ECN stands for “Electronic Communication Network” - a system that is designed to eliminate the role of a middleman in order execution. In simple words this means that when a trader signs up for ECN execution, they get direct access to other participants in the forex market – i.e. otherb individual traders, brokerages, hedge funds or banks. A big advantage of ECN is that it also eliminates any conflict of interest as the broker is no longer the opposite side in the transaction and is, instead, simply a facilitator – so when traders lose, the broker doesn't profit.
Many traders choose to trade with ECN brokers for a number of reasons: the deep liquidity access they get, the lack of requotes, the improved, faster execution, and most of all – the spreads that are significantly lower than these of a market maker, for example.
Because of the high execution speed and low spreads, ECN trading is particularly suitable for scalpers and news traders.
There are two main disadvantages of trading with an ECN. The first one is that fact that traders need to pay a markup or a commission along with the brokers' spreads (this is how brokers actually make money). The second con is that usually you need quite a big initial investment to open an ECN account, however there are brokers out there that let you trade with ECN execution with a smaller first deposit – take Trader's Way, for example, where you only need $100 to register an ECN account.
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