Being one of the largest financial hubs in the world, Singapore is also among the strongest Forex centers after New York, London, Europe, and Japan. This small island city-state in Southeast Asia has a population of over 5.6 million and the third-highest per-capita GDP in the world in terms of purchasing power parity.
Over the last few decades, Singapore developed as one of the four Asian Tiger economies but since the 1990s, it managed to surpass its peers with thriving sectors, including international trade, manufacturing, financial services, oil refining, and more. The Singapore Exchange or SGX, which was established in 1999, is currently the largest exchange in South East Asia and with its several different divisions, it provides securities and derivatives trading. The nation is the third-largest foreign exchange center in the world and has a reputation for being pro-business and modern. It is, then, hardly a surprise that there are so many Forex brokers and traders in Singapore.
The country does not pose huge restrictions on Forex trading and practically anyone can freely access the market through a licensed broker. Market participants are not regulated very strictly and there is no major interference by government agencies and regulatory bodies. Overall, authorities have managed to create a free, transparent Forex market through clear rules, an elaborate regulatory framework, and an attractive business environment.
Singapore Forex Legislation
As one of the world’s most important financial hubs, Singapore is also a leader in the development of new, adequate regulations that guarantee the fairness, safety, and transparency of the Forex market. The country has one of the lowest rates of Forex scams and Singapore investors enjoy a highly secure environment where the integrity of brokers is underwritten by a local license.
To provide their services to investors based in Singapore, all brokers, including foreign firms, need to obtain authorization from the local regulator, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). They are required to operate under either a Capital Markets Services or a Financial Advisors’ license – practically all Forex and CFD brokers in the country have a Capital Markets Services license. To obtain it, Forex agents go through an examination process that aims to find out whether brokers are reliable and comply with all relevant legislation.
One of the most important requirements is that brokers have sufficient capital to cover any losses and prevent bankruptcy. Another requirement is that the firm creates segregated accounts for its clients so that their money is always kept separate from company funds. Those who want to deal in securities need to have a minimum group shareholders’ fund of S$200 million (Singapore dollar, usually S$ or SGD), while futures brokers need a minimum capital of S$100 million.
Forex brokers in Singapore are not allowed to take positions or act as principals in money markets or foreign exchange. Until recently, the country did not impose any restrictions on trading conditions. For instance, most regulators place a cap on leverage – up to 25:1 according to the FSA of Japan, up to 30:1 in EU countries, and up to 50:1 in the USA. However, brokers in Singapore could offer their clients leverage as high as they wish. The regulator, however, restricted it to 50:1.
Now, new restrictions have been introduced and the new cap on the leverage is 20:1. There are certain exceptions but they only apply to accredited investors who need to meet the following capital requirements – traders with more than S$1 million in cash, with a personal net worth of over S$2 million, or with an annual income of more than S$300,000. In addition to the lower leverage, the regulator also raised the margin requirements from 2% to 5%.
Singapore Financial Regulators
The main government agency responsible for the supervision and regulation of the foreign exchange market in Singapore is the Monetary Authority of Singapore. The Authority is the central bank of the country and the sole financial regulator. It issues the Singapore dollar (SGD, S$) and has the authority to regulate all aspects of monetary policy, banking, and finance in the country.
MAS was established in 1971 after the Parliament had passed the Monetary Authority of Singapore Act the previous year. Gradually, it was given different duties and responsibilities and today, it is almost unique among other central banks, acting also as the nation’s financial regulator. Unlike many other central banks, however, it does not influence the liquidity in the monetary system via interest rates. Rather, it regulates the system by intervening in the SGD market.
The Authority has the power to revoke the license of Forex brokers and since it was created as an Act of the Parliament, MAS can prosecute and carry out disciplinary measures without the need to wait for a court decision. In reality, the regulator manages to successfully prevent illegal brokers from operating in the country – it strongly advises investors to trade only through properly licensed brokers. However, MAS only regulates Singapore-based firms and cannot operate abroad, which means it cannot penalize offshore brokers who accept clients from Singapore.
Indeed, MAS does not explicitly ban unregulated and unlicensed brokerages. However, clients who choose to register an account with such a broker cannot take advantage of the protection provided by MAS.
Singapore Forex Payment Methods
The majority of Forex brokers in Singapore allow their clients to open their accounts only in SDG or USD. However, certain brokers also support other major currencies such as EUR, GBP, CNY, HKD, AUD, CAD, or JPY. Before choosing a broker, investors need to make sure the firm processes payments in their preferred currency.
Another important thing to consider is the payment methods supported by the Forex broker. Usually, international brokers accept credit and debit cards such as Visa, Maestro, and Mastercard and these are quite popular options in Singapore. Deposits via a card are instant, incredibly secure and, normally, free of charge. Online banking is also a preferred way to fund your trading account here, although it usually comes with fees. Still, for security reasons most brokers in the country require their clients to link an active online bank account when registering.
Additionally, most banks in Singapore are now introducing various mobile and online payment methods such as Paylah!, owned by DBS Bank. Another quite popular payment method in the country is PayNow, an initiative by 9 banks in Singapore, namely Bank of China, Citibank Singapore Limited, DBS Bank/POSB, HSBC, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Limited, Maybank, OCBC Bank, Standard Chartered Bank, and UOB. With this peer-to-peer funds transfer service, customers can move money almost instantly using only using just their mobile number or Singapore NRIC/FIN (National Registration Identity Card).
However, now all payment methods can be used for Forex trading online. A great alternative to PayNow or Paylah is using an e-wallet. There are various options, including PayPal, Skrill, and Neteller, but investors should know that they will need to make their transfers in USD. There are plenty of local mobile wallets, as well, including Paylah, EZ-Link, AliPay, NetsPay, etc.
Popular Trading Software in Singapore
Beginner traders often fail to recognize the importance of trading software when they are searching for a suitable online Forex broker. Trading software is what facilitates the analysis and selling or buying of financial products such as foreign currencies, commodities, stocks, futures, etc. Typically, Forex brokers provide their customers with different software platforms for free – sometimes, the software has been developed by or for one particular broker, in which case it is referred to as “proprietary”. Often, brokers use licensed software by third-party firms.
When deciding which platform to use, traders should focus on several key aspects, including its functionality and user interface, its performance, and overall offering of trading capabilities, analysis, and information resources. Some types of software must be downloaded to users’ computers, while others may be web-based. The best platforms also offer full mobile compatibility. It is also important whether a platform is suitable for beginners or was designed with advanced traders in mind.
Traders in Singapore have access to the same types of software that are used everywhere else. This includes popular third-party platforms that specialize in Forex trading such as MetaTrader 4, a widely popular system that is used by the majority of retail traders around the world. It is fairly simple to use and covers all the basics a beginner trader can ask for – it has a good number of built-in technical indicators, real-time and historical charts, algorithmic and automated trading, live news feeds, trading signals, analytic tools, etc. It is available in more than 30 languages and can be used on mobile devices.
MetaTrader 5, on the other hand, is also preferred by many Forex traders, although it offers access to more diverse markets and financial instruments. The two platforms were released by the same developer and are quite similar in terms of appearance, yet, they focus on different aspects of trading. Another quite popular type of software is cTrader, a Forex and CFD platform by Spotware Systems, which comes with improved technical charting options, fast entry, and execution, a full range of advanced order types, as well as great information sources.
Mobile Trading in Singapore
Until just a few years ago, trading on the foreign exchange market required investors to spend at least several hours in front of the computer every week. But mobile trading apps have changed the trading experience completely and today, you can trade from anywhere on your phone or tablet as long as you have access to the Internet. Active traders need constant access to quotes, market news, and charts and the only way is through a mobile app.
Forex traders in Singapore are particularly interested in mobile trading. Singapore is not only a tech-savvy nation, but it is also among the world’s leading countries for technology and innovation. In 2014, the Government launched the Smart Nation initiative, a huge effort aiming at improving the living and economic conditions of citizens through the introduction of Infocomm technologies, networks, and big data. As part of the initiative, authorities are launching cashless payment solutions, open data government structure, connected services, and the integration of the Internet of Things.
In addition, data from a 2019 research by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism shows that Singapore has the highest smartphone penetration in the Asia Pacific. According to the figures, more than 90% of adults use a smartphone, compared to only a 50% penetration in Japan, for instance. Indeed, Singaporeans love their mobile devices and prefer to access their Forex trading accounts via a phone or tablet. Fortunately, all Forex brokers available in the country offer high-quality, top-performing trading apps for iOS and Android.