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Best HFT Brokers 2022

May 09, 2022
Last modified May 16, 2022

Don’t worry, you don’t have to possess superhuman speed or the reflexes of a cheetah to benefit from what’s known as high-frequency trading (HFT). High-frequency traders use algorithms and exceptionally powerful computers to take advantage of microscopic market movements and price disparities, by trading in higher volumes and at tremendous speeds.

That said, all automated trading programs are different. If you want to run an HFT program for stocks, CFDs, or forex trading, then you have to have a deep understanding of how they work (and of their inherent limitations).

Here at BrokerNotes, we conducted extensive research so that we could create this guide to help newcomers understand HFT, and to clarify the various strategies that traders employ in their quest for high-frequency success.

We’ll explain what HFT is, how it works, and detail the benefits (and drawbacks) that come with using this technologically-advanced approach to trading. We’ll also help you pick the best broker for running your high-frequency trading strategy.

CFDs are complex instruments and come with a high risk of losing money rapidly due to leverage. Between 65% and 82% of retail investor accounts lose money when trading CFDs. You should consider whether you understand how CFDs work and whether you can afford to take the high risk of losing your money.

Best brokers for high-frequency trading

All strategies involve risk, including high-frequency trading, so no matter what kind of trading strategy you decide to adopt, it’s always best to use a regulated broker. Trading through a regulated broker also grants a trader access to the broker’s data about how high-frequency trading may be affecting markets.

It’s best to start by looking for brokers that are regulated in your country, and then research any available consumer compensation funds provided as protection against bankruptcy. Over at our sister site ForexBrokers.com you can check out how our proprietary Trust Algorithm determines a broker’s trustworthiness.

All that being said, here are our picks for the best brokers if you are looking to do some high-frequency trading:

  • IG - 9.7/10 Overall
  • Saxo Bank - 9.5/10 Overall
  • CMC Markets - 9.4/10 Overall
  • Interactive Brokers - 9.2/10 Overall
  • TD Ameritrade - 8.9/10 Overall
  • FOREX.com - 8.7/10 Overall
  • XTB - 8.7/10 Overall
  • City Index - 8.7/10 Overall
  • Swissquote - 8.5/10 Overall
Overall Rating
9.74.5 / 10
Minimum Initial Deposit
£250.00
Trust Score
Trust Score is a numerical rating (from 1 - 99) that represents a broker's overall trust.close
Highly Trusted
Cost & Fundingexpand_moreexpand_less
Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard0.828 (September 2021)
All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active0.365 (May 2020)
PayPal (Deposit/Withdraw)Yes
Skrill (Deposit/Withdraw)No
Visa/Mastercard (Credit/Debit)Yes
Regulationexpand_moreexpand_less
Year Founded1974
Publicly Traded (Listed)Yes
BankYes
Tier-1 Licenses7
Tier-2 Licenses2
Investment Optionsexpand_moreexpand_less
Forex TradingNo
Trading - Forex or CFDsYes
Tradeable Symbols (Total)19537
Forex Pairs (Total)100
BitcoinYes
Trading Platformsexpand_moreexpand_less
Virtual Trading (Demo)Yes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)Yes
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)No
Proprietary PlatformYes
Social Trading / Copy TradingYes
Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)32
Apps & Toolsexpand_moreexpand_less
Android AppYes
Apple iOS AppYes
Has Education - Forex or CFDsYes
Daily Market CommentaryYes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)Yes
Economic CalendarYes


Overall Rating
9.5 / 10
Minimum Initial Deposit
$2,000
Trust Score
Trust Score is a numerical rating (from 1 - 99) that represents a broker's overall trust.close
Highly Trusted
Cost & Fundingexpand_moreexpand_less
Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard0.8 (August 2020)
All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active0.6 (August 2020)
PayPal (Deposit/Withdraw)No
Skrill (Deposit/Withdraw)No
Visa/Mastercard (Credit/Debit)Yes
Regulationexpand_moreexpand_less
Year Founded1992
Publicly Traded (Listed)No
BankYes
Tier-1 Licenses6
Tier-2 Licenses1
Investment Optionsexpand_moreexpand_less
Forex TradingNo
Trading - Forex or CFDsYes
Tradeable Symbols (Total)40000
Forex Pairs (Total)182
BitcoinYes
Trading Platformsexpand_moreexpand_less
Virtual Trading (Demo)Yes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)Yes
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)No
Proprietary PlatformYes
Social Trading / Copy TradingYes
Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)62
Apps & Toolsexpand_moreexpand_less
Android AppYes
Apple iOS AppYes
Has Education - Forex or CFDsYes
Daily Market CommentaryYes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)Yes
Economic CalendarYes


Overall Rating
9.4 / 10
Minimum Initial Deposit
$0
Trust Score
Trust Score is a numerical rating (from 1 - 99) that represents a broker's overall trust.close
Highly Trusted
Cost & Fundingexpand_moreexpand_less
Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard0.73 (August 2021)
All-in Cost EUR/USD - ActiveN/A
PayPal (Deposit/Withdraw)Yes
Skrill (Deposit/Withdraw)No
Visa/Mastercard (Credit/Debit)Yes
Regulationexpand_moreexpand_less
Year Founded1989
Publicly Traded (Listed)Yes
BankNo
Tier-1 Licenses5
Tier-2 Licenses1
Investment Optionsexpand_moreexpand_less
Forex TradingNo
Trading - Forex or CFDsYes
Tradeable Symbols (Total)11927
Forex Pairs (Total)158
BitcoinYes
Trading Platformsexpand_moreexpand_less
Virtual Trading (Demo)Yes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)Yes
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)No
Proprietary PlatformYes
Social Trading / Copy TradingYes
Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)86
Apps & Toolsexpand_moreexpand_less
Android AppYes
Apple iOS AppYes
Has Education - Forex or CFDsYes
Daily Market CommentaryYes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)Yes
Economic CalendarYes


Overall Rating
9.2 / 10
Minimum Initial Deposit
$0
Trust Score
Trust Score is a numerical rating (from 1 - 99) that represents a broker's overall trust.close
Highly Trusted
Cost & Fundingexpand_moreexpand_less
Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard0.6 (From 09/25/21 - 10/02/21)
All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active0.6 (From 09/25/21 - 10/02/21)
PayPal (Deposit/Withdraw)No
Skrill (Deposit/Withdraw)No
Visa/Mastercard (Credit/Debit)No
Regulationexpand_moreexpand_less
Year Founded1977
Publicly Traded (Listed)Yes
BankNo
Tier-1 Licenses8
Tier-2 Licenses1
Investment Optionsexpand_moreexpand_less
Forex TradingNo
Trading - Forex or CFDsYes
Tradeable Symbols (Total)7400
Forex Pairs (Total)91
BitcoinNo
Trading Platformsexpand_moreexpand_less
Virtual Trading (Demo)Yes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)No
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)No
Proprietary PlatformYes
Social Trading / Copy TradingNo
Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)127
Apps & Toolsexpand_moreexpand_less
Android AppYes
Apple iOS AppYes
Has Education - Forex or CFDsYes
Daily Market CommentaryYes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)Yes
Economic CalendarYes


Overall Rating
8.9 / 10
Minimum Initial Deposit
$0
Trust Score
Trust Score is a numerical rating (from 1 - 99) that represents a broker's overall trust.close
Highly Trusted
Cost & Fundingexpand_moreexpand_less
Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard1.26 pips (August 2021)
All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active1.26 pips (August 2021)
PayPal (Deposit/Withdraw)No
Skrill (Deposit/Withdraw)No
Visa/Mastercard (Credit/Debit)No
Regulationexpand_moreexpand_less
Year Founded1955
Publicly Traded (Listed)Yes
BankYes
Tier-1 Licenses4
Tier-2 Licenses0
Investment Optionsexpand_moreexpand_less
Forex TradingNo
Trading - Forex or CFDsYes
Tradeable Symbols (Total)0
Forex Pairs (Total)73
BitcoinYes
Trading Platformsexpand_moreexpand_less
Virtual Trading (Demo)Yes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)No
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)No
Proprietary PlatformYes
Social Trading / Copy TradingNo
Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)360
Apps & Toolsexpand_moreexpand_less
Android AppYes
Apple iOS AppYes
Has Education - Forex or CFDsYes
Daily Market CommentaryYes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)Yes
Economic CalendarYes


Overall Rating
8.7 / 10
Minimum Initial Deposit
$100
Trust Score
Trust Score is a numerical rating (from 1 - 99) that represents a broker's overall trust.close
Highly Trusted
Cost & Fundingexpand_moreexpand_less
Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard1.1 (US August 2021)
All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active1.1 (US August 2021)
PayPal (Deposit/Withdraw)Yes
Skrill (Deposit/Withdraw)No
Visa/Mastercard (Credit/Debit)Yes
Regulationexpand_moreexpand_less
Year Founded1999
Publicly Traded (Listed)Yes
BankNo
Tier-1 Licenses4
Tier-2 Licenses1
Investment Optionsexpand_moreexpand_less
Forex TradingNo
Trading - Forex or CFDsYes
Tradeable Symbols (Total)5500
Forex Pairs (Total)91
BitcoinYes
Trading Platformsexpand_moreexpand_less
Virtual Trading (Demo)Yes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)Yes
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)Yes
Proprietary PlatformYes
Social Trading / Copy TradingNo
Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)139
Apps & Toolsexpand_moreexpand_less
Android AppYes
Apple iOS AppYes
Has Education - Forex or CFDsYes
Daily Market CommentaryYes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)Yes
Economic CalendarYes


Overall Rating
8.7 / 10
Minimum Initial Deposit
$0
Trust Score
Trust Score is a numerical rating (from 1 - 99) that represents a broker's overall trust.close
Highly Trusted
Cost & Fundingexpand_moreexpand_less
Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard0.9 (Q3 2021)
All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active0.9 (Q3 2021)
PayPal (Deposit/Withdraw)Yes
Skrill (Deposit/Withdraw)Yes
Visa/Mastercard (Credit/Debit)Yes
Regulationexpand_moreexpand_less
Year Founded2002
Publicly Traded (Listed)Yes
BankNo
Tier-1 Licenses1
Tier-2 Licenses3
Investment Optionsexpand_moreexpand_less
Forex TradingNo
Trading - Forex or CFDsYes
Tradeable Symbols (Total)10000
Forex Pairs (Total)49
BitcoinYes
Trading Platformsexpand_moreexpand_less
Virtual Trading (Demo)Yes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)Yes
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)No
Proprietary PlatformYes
Social Trading / Copy TradingYes
Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)39
Apps & Toolsexpand_moreexpand_less
Android AppYes
Apple iOS AppYes
Has Education - Forex or CFDsYes
Daily Market CommentaryYes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)Yes
Economic CalendarYes


Overall Rating
8.7 / 10
Minimum Initial Deposit
£100.00
Trust Score
Trust Score is a numerical rating (from 1 - 99) that represents a broker's overall trust.close
Highly Trusted
Cost & Fundingexpand_moreexpand_less
Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard1.1 (August 2021)
All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active1.1 (August 2021)
PayPal (Deposit/Withdraw)Yes
Skrill (Deposit/Withdraw)No
Visa/Mastercard (Credit/Debit)Yes
Regulationexpand_moreexpand_less
Year Founded1983
Publicly Traded (Listed)Yes
BankNo
Tier-1 Licenses3
Tier-2 Licenses1
Investment Optionsexpand_moreexpand_less
Forex TradingNo
Trading - Forex or CFDsYes
Tradeable Symbols (Total)12000
Forex Pairs (Total)84
BitcoinYes
Trading Platformsexpand_moreexpand_less
Virtual Trading (Demo)Yes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)Yes
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)No
Proprietary PlatformYes
Social Trading / Copy TradingYes
Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)139
Apps & Toolsexpand_moreexpand_less
Android AppYes
Apple iOS AppYes
Has Education - Forex or CFDsYes
Daily Market CommentaryYes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)Yes
Economic CalendarYes


Overall Rating
8.5 / 10
Minimum Initial Deposit
$1000
Trust Score
Trust Score is a numerical rating (from 1 - 99) that represents a broker's overall trust.close
Highly Trusted
Cost & Fundingexpand_moreexpand_less
Average Spread EUR/USD - Standard-1
All-in Cost EUR/USD - Active-1
PayPal (Deposit/Withdraw)Yes
Skrill (Deposit/Withdraw)Yes
Visa/Mastercard (Credit/Debit)Yes
Regulationexpand_moreexpand_less
Year Founded1996
Publicly Traded (Listed)Yes
BankYes
Tier-1 Licenses4
Tier-2 Licenses1
Investment Optionsexpand_moreexpand_less
Forex TradingNo
Trading - Forex or CFDsYes
Tradeable Symbols (Total)466
Forex Pairs (Total)78
BitcoinYes
Trading Platformsexpand_moreexpand_less
Virtual Trading (Demo)Yes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)Yes
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)Yes
Proprietary PlatformYes
Social Trading / Copy TradingYes
Charting - Indicators / Studies (Total)49
Apps & Toolsexpand_moreexpand_less
Android AppYes
Apple iOS AppYes
Has Education - Forex or CFDsYes
Daily Market CommentaryYes
Forex News (Top-Tier Sources)Yes
Economic CalendarYes


What is high-frequency trading?

High-frequency trading (HFT) refers to the use of technology to automatically execute high volumes of transactions within narrow time frames. In order to achieve the high speeds that are needed for this type of trading, traders need access to sufficient computing power, high-frequency trading software, and complex algorithms that enable the opening and closing of positions within microseconds.

The best traders use dedicated microwave towers to transmit and analyze order information, where microseconds can make the difference in having a headstart over the public. HFT systems are often co-located or in close proximity to the broker's data centers where their servers are located, in order to minimize any potential latency or delay between the time their orders are submitted and when they are executed or canceled.

HFT systems are also notorious for canceling and replacing orders at a high rate of speed, and other practices that can otherwise disturb or spoof normal markets. One such example would be the practice of front running, in which an HFT system attempts to sprint ahead of a large order of assets or shares on an exchange. If the HFT system is able to move fast enough, it can turn around and sell (or buy) the assets to the client it was racing against.

Over the last 20 years, many rules and regulations have been put in place to help uphold market integrity, protect market participants, and prevent practices like front-running. HFT does provide some benefits to the markets, such as added liquidity, and retail traders themselves are not running their own HFT systems.

Speed versus cost: Some HFT strategies are not as time-sensitive, and might be more dependent on low trading costs (such as lower effective spreads) in order to be effective.

Other simpler strategies instead rely mostly upon technical analysis. For example, when certain pre-determined conditions are met, an order might be triggered to open a new trade or to close an existing one. Not all HFT strategies place large numbers of orders each day (or even every week). Rather than speed, the crucial factor is the logic being used to specify the conditions that must be met to trigger an order.

Pros & Cons of high-frequency trading:

Pros:

  • Be first out of the gate. High-frequency traders are often able to take first-mover advantage in high-impact news situations, such as GDP and inflation data releases, nonfarm payrolls, and monetary policy announcements.
  • Technology is unemotional. This rapid large-scale trading is carried out by computers, so HFT strategies are not subject to the pitfalls and mistakes that can be caused by the influence of human emotions.
  • Market efficiency. In a big-picture sense, HFT can help markets become more efficient by increasing available liquidity, and by reducing spreads as arbitrage opportunities are removed.

Cons:

  • It’s not easy. When used by retail and professional clients, HFT strategies require a high degree of technical skill, experience, and attention, including during the setup, monitoring, and overall management phases.
  • Computer intelligence only goes so far... While it may seem like a no-brainer to remove the human component from trading, computers aren’t perfect either. They may not always react appropriately to volatile market conditions or make distinctions between genuine and false news events.
  • …and a technological “ceiling” isn’t all that far off. Looking into the future, there is almost certainly a limit to how much more these high-powered computing systems can advance. Simultaneously, market technology is accelerating, allowing for price disparities to be identified and rectified before high-frequency traders can exploit them.

Can you make money with high-frequency trading?

Yes, but your overall profitability when trading – regardless of your trading strategy – is dependent on a variety of factors, such as the size and number of trades you are making. Just because an HFT strategy uses fancy Python code or was developed by a Harvard quant doesn’t mean it will be profitable. Likewise, a simple moving average cross-over strategy or a similarly straightforward HFT system shouldn’t be dismissed for its simplicity.

Traders who hope to achieve long-term profitability need to manage their risk/reward ratio, keep their average profits higher than average losses, and maintain a win/loss ratio that results in a net overall profit (though of course, this is easier said than done). The challenge in developing an effective strategy – including for an HFT system – is determining how and when to enter and exit the market, and how to adapt to changes in your outlook or overall market conditions.

Pro tip: The best HFT system developers will back-test their system on out-of-sample data (data that the system is not privy to) – such as historical data – to avoid curve-fitting the system to the results. The results of that backtest will show how the system would have hypothetically performed over that historical time frame.

If the results look promising, they can then be forward-tested using real-time (current) market data and live trading conditions, to see if those results are similar to the hypothetical backtested version. Successful HFT developers will undergo these tests before scaling or fully funding an HFT strategy.

What is arbitrage?

Arbitrage (also known as scalping) describes a trading strategy in which an asset is bought in one market with the intention of turning around and instantly (or, near-simultaneously) selling that same asset in a different market or venue. Traders that engage in arbitrage are attempting to exploit the often-minuscule price discrepancies that may exist between the two markets or venues.

A latency-driven arbitrage strategy can involve prices that lag by a few milliseconds due to a technical glitch or slow server, for example, or simply come as a result of market fragmentation. For the latter, arbitrage doesn’t result from price lag, the rate simply varies across different venues within centralized exchanges (such as forex markets).

Today, as financial markets increase their efficiency and interconnectedness, arbitrage opportunities have become harder to detect, more fleeting, and ultimately rarer. It’s now more difficult for even the best HFT systems to monetize any off-market prices. Market efficiency has also resulted in tightened spreads and commissions. As market makers and proprietary trading firms carry out arbitrage, they increase the available market liquidity for the public while competing against each other to capture the spread.

It’s also important to note that some venues prohibit latency-only strategies because of their potential for causing conflicts of interest. For example, a market maker could be incentivized to “create” an arbitrage event by front-running their own customer in order to make a profit at the client’s expense. Therefore, if you are attempting to capture some form of arbitrage, it is important to find out whether your broker has any anti-latency arbitrage mechanisms in place, or if it permits scalping.

Inter-market arbitrage: Arbitrage can also exist across instrument types for an underlying asset, such as between the forex cash (spot) market and forex futures markets, or between a forex derivative and underlying forex-related security, known as intra-market arbitrage.

Stat arb: With statistical arbitrage (or, stat arb), traders track the correlation of multiple assets and attempt arbitrage when there is a deviation from the normal course of price action and traders have an expectation that it will return to a normal baseline. In such cases, arbitrage can involve more than two markets, such as with triangular arbitrage, or the use of three orders that are sent as a single multi-legged order.

Is high-frequency forex trading legal?

High-frequency trading is legal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be permitted by your broker. It’s important to examine your broker’s terms and conditions to determine whether its defined trading conditions will allow for HFT strategies. Some brokers prohibit strategies that are price-driven (such as with scalping) or latency-driven arbitrage strategies.

That being said, there are brokers that may welcome such trading. In these cases, it’s wise to pay attention to the specific trading conditions being offered, such as execution methods and related trading costs. You’ll have to determine whether HFT is a feasible strategy under such conditions.

HFT systems must be prepared to handle any and all potential market conditions and brokerage account scenarios with established methods in place to resolve such events, in order to avoid stalling or causing errors that could lead to significant losses.

For example, if a broker re-quotes an order due to a price change that occurred before the order was placed, an HFT strategy may not be able to act on that re-quoted price unless it is supported in the broker's API or related trading platform, such as MetaTrader.

On the other hand, if the broker offers you a “market” execution method, it means that orders are never rejected, but can be subject to a worse price fill. In this case, an HFT strategy must be able to set a deviation parameter to minimize the potential for excessive slippage. Without that parameter, it would be difficult to manage the risk on a position if slippage cannot be minimized during fast market conditions – especially if your HFT strategy is carrying out a high number of trades.

Is high-frequency trading profitable?

Whether an HFT strategy will be profitable for you (or not) will depend on a variety of factors, such as your individual system configurations (and whether you’ve chosen the right HFT). On a high level, it’s always important to remember that the majority of retail forex traders lose money, so the odds are against you from the start. Short-term trading in the stock market can also be less profitable than longer-term investing.

That all being said, if you are looking to pursue a HFT strategy, there are a few factors to consider if you want to maximize your chances at profitability:

Choosing the right HFT system: The market is saturated with HFT systems, including for retail traders. There are thousands of HFT programs available from third-party developers (such as on the MetaTrader MQL5 community) available for lease via subscription or for indefinite use. However, the efficacy of these programs will depend on a number of factors, such as the quality of their historical data and the actual live trading results.

HFT system configuration: Even the best HFT systems require some initial configuration when you initialize them, such as choosing the values for adjustable parameters and selecting which markets to trade.

A single HFT system could potentially be configured in hundreds or even thousands of ways. There may be dozens of variables, each with multiple values that can be calibrated differently each time it’s used. It’s important to note that the parameters are sometimes over-optimized, or even configured on historical data to maximize “results” so that the system developer can promote the strategy. That system, however, may perform differently in real market conditions.

Pro tip: The key to making money with HFT is to use a system that is properly configured and tested with real results for a sufficient period of time, before scaling your portfolio allocations towards such a strategy. It’s also crucial to figure out how to adjust the system parameters to adapt to changing market conditions, for risk management purposes.

Which broker is best for HFT trading?

The best broker for high-frequency trading in 2022 is IC Markets. IC Markets has everything that a trader running an HFT strategy might need, offering a liberal execution policy (including during fast markets), numerous account types, and a variety of execution methods., All of these features, along with its deep liquidity, has us ranking IC Markets at the top for HFT traders.

If you are running an automated trading system that trades at lower frequencies, for example, or an ultra-fast HFT setup, IC Markets’ support for the complete MetaTrader suite (MT4 and MT5) has you covered. Also available with IC Markets is the cTrader platform suite, which supports FIX API trading connectivity.

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There is a very high degree of risk involved in trading securities. With respect to margin-based foreign exchange trading, off-exchange derivatives, and cryptocurrencies, there is considerable exposure to risk, including but not limited to, leverage, creditworthiness, limited regulatory protection and market volatility that may substantially affect the price, or liquidity of a currency or related instrument. It should not be assumed that the methods, techniques, or indicators presented in these products will be profitable, or that they will not result in losses. Learn more.

About the Author

Steven Hatzakis

Steven is the Lead Writer and Director of Research at BrokerNotes since 2021, and at ForexBrokers.com since 2016. Steven has been gathering accolades and credentials in the finance industry for over 20 years. He’s served as a registered commodity futures representative for both domestic and internationally regulated brokerages, and he’s held a Series III license in the U.S. as a Commodity Trading Advisor (CTA) for over ten years. He’s published over 1,000 articles covering the forex industry, and he has been writing about Bitcoin and cryptocurrency for almost ten years. Steven continues to contribute to open-source technology, consumer education, and self-regulatory initiatives.


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