The Forex market has been particularly active since the 1970s. It has become the world’s largest financial market, with the average daily trading volume growing from around 1.2 trillion in 1995, to 5.1 trillion in 2016, according to figures from the Bank of International Settlements1.

Although large financial institutions and banks are responsible for a substantial portion of trading in this market, modern technology has also made it accessible to a broader base of customers. Brokers have developed easy to use, online trading platforms that have simplified the process of trading, and made it available from almost anywhere in the world.

In fact, 9.6 million people around the world are now online traders: that’s 1 in every 781 people.

Where are the world’s online traders?

The industry is global, with many brokers obtaining permission from various regulators around the world, or taking advantage of passporting arrangements to promote their services in jurisdictions outside of their country of domicile.

Although the UK and US remain by far the largest centres of Forex trading activity1, our modern trader report found that a third of online traders are based in Asia and the Middle East, which is over a million more than can be found in Europe and Northern America.

Online trading platforms have spread the focus away from the major financial centres, such as London and New York, and out to the far corners of the world.

Number of online traders by continent / region

Number of online traders by continent / region. See Appendix A for raw data

Internet users

Nowadays, all that is required is an internet connection for would-be traders to begin participating in the Forex markets. Personal computers are not even necessary, as many of the platforms can be accessed from a mobile phone.

The figures are even more staggering when people who do not use the internet are removed from the equation: with 3.8 billion internet users in the world2, that makes 1 in every 396 an online trader.

Our research shows that with 320 million internet users in the US, 1 in every 213 is an online trader. Research conducted by Aite Group in 2014 went as far as to suggest that up to a quarter of US adult internet users could be online traders3.

In Europe, with 651 million internet users and 1.5 million online traders, 1 in 434 internet users trades online.

With 1.9 billion internet users, it is not surprising that the greatest number of online traders can be found in Asia, at 3.2 million. However, this means that a lower proportion of internet users are online traders than in any other region, equating to 1 in every 594 users.

Whereas in Africa, with 1.3 million online traders and only 388 million internet users, a high proportion of internet users trade online: 1 in every 298.

Remarkably, the proportion of online traders to internet users is the highest in the Middle East with 1 in every 152 of the 147 million internet users trading online.

The Middle East and North Africa have the highest proportion of online traders, yet these regions are both predominantly populated by Muslims. Why this presents a problem for Forex trading is that Riba, or gains made from trading, are not permitted by Islamic law. Forex accounts that have transactions open beyond trading hours are subject to fees similar to interest charges, either debit or credit depending on the position the account is in when the market closes. However this is seen as usurious, and therefore currency trading restrictions have been imposed to enable currency exchange to comply with Sharia law.

Many brokers have taken note of this and offer Islamic trading accounts. These accounts are not subject to interest, and buying and selling of currency is immediate. This enables Muslim traders to exchange foreign currency in accordance with their faith, and could account for the high proportion of online traders in these regions.

Traders in the UK and Europe

In the UK there are around 46 million internet users4. With more than 280,000 online traders, that means 1 in every 164 adult internet users in the UK is an online trader.

In fact, there are more online traders in Britain, than in any other European country as our study shows.

Number of online traders by European country

Number of online traders by European country – see Appendix B for raw data

Why is trading so popular in the UK?

There have been some recent regulatory changes across Europe with regards to leveraged products, such as Forex and CFDs, which may be contributing to lower levels of traders registering for accounts. For example, in France and Holland, promotion of leveraged products is not permitted, and Belgium has banned leverage altogether. The Cyprus regulator, CySEC, have introduced controls whereby higher leverage is only available to customers who specifically request it and who can demonstrate their suitability and appropriateness.

In the UK, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) have consulted on tightening the controls around leverage, but have not yet enforced any changes. Traders in the UK could still be taking advantage of the fact that they can trade on margin, which means that they are able to magnify their exposure to currency movements using relatively small deposits. As over 50% of online traders in the UK earn a salary of less than £35,000, this can be particularly appealing.

Although, the German regulator (BaFin) have only implemented changes around negative balance protection, so this does not explain why their volumes of online traders are only just over half of those in the UK.

What is clear however, is that whilst trading has been opened up to a world of internet users, from a range of different backgrounds and faiths, for now the UK continues to be one of the central hubs for Forex trading.

Appendix A – The Number of Online Traders by Continent/Region

Continent/Region Approx. number of online traders
Asia 3200000
North America 1500000
Europe 1500000
Africa 1300000
Middle East 970000
South America 600000
Central America 335000
Oceania 190000

*Data source: facebook.com

Appendix B – The Number of Online Traders by European Country

Rank Country Approx. number of online traders
1 United Kingdom 280000
2 Germany 150000
3 Italy 150000
4 France 130000
5 Romania 110000
6 Spain 97000
7 Netherlands 65000
8 Poland 61000
9 Denmark 37000
10 Russia 36000
11 Hungary 31000
12 Bulgaria 30000
13 Greece 30000
14 Sweden 29000
15 Portugal 27000
16 Ireland 25000
17 Czech Republic 22000
18 Norway 21000
19 Ukraine 20000
20 Switzerland 20000
21 Austria 19000
22 Croatia 18000
23 Lithuania 16000
24 Belgium 14000
25 Slovenia 12000
26 Slovakia 12000
27 Estonia 12000
28 Serbia 8900
29 Finland 8400
30 Kosovo 7300
31 Albania 6000
32 Latvia 6000
33 Malta 4500
34 Moldova 3800
35 Iceland 2700
36 Luxembourg 2100
37 Belarus 1900
38 Montenegro 1100

*13 European countries are not listed above as they have fewer than 1,000 traders

** Data source: facebook.com

References

  1. Triennial Central Bank Survey of foreign exchange and OTC derivatives markets in 2016 – www.bis.org

  2. Internet Users – 30 June 2017 – www.internetworldstats.com

  3. Aite group study – http://aitegroup.com

  4. Office of National Statistics 2017 – www.ons.gov.uk

Disclaimer: Some of the links in this article may use affiliate links, meaning that we receive a commission if you setup an account with a broker after visiting them through our link. These commissions help to cover the costs of running this website, and do not add any extra cost to you (in some cases, it provides you with better rates), as our commission is covered by the broker.