Known as one of the strongest economies in the world, Germany also has an incredibly rich and dynamic foreign exchange market. German traders make up a large portion of all Forex traders even though the country imposes very strict regulations on the market and all market participants.
With a population of over 83 million and a nominal GDP of $3.951 billion (data for 2018), Germany is the fourth-largest economy of the world and the biggest one in Europe. The country, which is a founding member of the European Union and the Eurozone, is among the largest exporters globally, trading in vehicles, machinery, chemical goods, electronic products, and many more. This economic powerhouse largely contributes to the strength of the Euro and is considered as a stable and resilient performer even in times of economic and political turmoil.
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London may be Europe’s most important financial hub, but on the continent, Frankfurt acts as the European financial center. In fact, after the UK, Germany ranks second in Europe in terms of a total number of online Forex traders. It is believed that more than 150,000 people in the country trade on the foreign exchange market. Transactions executed by German traders account for nearly 20% of all Forex transactions in the world.
German Forex Legislation
Germany focuses on creating a business-friendly environment but regulation is essential as it provides fair conditions and security to market participants. The foreign exchange market is liberalized and Germans are allowed to join it without restrictions. Still, the legislation that shapes the Forex market is very strict and it includes a wide range of requirements for brokers who wish to receive German authorization, for instance.
To operate legitimately in Germany, Forex and CFD brokers need to be licensed by the local regulatory body, Federal Financial Supervisory Authority (Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht or BaFin). Alternatively, they need to be licensed in another jurisdiction as long as it is within the European Economic Area as allowed by the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive 2004/39/EC (MiFID).
BaFin grants authorization only after brokers have met certain conditions. A firm that wishes to offer financial and Forex trading services to German citizens must possess sufficient capital – capital is freely accessible and not received on credit. Financial services institutions that trade in financial instruments on behalf of their clients must have a minimum capital of €125,000. Firms that buy and sell financial instruments for their own accounts are required to hold a minimum amount of €730,000.
Since Germany is a member of the EU, however, it also complies with the legislation set by the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). In 2018, ESMA implemented leverage and marketing restrictions for CFDs and FX. According to the new rules, the maximum leverage allowed when trading major currency pairs is 30:1, while for non-major pairs, it is 20:1. The leverage restrictions for CFDs on equities, cryptocurrencies, commodities, etc., are even lower.
Under the restrictions, bonuses and other incentives to trade CFDs are practically banned. Brokers are also required to implement negative balance protection to prevent their clients from losing more than they originally deposited. Overall, Forex and CFD brokers who want to offer services to German clients prefer to do so remotely – under the MiFID derivative and the EEA agreement, they can operate online without the need to set up offices in the country.
Other important factors that contribute to this fact are the high taxation and strict regulations. Many brokers operate from other jurisdictions in the EEA such as the United Kingdom or Cyprus. This is where Europe’s largest local regulatory bodies are based – they include the Financial Conduct Authority and Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission, better known as CySEC.
German Financial Regulators
The German financial services sector is regulated by the Deutsche Bundesbank, the central bank in the Federal Republic of Germany. The central bank was responsible for controlling the Deutsche Mark until 2002 when the Euro physically replaced national currencies. At that time, the European Central Bank took responsibility for the currency and the duties of the Deutsche Bundesbank had to be redefined. It now functions as a note-issuing bank, as a clearing house for commercial banks, as a state banker, and as a holder of currency reserves.
In addition, the Bundesbank works in cooperation with the German financial regulatory agency the Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin) for the regulation of commercial banks. BaFin, which stands for Federal Financial Supervisory Authority in English, is an independent federal institution under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Finance. This is the main regulatory agency responsible for monitoring and regulation of the Forex brokers and all participants in the financial markets.
BaFin issues licenses to Forex and CFD brokers based in Germany. It also has the right to enforce certain legislative measures designed to prevent financial irregularities and consumer abuse. The agency has introduced several guidelines that require brokers to follow a certain code of conduct and ensure transparent operations and a safe trading platform for investors.
German Forex Payment Methods
Germany has a well-advanced banking industry – in fact, its banking sector is among the largest ones in the world. All major payment methods are available to local traders, including credit cards, online banking services, mobile payment apps, e-wallets, and more. What German traders should look for is a reliable Forex and CFD broker who accepts their preferred payment method and processes deposits and withdrawals in Euro.
Luckily, all major online brokers have implemented the Euro as their base currency, which means that German clients will not have to pay additionally for currency exchange fees every time they load funds into their trading balances. For most traders across Germany, online banking remains the safest way to fund their trading accounts and withdraw the money they have won. Internationally accepted brands such as Visa and Mastercard are available on the websites of most Forex brokers. Deposits through debit/credit cards are instant and usually free of charge. Withdrawing money to these cards, however, takes 3 to 5 business days.
Online banking is also often used for online Forex trading. Services such as Sofortüberweisung, which means “instant bank transfer”, are quite popular among German traders. Sofort, in particular, allows them to instantly move money to and from their bank accounts in a safe and reliable manner. The typical online banking transfer, on the other hand, may be delayed due to the various checks conducted by banking institutions.
According to a recent survey into Germans’ preferred methods of online payment, the vast majority of people pay via invoice, direct debit, or PayPal. In fact, the e-wallet is among the most popular ways to pay online in Germany, with 32 percent of the surveyed saying this is their favorite online payment method. Many of the leading Forex brokers also offer PayPal – transactions are convenient, instant, and secure.
Popular Trading Software in Germany
One of the most important things to look for when searching for Forex brokers is the variety of trading platforms they offer. Some Forex brokers focus on creating proprietary software but the majority of online brokerages offer third-party platforms to facilitate the trading operations. But why is the choice of a trading platform such an essential part of trading?
A software platform is a tool that allows investors to buy and sell financial instruments on the global foreign exchange market. Probably the most important thing is the performance of the platform – the fast, nearly instant execution is essential, especially to day traders and traders on the foreign exchange market where price fluctuations may occur very quickly. It is, then, important to be able to close or open a position whenever you want without delays.
Traders should also take the interface of the platform into consideration – good trading systems come with clear and intuitive design. Beginners should look for a type of software that is easy to use and offers a multi-lingual interface. Actually, many of the trading platforms are available in German, while Forex brokers offer German support, as well.
One of the best options for traders based in Germany is to use MetaTrader 4 or MetaTrader 5. The two platforms are not the same but they were developed by the same company, MetaQuotes Software. They offer demo versions with fully functional demo accounts, access to the foreign exchange market, as well as great professional trading tools and functions – a wide range of technical indicators, market analysis, customization options, auto trading, etc.
While MT4 was intended for Forex trading specifically, MT5 was developed with varied types of trading in mind. It gives traders access to global stock exchanges and all the instruments that are being traded there. Along with these two trading platforms, which are considered the most popular software suits for FX trading, German clients can also use systems that are just as effective and functional, even though not as popular – cTrader, TradeStation, NinjaTrader, ZuluTrade, and many more.
Mobile Trading in Germany
German traders are starting to use their smartphones for many more things that they used to just a few years ago. And now, mobile trading is quickly growing – not only in Germany but all over the world. The rapid improvements in mobile technology allowed brokers and software developing companies to design better, faster, and more functional trading apps than ever. While just a few years ago, traders used their phones only to track their trades and stay up to date with the news, now they are executing transactions quickly and easily from their mobile devices.
Most Forex brokers now offer mobile versions of their trading platforms and investors can choose to either open the web version directly in the browser of their phone or to access their trading account from a downloadable app. Usually, the native app is the better choice as it was built specifically to work on a smaller device. These apps are fully functional, allowing users to open an account (demo or a live account), make a deposit, and trade their preferred Forex pairs.
To trade from their phones, users simply need to open the website of the Forex broker they wish to register with and see if there are mobile apps available. All major online brokers right now offer fast, functional, and intuitive iOS and Android apps. They are available for free download from the App Store and Google Play but traders need to make sure they meet the compatibility requirements.