Located in the Middle East, Israel is a small country with a rich and long history that can be traced back to prebiblical times. It has a relatively small population of 8.6 million and a diverse religious affiliation although most of its residents profess the Jewish faith.
The country’s economy experienced a rapid uplift after 1948, largely due to the great influx of well-educated Western immigrants, who contributed to its gross domestic product (GDP). Israel is among the countries with the highest standard of living in the Middle Eastern region, with unemployment rates dropping to a historic low of 3.4% in October 2019.
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The local economy is mostly knowledge-based, with the key engines for growth being high-technology and industrial manufacturing. The country ranks second in terms of start-up companies number, surpassed only by the USA. It has the third-largest number of NASDAQ-traded companies in the world, right behind China and the US.
Some of the biggest tech companies have built their first overseas research and development centers in Israel, including giants like Apple, Intel, and Microsoft. Israel is also responsible for over 23% of all diamond exports in the world.
Given this impressive economic track record, it is not surprising that the birthplace of the Jewish people has turned into a first-choice destination for many of the world’s largest multinational conglomerates, entrepreneurs, and investors, including the likes of Berkshire Hathaway.
The popularity of Forex trading has grown over the past few years and so has the volume of trades executed in the country. In the early 2000s, there was little regulation on this sector and many foreign-based companies tried to capitalize on this fact.
However, things changed when the Israeli government introduced a new regulatory framework for Forex brokerages operating in the country. Regulations were tightened in 2015 to deal with the fraudulent offshore brokerages that have previously infiltrated the local Forex market.
Israel Forex Legislation
Trading Forex is legal in Israel and the local market is regulated by the Israel Securities Authority (ISA). Prior to the new regulations introduced in 2015, there was an influx of foreign brokers that serviced the Israeli market with licenses from offshore centers such as Cyprus.
The authorities decided to improve the regulatory framework to minimize the risks of local retail traders suffering by malpractices of fraudulent offshore companies. The regulations are executed under Amendment 42 of the Securities Law.
Forex brokers must receive licenses from the Israel Securities Authority before they can legally operate in the country. Various restrictions are in place in line with the licensing conditions. Foreign trading companies must have adequate operational capital so they can handle market volatility and operating risk.
Additionally, the licensed firms are expected to present monthly records to the ISA regarding the trading activities they conduct. Brokers looking to apply for a local license are also categorized based on their starting capital.
The minimum required capital for a license application is ₪800,000, which corresponds approximately to US$200,000. Brokers that meet this condition are eligible for limited licenses only. Despite this, they are subject to rigorous regulatory supervision.
To receive what the Israeli regulator calls a “full” license, the companies must cover the ₪1.5 million (or around US$380,000) threshold for initial capital. They also have to use the services of liquidity providers to protect themselves against market volatility.
The highest degree of license requires an initial capital of at least ₪4 million, which is roughly US$1 million. The brokerage firm must maintain this capital in reserves so that it remains eligible for its license. But it does not end there.
The Israeli regulator performs annual checks to ensure brokers continue to meet their licensing conditions. Those who fail to do so are subject to recategorization. Apart from that, each applicant must contribute a fee of ₪25,000 for a restricted license or ₪50,000 for a full license. The companies must provide regular reports about their trading activities.
Brokers must meet certain transparency conditions as well. The spreads should be restricted based on each client’s individual means which should be investigated by the brokerage firm itself. The company must determine how old the customer is (they should be at least 18) and how much trading experience they have.
Before a person can open a live account and make a deposit, the licensed brokers must establish whether they are fully aware of the risks associated with the financial instruments they intend to trade. If the client fails to cover these requirements, the broke must blocker them from trading at the website.
Some of the conditions outlined by the ISA aim at protecting the funds of Israeli traders. Customers’ money should always be stored in separate accounts from which trade amounts are subtracted or added.
This ensures clients get their funds back if their broker goes out of business. As for withdrawal requests, these should be executed immediately. All trader transactions should be reported as well. Giving financial advice and recommendations to traders is strictly prohibited.
To prevent local retail customers from incurring crippling losses when trading with complex derivatives, the Israeli regulator has introduced limitations on the maximum allowed leverage. The latter fluctuates depending on the volatility of the traded instruments. The leverage ratio is 20:1 for high-volatility assets, 40:1 for medium-volatility assets, and up to 100:1 for low-risk investments.
Considering how tough licensing conditions are in Israel, it is not surprising many brokers continue to service traders from the country with licenses issued from major offshore jurisdictions like Cyprus.
Israel Financial Regulators
The Israel Securities Authority (ISA) was founded in 1968 and is currently mandated with the oversight of the Israeli Forex trading sector. It was modeled after Great Britain’s previous financial regulator, the Financial Services Authority (FSA), which was replaced by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) at the beginning of April 2013.
Apart from regulating the financial securities sector in Israel, the ISA is mandated to combat securities fraud and other questionable activities, such as insider trading, that could be harmful to the local market and the trader community.
Another priority of this regulator is ensuring consumer protection. This is among the main reasons why the ISA adopted a tougher stance toward Forex brokers back in 2015. The market was much more liberal before the changes, which led to a massive wave of trading scams at the expense of Israeli retail customers.
The ISA also works toward ensuring market transparency and observes carefully whether its licensees adhere to its strict regulatory policies. The ISA has a website, available both in English and Hebrew, where traders can check which brokerages are locally licensed. At the moment, the ISA license register features only four names – ATRADE Limited., Plus500IL Limited, FXCM Trading Limited, and TGL Colmex Capital Markets Limited.
Israel Forex Payment Methods
Israel-friendly brokers usually offer multiple types of accounts to meet the needs of traders from different walks of life, with some of the most common options being micro, standard, and professional accounts. Some also support swap-free accounts where no rollover interest is paid for overnight positions in compliance with Sharia laws (around 18% of Israel’s population is Muslim).
Israeli beginner traders can practice with demo accounts until they gain enough experience. Those looking to trade for real money would have to consider a suitable payment method to top up their live accounts with.
Before you choose a method or a broker, you should carefully consider several important factors. These include minimum deposit amounts, whether the method works for withdrawals, and what currencies it supports. Potential processing fees also bear consideration.
Always ensure your broker of choice segregates customers’ funds and encrypts its website to protect your personal information and money. The ability to deposit at speed is also quite essential.
The most common way to deposit into your Israel trading account is via bank wire transfers. This payment option is universally accepted by brokerages and is available to traders from all over the world, Israel included. It is possible to make the transfer using your online banking account or in person, at your bank. The downside of bank transfers is that they often require several business days to complete.
Israeli traders who insist on speedier deposits should opt for credit or debit cards, which rank among the most broadly used payment methods in the country in general. Most brokers accept cards by major companies like Mastercard and Visa. Deposits with cards are usually immediate but sometimes may take several hours. The bottom line is cards still beat bank wire transfers in terms of speed.
The usage of e-wallets in Israel remains relatively low for the time being, especially in comparison to other countries. Nevertheless, e-wallets are widely available across brokers that accept Israelis. Brands like Skrill, PayPal, and Neteller are commonly listed among the options. Minimum initial deposits at Israel-friendly brokerages normally vary from $5 to $10,000, based on account type.
Popular Trading Software in Israel
When choosing a broker, Israeli traders should check out what trading software it uses because this is the bridge between them and the Forex markets. Some of the most desirable qualities of trading platforms you should look for include easy-to-use design, seamless navigation, speedy order execution, and the availability of additional tools for market analysis.
It is recommended to go for a broker whose platform is compatible with multiple operating systems. This way, you will have access to your positions regardless of what device you use. Many Israel-friendly brokers still cling to the third-party software developed by MetaQuotes, with customers commonly having a choice from MetaTrader 4 or MetaTrader 5.
If you intend to trade only Forex, we suggest you go for MetaTrader 4, which was designed specifically with the needs of foreign exchange traders in mind. Israeli residents looking to diversify their portfolios are recommended to opt for MetaTrader 5. It offers a greater range of financial instruments, including options, futures, and bonds.
Additionally, MetaTrader users will benefit from a broad range of handy tools they can implement to analyze market trends. There are dozens of indicators to works with. Charting is also possible, not to mention there is the option to make trades directly via your charts.
Language is never a barrier for MetaTrader users because the software supports around thirty languages, including Hebrew. The platform can be installed on desktop devices running on Microsoft Windows, Mac, and Linux. There is also the option to trade directly in your browser since MetaQuotes’ WebTrader is commonly available.
Another broadly used third-party software platform is Spotware Systems’ cTrader whose biggest claim to fame is its social trading feature. The cTrader Copy functionality allows Israel traders to copy the strategies of successful investors as well as to provide their own strategies for copying by fellow users.
Some brokers that service the Israeli market give their clients a choice from multiple platforms, using third-party software in parallel with proprietary software. Needless to say, each proprietary platform has a set of unique features. The best way to determine whether a given software works for you is to open a demonstration account and use the platform yourself.
Mobile Trading in Israel
The Forex markets are incredibly dynamic where price movements are concerned, with currencies changing values every second, especially with major pairs like the EUR/USD. It is of primary importance for traders to stay ahead of the current prices so they can immediately spot favorable opportunities to profit from the movements.
At the same time, nobody likes to be chained to their desk throughout the entire day. The solution is to go mobile so you can take your trades with you wherever you are. This way, you will be able to quickly react to both beneficial and unfavorable price movements.
Mobile trading has gained traction around the world and Israel is not an exception. After all, this is a nation of avid mobile users where smartphone penetration among the adult population reached 72% in 2019.
Israel-friendly brokers cater to the demands of local mobile users by offering them intuitive apps, compatible with the two most commonly used operating systems, Android and iOS. Some of these are proprietary, although you can also download the MetaQuotes apps to log into your trading account on the fly, i.e. provided that you have registered with a broker that uses this platform.
As for the features mobile traders can expect, there are plenty of those. You can open or close your positions in a split second for a variety of instruments, including currency pairs, commodities like gold and silver, and indices. Many apps feature built-in chart indicators, economic calendars with all the important news, and multiple timeframe ranges. Access to real-time quotes is, of course, granted.