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What is Electronic Trading?

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Electronic trading allows buyers and sellers to meet in a virtual marketplace instead of on a physical trading floor. Most exchanges in the US and Europe offer an online trading platform, rather than – or in addition to – trading at their physical locations. NASDAQ was the world’s first electronic stock market. Examples of exchange-owned electronic-trading platforms include NYSE Arca and the Globex system.

Traditional trading has been transformed with the adoption of electronic trading. A few examples are that now, institutional investors, broker-dealer firms, and market makers can trade electronically through an electronic communications network (ECN), which automatically matches buy and sell orders at specific prices. Additionally, broker-dealers registered with the SEC as either an investment company or a securities firm.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Electronic trading is gaining popularity and is offered on a number of global exchanges. 
  • Mobile trading has accelerated this transition to electronic trading. 
  • High-Frequency Trading(HFT) allows users to place thousands of orders at once and monitor multiple markets simultaneously.
  • Before choosing the right electronic trading platform, you need to consider all your specific trading needs.
  • Electronic traders need to be aware of all regulations and ensure their programs are compliant (fraud, AML, transparency and security are key concerns). 

Types of Electronic Trading

Mobile Trading

Market participants can now trade on the go with their smartphones. Mobile trading apps allow traders to execute trades via their phones while away from the office or home. Some companies even provide traders with access to real-time data feeds.

The rise of mobile technology has been one of the biggest drivers of change in financial markets over the past decade. In fact, according to a recent study by global IT consulting firm Accenture, nearly half of all retail investors are expected to conduct some type of transaction via a smartphone within five years.

High-Frequency Trading

HFTs use algorithms to analyze trading data in order to execute trades in fractions of seconds. High-frequency trading (HFT) platforms enable crypto traders to place thousands of orders at once and monitor multiple markets simultaneously, allowing them to execute electronic trades before the market opens.

High-frequency trading (HFT) was developed and gained popularity after 2005 when the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) began taking steps to modernize the financial market.

According to Scott Bauguess, VP of Global Regulatory Policy at Coinbase, cross-market trading made it easier for firms to trade across different asset classes.

Bauguess explains, “HFT really started with the deregulation of the markets, and it was the SEC rules back in 2005 that allowed the further fragmentation of markets,”

Now, in the first decade of the 2000s, with degrees from top universities to back up their ambitious dreams, aspiring Wall Street climbers turned to HFT to open their own firms. At first, HFT proprietary traders flourished, but in the past ten years high-frequency trading firms have consolidated. Furthermore, HFT strategies have been expanded beyond equities into FX, ETFs, and even commodities trading advisors.

Algorithmic Trading

Electronic trading platforms are becoming increasingly common in today’s markets. These platforms allow traders to execute large blocks of shares in milliseconds rather than hours. This allows traders to enter and exit positions quickly without having to wait for orders to fill. Traders use algorithms to make decisions about what orders to submit and how much money to spend.

The most basic form of algorithmic trading is known as “algo trading.” In algo trading, traders write computer software that uses mathematical formulas to determine buy and sell prices. If a trader believes that the price of a stock is likely to rise, she will program her algorithm to buy it; if she thinks the opposite, she will program it to sell.

There are many different types of algorithms used in algorithmic trading. Some focus on technical analysis, while others look at fundamental factors such as earnings reports, economic indicators, and news events. Still others take into account both technical and fundamental factors.

How Electronic Trading Works

As soon as you place an order for a trade, the infrastructure needed to support the process increases significantly. Technology and programming need to be able to support the variety of options involved in ordering.

You first choose between market orders (which execute immediately) and limit orders (which can be set to execute either immediately or later). Investors using the system can choose from among these options at any time. They must be selected in real-time.

To place an order for stock, you need to tell the brokerage where the order was placed so they know who to contact when the order has been executed. The system at the Stock Exchange must instantly and simultaneously interact with the systems at every brokerage firm. They either sell their shares or look to buy them.

It gets even more complicated because the electronic interface must include every exchange where investors can buy securities. The interactions between systems need to be able to perform transactions and offer the best prices for trades. To prove to regulators that trades were executed in a timely and effective manner, trading platforms must keep records of the transactions they execute.

The automated matching engine must be able to handle a large number of transactions every minute the markets are open for business and do it instantaneously and flawlessly. Investors need backup systems to ensure they always have access to their accounts at any time during market hours. Investors must share their account information with security regulators, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Choosing an Electronic Trading Platform

There are many online trading platforms to choose from, but not all are created equal. All three platforms offer similar user experiences: signing up takes less than an hour, but there may be some waiting time required for identity verification.

There are slight differences between the various platforms, but they’re not major issues. A few years ago, most platforms charged commissions for every trade executed, and there was usually a minimum amount of money required to open an account. Many brokerage firms now offer free trades, and fewer still require an initial deposit.

How Should You Choose a Brokerage Account?

As an investor or trader, when choosing an online brokerage firm, you need to consider your immediate needs. A good broker can help you learn about the stock market and the other financial markets. One of the main reasons TD Ameritrade was chosen as a top choice for beginners is because they offer free trades. Some brokers offer paper trading before funding an account. This gives you an opportunity to learn their platforms, sample the available assets and trade them without risking any actual funds.

What Is an Online Brokerage Account and How Does It Work?

Brokerage accounts are similar in function to the bank accounts you have at a regular bank. A brokerage account allows you to deposit funds with an investment company (the broker) for trading purposes. This is usually done through a transfer from your existing banking system. Once you’ve deposited the funds into your brokerage account, you’re ready to start investing them. You can use the broker’s trading platform to invest funds in the market. You can use any type of asset purchased from that broker, including stocks, bonds (including government debt), exchange-traded funds (ETFs), and cryptocurrencies.

Your online brokerage account displays your holdings (assets you’ve purchased) as well as your cash balance (buying power). If you invest in an asset that increases in value, you can then sell that asset, and the profit from its sale will go into your online brokerage account. Once you’ve made the initial deposit, you can then place another trade or transfer the funds out to a different account for further trading. Some brokerage accounts even let you earn interest on your cash balance.


Each individual user has an obligation to ensure that they’re not using any fraudulent methods when trading cryptocurrency. As a client who has market access, you must ensure that the principles of the market remain intact.

Regulations exist to further ensure that confidence in markets is maintained. They serve an important purpose. Make sure your broker knows who they’re responsible for.

Failure to comply with the relevant laws, regulations, and trading procedures could lead to the loss of your order routing access, cancellation of trades, trading venue fines, regulators taking direct action against you, and damage to your reputation.

Automated algorithmic trading involves use computers to automatically determine parameters of trades such as when to buy or sell stocks, how much to pay for them, and how to manage the trade once submitted.

Why Regulations are Important

Without regulations trading algorithms could potentially distort markets rapidly and significantly. There are specific concerns regarding the high order cancellations, increased risk of system overloads, increased volatility, and the ability of algorithmic trading firms to withdraw liquidity at any moment.

Algorithmic traders who engage in algorithmic trading will need to have in place effective system design and risk control mechanisms to ensure their trading systems are resilient and they have sufficient capacity. Clients will be subjected to appropriate thresholds and limits that prevent them from sending erroneous orders. Orders will be monitored so that they don’t cause any disorder among traders or violate the rules of the trading venues to which they’re connected.

Algorithmic traders who use automated trading software need to have effective business continuity plans in place to deal with any system failures and ensure their systems are regularly tested and monitored. To ensure compliance with  regulations, an algorithm must be tested within a non-live environment before it is deployed into production. After testing has been completed, the client can deploy the developed algorithm into a live environment. Systems monitor your systems, processes and procedures for any negative impacts that the algorithms might have, and, if necessary, some systems may exercise their power to cancel all outstanding orders at all trading venues by pressing a “kill” button.

How Information Is Protected

That data is stored by the Depository Trust Company (DTC), which is an organization responsible for holding details for all U.S. shareholders. The DTCC provides clearing services, institutional trading services, settlement services, and custody services. DTCC provides a backstop service, allowing investors to recover their account information if the broker they use goes bankrupt.


A trading platform includes features that help investors decide which investments they want to buy or sell. These features can include live stock prices, interactive charts, streaming news feeds, premium research reports, and a range of other charting tools. Platforms can also be tailored for different types of markets, including stocks, currencies, options, or futures.

Commercial platforms and proprietary platforms are two different kinds of trading platforms. Platforms designed for day trading and retail investing are usually commercial. They include easy-to-use features such as real-time quote searches, international news feeds, interactive charts, educational material, and research tools.

Proprietary platforms are custom-built platforms designed by large brokerage firms and other financial institutions for use within their own trading activities. They’re not available for sale to the general public.

Configurability and Customization

Most algorithmic trading programs offer standard built-in trade algos, such as those based upon a cross between the 50-day MA and the 200-day MA You could switch from using the 50-day moving average to using the 20-day moving average with the 100-day moving average. Unless the software allows for customizing parameters, the user might be limited by the built-in preset functionality. Whether buying or building a trading platform, the trading software should be highly customizable and configurable.


After the trade has been completed, the transaction must be verified by both parties. Data must be sent back out from the system that collects and displays prices to other market participants so that they can trade in the broader marketplace.

How to Get Started

1. Select A Broker

2. Register & Download Electronic Trading Software

3. Select Your Sectors and Set Your Trading Pace

4. Practice Trading

5. Make Your First Trade


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