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1 Your Forex Industry Source. october

2 Your Forex Industry Source and Beyond: The Forex Industry Comes of Age october

3 2011 and Beyond: The Forex Industry Comes of Age We are pleased to present this joint LeapRate and Dow Jones report on the rapidly growing online financial trading sector, as the industry faces increased regulation and scrutiny, but also as it grows into non-forex sectors of trading and as institutional investors are increasingly trading with online firms. Since our original Forex Industry Report was released back in December 2010 quite a lot has changed: IPOs Two of the largest U.S.-based firms, FXCM and Gain Capital, have gone public. M&A activity Acquisitions have continued to consolidate the industry, with firms such as dbfx disappearing from the scene, and firms such as AvaFX and Saxo Bank continuing to acquire and grow. increased regulation Regulators in the U.S., Japan, Europe and China continue to be proactive and in doing so have reshaped the industry. new tools Social networks, mirror trading and autotrading are each increasingly being used as important tools by retail traders. In this report we present our views and analysis of these issues and more, such as: the forex market k How big has online financial trading grown? How much more is it likely to grow? k Which regions are growing, which are not? k How do the trading firms make money? k Why are (virtually) none of the big traditional banks active in this sector? regulation k How have regulators worldwide responded to the growth of the online financial trading industry and how has that affected the industry in different regions? k Which firms have received the most fines (and other sanctions) from regulators? k What s happening in China? outside suppliers k Which are the key software and platform providers to the Forex industry? k Which Forex social networks are the most popular? key players k Which are the leading firms offering online trading? k Which firms have the most profitable traders? LeapRate is an independent research and advisory firm, covering the world of online Forex and CFD trading. Our Approved Forex Firms list highlights Forex firms which in our view do things right in terms of adherence to proper procedures, regulation, custody of cash, quotes to clients, technology and risk management techniques, among others. LeapRate s research provides increased transparency to the world of online trading, allowing investors to make more informed decisions in their choice of a trading firm. Dow Jones delivers world-class financial news and business intelligence through newswires, websites, newspapers and other media. Dow Jones business news provides competitive intelligence that includes the latest corporate news and earnings data as well as reports on mergers and acquisitions, private equity news, real-time prices in the currency trading markets, daily bankruptcy reports, high-yield investing coverage, and other market intelligence. From helping develop algorithmic trading strategies to anti-money laundering policies to improved risk management, Dow Jones helps enterprises and individuals access and understand the news and intelligence they need to transform information into insight. 2

4 2011 and Beyond: The Forex Industry Comes of Age Your Forex Industry Source the online trading market History Market Growth in the Age of the Internet Market by Region Market by Product Forex vs. CFDs Market by Client Type Retail vs. Institutional market structure Aggregation, Trading, Liquidity Agency vs. Principal / Market-Maker Model Profitability Client Profitability Stats (U.S.) regulation General Regulatory Trends Regulatory Update by Region U.S., Europe (EEA/EU), Switzerland, China, Japan, Rest-of-World Minimum Capital Required by Region (table) Regulatory Fines and Sanctions to Leading Firms, the forex ecosystem Software and Platform Providers orex Social Media key firms worldwide World s Largest Forex Brokerage Firms, by Region (table) Recent Financings and M&A Transactions by Trading Firms M&A and Public Valuation Comparables disclosures and other information appendix overview and analysis of leading forex brokerage firms Saxo Bank IG Group MIG BANK Swissquote FxPro AvaFX FXCM Gain / Forex.com

5 It is impossible to peruse financial websites, periodicals and television without noticing the recent bombardment of ads for online trading firms, big and small, looking for clients offering everything from $50,000 practice accounts to receive-a-$500-bonus promotions. While these firms, even in aggregate, are still much smaller than many other types of financial institutions, they have quickly become one of most active and aggressive advertisers in the online financial world, heralding the birth of a new global industry. Many of the firms we refer to began life as FX or Forex firms, bringing leveraged online trading in foreign exchange to mainly retail investors. While many of these firms retain FX in their names, the business has changed dramatically over the past several years, with off-market trading now offered in commodities, indices, options, futures, bonds and the shares of many leading companies worldwide (mainly via CFDs, or contracts-for-difference, which track the price of an underlying security), and the increased acceptance of these firms among institutional investors. The amount of trading occurring through these FX firms continues to grow by leaps and bounds worldwide. And regulatory agencies in many countries continue to pay more attention to the industry. 4

6 history A little background. The foreign exchange market is one of the world s oldest, and certainly the largest, of all trading markets. For thousands of years individuals and institutions have been exchanging and trading currencies of different regions and governments. In modern times, as the trading of many if not most financial instruments such as stocks, bonds, commodities, futures and options became organized via exchanges and regulated accordingly, foreign exchange continued to be traded mainly off-exchange, or over-thecounter between parties, and remained mainly the domain of large financial institutions, corporations and governments. The exchange rate of one currency for another was not (and is not) determined on any specific exchange instead, each bank quotes a rate at which it would buy or sell one currency in return for another, with each bank acting as a mini-market unto itself. The Internet Age has heralded not just a change in traditional financial services can you remember what life was like before you could bank online??!! but also has opened up whole new worlds of information access and opportunities to the average retail investor. And one of those worlds was the global market in foreign exchange. In the mid to late 1990s firms such as Saxo Bank in Europe and FXCM in the U.S. began to bring the world of foreign exchange to the retail investor. These early online FX brokers, and others that followed, helped create a wave of retail FX trading that was made popular by a combination of (among other things): k broadband Internet access becoming commonplace in the home and workplace k Internet access everywhere, via WiFi and mobile Internet access and k people becoming generally comfortable making financial transactions online. Retail investors in particular became more and more enamored with FX trading, as: of the globe, on one technology and clearing platform k perceived fairness of the market it is a zerosum-game market by definition, with even the largest players not likely having either the ability to move the market, or any version of advanced information or analysis, unlike the perception (and often the reality) in the stock and other exchange-based markets k ability to make money during both good and bad markets: k the high amounts of leverage common (and allowed) in the industry, up to 500:1 in certain jurisdictions, allowing retail investors to make very large trades (with the potential for huge gains) on a small equity base. Over the past two years, we have seen this industry mature and make further inroads into the institutional market. As trading technologies and tools improve to the levels required by institutional traders (e.g., real-time access to best-available quotes, auto-trading, ability to design and connect black box trading models), and as increased regulatory scrutiny has helped herald improved processes and transparency, institutional traders are becoming more comfortable trading with online firms (and not just for FX), a trend we expect to accelerate over the next few years. For example, Gain Capital / Forex.com (one of the largest U.S.-based firms) did less than 1% of volumes with institutional clients in 2009, a number that increased to 21% by Q following the launch of its Gain GTX platform. We also believe that the increased importance of institutional traders in this industry will help differentiate the good firms from the other firms. Institutional clients are much pickier in their choice of dealer, and less likely to be swayed by a neat Web ad or a sweet-talking salesperson than by proper regulation, an advanced technology platform, a healthy balance sheet and transparency. k the FX market is open 24 hours a day, not just the 6-7 hours (or less) that most equity and options/ futures exchanges operate k it is (relatively) unregulated, allowing firms to market aggressively and take customers from all corners 5

7 Well before there were Saxo Bank and FXCM and their competitors there were indeed firms offering retail investors trading in currencies, as well as commodities. However, the growth in these businesses was limited by the fact that pre-internet retail investors did not have access to information and tools necessary to be active in the market. And the firms did not have an advertising platform to sell their services globally. The firms remained largely local, and interested almost exclusively in very-high-net-worth retail clients. As Web access exploded in the late 1990s, firms now had the ability to market to medium to low-net-worth customers over the Internet, and retail customers felt more and more comfortable in trading in this market. We thus saw the genesis of a new truly global industry, and the wave of increased online trading we are still seeing today. As we mentioned above, the global FX market is the world s largest market of any kind. A few statistics of interest: k Average daily FX trading volume worldwide is now about $4 trillion. By way of contrast, average daily trading on the New York Stock Exchange is about $60 billion even all of the world s equity markets in aggregate total less than $1 trillion trading per day. k The online trading universe is very dispersed no firm has more than 10% global market share, although there are some dominant firms in each major region. k Based on our views of market size, and our analysis of Forex brokerage firms financials, we estimate total annual revenues of the trading firms to be approximately $6 billion. k We forecast that non-forex CFDs will continue to increase in relative importance in the overall picture, from about 9% of overall trading currently to 15% by We feel that this prediction is actually somewhat conservative, as trading firms continue to add new products and aggressively market existing non-fx products. total trading at online financial trading firms Daily avg. vol ($B) k Europe accounts for more than half of all FX trading. k U.S. dollar-related trading remains dominant, involved in 85% of all FX trades, with the EURU.S.D, U.S.DJPY and GBPU.S.D being the most actively traded currency pairs. k Online trading of FX still accounts for just a small fraction of the total global FX market. LeapRate estimates that online FX volumes currently total about $185 billion daily, or about 4.6% of the overall global FX market. Nevertheless, this represents tremendous growth, from under $10 billion per day 10 years ago. forex CFDs Sources: Company reports, Bank for International Settlements, Forex Magnates, LeapRate estimates. k Overall industry volumes shrank somewhat in 2010 and 2011-to-date from 2008 and 2009 levels, due primarily to new regulatory-mandated leverage restrictions in two of the world s three leading markets (the U.S. and Japan), as well as more muted volatility following two fairly wild-ride years during the Wall Street financial crisis driven era of

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