokers are similar to ECN brokers in that they both use no dealing desk models that offer direct market access. However, ECN brokers route trades to a liquidity pool and providers that they control. They also tend to offer larger minimum lot sizes of 0.1 (10,000 units of the base currency).
My Broker Offers An ECN Account, What Does This Mean?
ECN accounts promise faster execution speeds and low spreads like those that institutional traders benefit from. Your trades will be executed on the live forex market, as opposed to going through a dealing desk or STP account. The downside is that ECN often requires high minimum deposits and large minimum trade sizes.
How Can I Tell If My Broker Is A Market Maker?
Brokers may make it tricky to unpick their business model as no dealing desk brokers are often preferred by retail traders. With that said, there are some clues that you can look for. For example, stringent rules on trading behaviours, extra tight spreads and regular requotes indicate they could be a market maker.
Are NDD Brokers And STP Brokers The Same?
Yes, an STP broker is a type of no dealing desk (NDD) broker. They send your trades directly to the market rather than through a dealing desk. ECN brokers are another type of NDD broker. Dealing desk brokers are sometimes called market makers.