Most FOREX traders, before opening an account with a broker, wonder about the licensing requirements in place. In what follows, we will present all the relevant information about Switzerland's tier-one FOREX regulatory body, the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA).
This due diligence is an important prelude to any activity, as it ensures the safety of your investments while also safeguarding your funds from being abused. These two pledges are at the core of what FOREX watchdogs do. We will also give you a list of the Best FINMA-regulated brokers according to our research.
Why is Switzerland an Important Financial Capital?
For a start, we should mention that FINMA-regulated brokers do not only accept clients from Switzerland. You don’t have to live in Switzerland to get the benefit of FINMA’s excellent regulation.
Switzerland is a major financial capital of the world. Its prominence as a global financial capital and a hub of trading markets can be attributed to several factors:
Historical Stability: Switzerland has maintained political neutrality and stability for centuries, which makes for an environment of trust for depositors and investors.
Bank Secrecy: Historically, Swiss banking laws prioritized discretion, attracting wealthy individuals and entities from around the world. Although bank secrecy has been relaxed recently due to international pressure, the tradition of confidentiality remains strong.
Highly Developed Financial Infrastructure: Swiss banks are among the world's largest and most influential. Zurich and Geneva are major hubs for wealth management and private banking. That said, this year saw Switzerland’s financial clout take a knock when one of its major banks, Credit Suisse, had to be taken over by rival UBS.
Currency Strength: The Swiss Franc (CHF) is considered a "safe-haven" currency, which means that in times of global economic uncertainty, investors often convert their assets into CHF, thus reinforcing Switzerland's financial importance.
Regulatory Environment: Given these factors, it’s no surprise that Switzerland offers a well-established and predictable regulatory framework. FINMA ensures a robust and transparent financial market.
FINMA in Brief
Why is FINMA so well regarded? FINMA is the Swiss body responsible for financial sector regulation in the country. This includes the supervision of banks, insurance companies, stock exchanges, FOREX brokers and other financial intermediaries present in Switzerland.
FINMA is an independent institution with its own legal personality, based in Bern. It is institutionally, functionally and financially independent from the central federal administration and the Federal Department of Finance (FDF) and reports directly to the Swiss parliament.
For FOREX companies specifically, FINMA plays two roles. The first is to uphold transparency. The second is to prevent scam brokers from stealing their customers’ money. For more information on the anatomy of a FOREX scam, read our article here. Given its excellent reputation, a significant number of FOREX brokers and binary options brokers from all around the world have obtained registration from FINMA.
What Protection Does FINMA Provide FOREX Traders?
For FOREX traders, FINMA provides several layers of protection:
Licensing and Regulation: FOREX brokers in Switzerland are required to obtain a banking license from FINMA. This big regulatory barrier ensures that only firms with substantial capital and robust business models can operate, which instantly adds a layer of protection for traders.
Client Money Protection: Brokers are required to segregate client funds from the firm's operational funds. In the event of a broker's insolvency, your funds as a client cannot be used to pay off the broker's debts.
Risk Disclosure: Brokers under FINMA's regulation must provide clear and comprehensive risk disclosures to their clients. This ensures that traders like you are well informed about the potential risks associated with FOREX trading.
Market Conduct Rules: FINMA sets standards for market conduct to prevent fraud, manipulation, and other malpractices. This offers traders an environment that's more transparent and fair.
Dispute Resolution: While FINMA doesn't directly mediate disputes between brokers and their clients, its regulatory framework stipulates that brokers must have procedures in place for handling customer complaints. Later in this article, we’ll tell you how you can lodge a complaint with FINMA if you ever need to.
While FINMA's regulations offer a solid layer of protection for FOREX traders, never forget that FOREX trading inherently comes with risks. Always conduct due diligence before choosing a broker and understand the risks associated with trading.
Table of Top Finma Regulated Brokers
FXDD received the highest score in our survey (92.15). One of the first FOREX companies to offer a credit card in order to allow traders to withdraw their profits, this New York-based company has the UK's FCA license under its belt. It also has a rich portfolio of assets, offers a relatively low spread, in addition to the MetaTrader4 (MT4) platform. Further, it has excellent and fast customer service, and also offers traders a variety of ways to deposit money.
ICM Capital is considered the industry leader in deposits and withdrawals, whereby each withdrawal does not take more than five business days. Moreover, the company offers its customers a handy credit card to withdraw their profits, in addition to enabling customers to use various deposit methods. The company, which is licensed by the UK's FCA, has several branches around the world. Among other things, it has a rich portfolio of assets, especially stocks, offers a low spread, as well as the ability to use MT4.
What distinguishes XTB is the fact that it offers the best customer experience among all the companies we have surveyed. Indeed, it boasts the fastest response rate from all the companies under investigation. This is especially relevant, since the market is always on-the-go, and so you need to act fast. XTB offers lots of asset classes, as well as the ability to use the MT4 trading platform. Finally, it maintains a relatively low spread, which is suitable for quick deals.
IG is arguably the best broker when it comes to security and trust, boasting, as it does, licenses from 10 regulatory bodies, including the all-important FCA from the UK. The company is also a bank and is a publicly traded company in London. It is known for offering more than 10,000 asset classes of currencies, commodities, future contracts, ETFs, indices, cryptocurrencies etc. Further, it has its own state-of-the-art trading platform and offers a relatively low spread.
Saxobank is considered one of the best investment banks in the area of financial markets and currencies, as it offers the very best trading platform and tools from all the companies we have reviewed. Meanwhile, its spread is very low and, as such, suitable for short-term deals; and it offers a large number of asset classes, including currencies, commodities, indices etc. Finally, its customer service is excellent and very responsive to traders' needs.
CMC Markets is thought of as one the best companies, offering some 9,000 asset classes that encompass currencies, commodities, indices, cryptocurrencies, bonds and stocks. The company offers a relatively low spread, the MT4 platform, and fast customer service. It is most suited for traders looking for diversity in asset classes.
Originally founded in New Zealand in 2010, and moving to Australia within the space of their first two years, Think Markets is a global online brokerage focusing on FOREX and CFD trading. In addition to a range of major and minor currency pairs. Think Markets has an array of CFDs on offer. This includes indices, as well as hard and soft commodities.
Each Swiss-based FOREX broker with which you are considering opening an account ought to be licensed by FINMA. Details for this should be easily accessible on FOREX companies’ Websites, with each carrying a registry number. In cases where a company claims it is licensed by FINMA, you can easily verify this information by visiting FINMA here: https://www.finma.ch/en. If you find results, then the company’s claims of licensing are legitimate. Otherwise, the company in question is not licensed by FINMA and should be avoided at all times.
How Much Money Do You Need to Get started?
You don’t need much to get started. Some of the best FOREX brokers for beginners allow you to start trading with as little as $1. Of course, you need to capitalize your account with at least some money that will allow you to place trades. The amount is really up to you. However, it is recommended that you start by placing small trades to get to grips with the practice of trading as well as your broker’s Website before you move on to placing trades with more money.
How to Avoid Scams Through FINMA
FINMA takes several measures to help traders and investors avoid scams and ensure the integrity of the Swiss financial marketplace:
Public Warnings: If FINMA finds out about entities operating without the necessary licenses, it issues public warnings. The regulator maintains a warning list on its Website, alerting the public about brokers that might be conducting unauthorized activities.
Regular Supervision: FINMA constantly supervises licensed institutions to ensure they comply with Swiss regulations. Regular checks and oversight decrease the likelihood of licensed entities engaging in scams or fraudulent activities.
Consumer Education: While it may not be a direct service, the presence of a robust regulatory body like FINMA indirectly educates and informs consumers about the standards they should expect from financial entities. Knowing that a financial institution is regulated by FINMA can offer consumers a level of confidence.
Investigations and Enforcement: If there's any suspicion or indication of a scam or fraudulent activities, FINMA can launch investigations. If a financial entity is found to be in violation, FINMA has the authority to enforce punishment, which can include penalties or revoking licenses. In one such example, the regulator issued a ban to the founder of a non-compliant broker and kept the announcement on its website for five years!
While FINMA plays a crucial role in safeguarding traders and investors from scams, it's always important for individuals to conduct their own due diligence. Being informed and cautious can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to scams or fraudulent schemes.
What to Look for Among the Best FINMA-Regulated Brokers?
Here’s how we suggest you go about choosing the best FINMA-regulated broker for your needs:
FINMA-regulated: It sounds obvious, but check and double-check that every broker you consider holds the esteemed FINMA license.
All Traders Welcome: Make sure the broker you choose is Swiss-based and accepts local traders and foreign traders, too.
Reputation is Paramount: Be careful to only consider brokers with an ironclad reputation, meeting, if not exceeding, the industry's stringent safety benchmarks.
Competitive Fees: You should zero in on brokers boasting low floating spreads and competitive per-trade commissions. For more information on how spreads work, read our article here.
Sleek, Feature-Packed Platforms: Beyond usability, try to find a broker whose platform is packed with analytical tools to give you that cutting edge.
Diverse Account Offerings: Recognizing that one size doesn't fit all, consider brokers with a broad spectrum of account types—catering to newbies and elite traders with varied strategies.
Diverse Instruments for Every Trader: Every broker should ensure traders have access to a rich mix of instruments across multiple asset classes.
Commission and Fees
This area of consideration is crucial and requires your close attention. For a start, FINMA-regulated brokers must offer you a competitive fee package. Trading fees can sometimes be difficult to track. Be sure to check how these fees compare with industry standards:
Spreads: There are two main kinds of spread, one is fixed and the other is variable. Generally, the spread refers to the difference or gap between two prices, such as the bid/ask rate in a currency exchange rate. An example of a good spread is 1.4 pips for the EUR/USD (the narrower the better, this means that a spread of 1.4 pips is better than a spread of 2 pips). To find out more about pips, go here.
Commission: This is nothing more than the service charge that brokers require for carrying out transactions on behalf of their clients.
Rollover fees: When you leave a trade open overnight, the broker normally charges a rollover fee for the facility of holding your trade open for that period of time. This is because they assume the risk of the market changing adversely.
Withdrawal and Deposit Fees: Some platforms might charge fees for depositing or withdrawing funds. Pay attention to this. It's important to be aware of these and any associated limits or conditions.
Subscription or Inactivity Fees: Certain platforms have monthly charges or fees for inactive accounts. Ensure you're aware of these potential costs.
Using Leverage with FINMA-Regulated Brokers
This is linked to our point above about regulation. Different regulators have different guiding policies in leverage. Consider this, with brokers based in Europe operating under the rules of the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA), the leverage for Contracts for Difference (CFD) is heavily regulated. Because of this, you can only get leverage of:
30:1 for major currency pairs
20:1 for non-major currency pairs, gold and major equity indices
10:1 for commodities other than gold and non-major equity indices
5:1 for individual equities and any underlying not otherwise mentioned
2:1 for cryptocurrencies
However, you should note that FINMA does not fall under ESMA rules. Switzerland is not a member of the European Union. Therefore, it is not directly subject to the regulations and directives of ESMA, including the Markets in Financial Instruments Directive II (MiFID II).
However, it's worth noting that Switzerland strives to maintain a financial regulatory framework that is in many ways comparable and competitive with international standards.
Regarding leverage, FINMA hasn’t set a specific maximum leverage limit for FOREX trading as is seen in some other jurisdictions, like those governed by ESMA in the European Union.
However, brokers operating in Switzerland under FINMA are expected to follow strict risk-management protocols, and they are required to ensure that their clients are trading within their means and understand the risks associated with leverage.
It's worth noting that leverage offerings can vary among Swiss brokers, and it's always a good practice for traders to verify the current rules and offerings directly with the regulator.
FINMA and Negative Balance Protection
FINMA does not mandate negative balance protection as a strict regulatory requirement for all brokers. However, many Swiss brokers might offer negative balance protection as a part of their commitment to clients or as a competitive feature to attract traders.
As you can see, FINMA has different guidelines from its European counterparts. It places more responsibility on the individual broker to educate its clients, and also for the broker itself to exercise responsible trading practices.
You would think that in an environment with no strict leverage rules and no negative balance protection, traders would be horribly exposed, but this is not the case as FINMA-regulated brokers put their own guardrails in place for safe trading.
Tradable Assets and Instruments
Some of the most common assets include FOREX, commodities, crypto, bonds, and more. All the top FINMA-regulated brokers normally have these bases well covered. Some brokers choose to concentrate on FOREX, while others may be strong in other areas. It depends on your interests. When comparing brokers, a handy hint is to create a spreadsheet where you compare the numbers of the tradable assets you may want to trade. Remember that the availability of tradable assets varies depending on the broker and trading platform being used.
Payments, Deposits and Withdrawals
Ideally, the payment deposit and withdrawal process among FINMA-regulated brokers should be straightforward and convenient. As we have mentioned, Switzerland has a modern financial infrastructure, and its banking system is advanced, making transactions, including withdrawals from brokerage accounts, relatively straightforward for all traders. The best brokerages offer multiple withdrawal methods, including bank wire transfers, credit/debit card transactions, and even online payment systems. The efficiency of these methods can vary, with wire transfers to Swiss banks typically taking several business days, whereas online payments tend to be much quicker.
The Importance of Customer Service
As timing is key to FOREX trading, you must pick a FINMA-regulated broker that is able to provide good customer support around the clock. This most notably includes the company representatives being easy to reach, fast and polite, which will, in turn, spare you having to worry about problems down the road.
Ask Other Traders on Our Network
Here at Arincen, we’ve gone to extensive lengths to create an enabling environment of networks, where traders of all backgrounds can take part in avibrant trading space. After all, Arincen’s goal is to simplify the world of trading. Our Website provides an unrivaled slate of tools, like our market-leading signals, rolling news, and a thriving community where traders of all levels of experience can learn and profit from each other.
Trading Platforms, Tools and Features
As Switzerland is such a vibrant trading space, all brokers based in the country provide a range of tools to enhance your trading experience. They can hardly be complacent in this regard as they will quickly be overtaken. Some brokers have their own proprietary platforms, while others are well served by such tried-and-tested industry favorites as MT4, MT5, and cTrader. For a helpful comparison of the two MetaTrader platforms, read our article here. Switzerland is a technologically capable country that supports brokers who require the fastest networks to support high-volume trades.
With FINMA-regulated brokers, you will generally have access to advanced platforms with deep market access and extremely high platform uptime. Be sure to check on all these points before you settle on your chosen broker.
Tips to Get Started Trading with a FINMA-Regulated Broker
Opening a FOREX trading account is easy. Once you have chosen your preferred FINMA-regulated broker, you must start by filling out an application form as part of the “open account” process. It is normal that you will be asked to provide two documents. These are usually your national identity documents and proof of address. This is part of Know Your Customer (KYC) regulations. Remember that some brokers have slightly different requirements than others.
Once your account has been approved, normally one to two days after you make the application, you will be able to fund your account by making the first deposit. After your account is funded, you can start to trade.
How to Improve Your Knowledge of FOREX Trading
A trading Website like en.Arincen.com is a great place to start. We have a large list of curated articles that can give you all the information you need on common FOREX trading terms, like pips, spreads, leverage, and support and resistance. We have also taken the time to prepare detailed articles on important topics, such as FOREX trading strategies. Additionally, once on our Website, you will find helpful video courses that cover the basics of FOREX trading. With this range of knowledge, you will be well on your way to trading success.
Remember also that your broker will normally have developed a detailed education and research repository itself. That is also a good place to bolster your FOREX knowledge, with the extra benefit that your broker’s information will be slanted toward its own platform and resources, which makes it doubly useful.
As such, it’s relatively easy to improve your knowledge of FOREX trading. All the following items should be part of a FINMA-regulated broker arsenal, and they should all help you improve your knowledge of FOREX trading.
Educational Content: For beginners, educational resources are crucial. Look out for platforms offering webinars, tutorials, articles and even demo accounts to familiarize users with trading concepts.
Analytics Tools: The platform should offer robust analytical tools and many methods to evaluate trader performance. This includes historical returns, risk metrics, trading strategies and more.
Community Engagement: A vibrant community can provide peer reviews, insights and discussions, which can be invaluable for both novices and experienced traders.
Real-time Data: This is the lifeblood of social trading. Make sure your broker gives you access to live market data, news updates, and economic calendars that can help in making informed decisions
It is very unlikely that a FINMA-licensed company would dare meddle with your account for fear of the repercussions that may result. These include canceling the company’s FINMA license and/or closing it down altogether.
The fact that everything about Switzerland seems perfect to the rest of the world is not in doubt. What can be questioned, however, is how they go on achieving this reputation turned into reality. In the case of financial transactions generally, and FOREX brokers particularly, the Swiss tend to impose strict regulations to ensure every operation in the country runs smoothly. It is thus not a surprise that FINMA is possibly the financial regulator with the most power in the world. Luckily, it has not done so in an abusive manner.
On the contrary, its stringent measures have only done good for consumers of Swiss financial services. If you are looking to get into FOREX trading, then finding a FINMA-regulated FOREX broker is certain to keep you safe and well-protected, whether you are Swiss or not.
Arincen’s Review Methodology
The team at Arincen collected more than 120 pieces of data covering in excess of 100 licensed FOREX companies. Data collection was done in three ways:
Other Websites that have ranked FOREX companies.
A survey questionnaire (referred to here as Survey “1”) was sent to the companies invited to participate in the exercise. We have identified 13 criteria for our assessment, each containing several aspects and carrying its own relative weight. These include licensing, deposits and withdrawals, number of assets, etc.
Afterward, we validated the data by:
Registering with FOREX companies as a secret shopper and/or as Arincen.
Survey number “2,” in which we asked these companies’ customers for important feedback and past experience.
The next step saw us evaluate and rank each company, relying on the hard work of 15 Arincen employees. We were cautious in ensuring the most accurate assessment possible, including taking into account different languages, as well as the various mobile-app operating systems, e.g., Apple, Samsung, etc.
To add credibility to our research project, we sent a third and final survey (referred to here as Survey “3”) to enable participating FOREX companies to evaluate our own research and whether it accurately reflects the realities on the ground. We were fortunate enough to receive a mark of 9.9 out of 10! We have kept to a minimum the margin of error, which stood at a measly 1%. To learn more about how we came up with the evaluation, please click here.
What is FOREX trading?
FOREX trading involves buying one currency while selling another, aiming to profit from the changes in their relative values.
Can I trade with non-FINMA-regulated brokers in Switzerland?
Yes. It’s perfectly acceptable for you to open an account with an EU broker that is bound by the rules of MiFID II. You can even sign up with an offshore broker. Just remember that if your broker is not FINMA-regulated, you won’t get access to the regulator’s protections.
Is my money safe?
FINMA does a good job of ensuring this. If the worst comes to the worst and your FINMA-regulated broker folds, you could be eligible for compensation under the Esisuisse scheme of up to CHF 100,000.
How do I choose a broker?
Research and compare brokers based on factors like regulations, spreads, the leverage offered, platform usability, customer service and client reviews. It's essential to select a broker regulated by a reputable authority.
Is FOREX trading taxed in Switzerland?
Yes, FOREX trading is subject to taxation in Switzerland, but the specifics depend on the nature of the income and the individual's tax status. There are different requirements for casual traders versus professional traders. One important thing to note is that Switzerland has tax treaties with numerous countries to prevent double taxation. If you are a non-resident trading with a Swiss Forex broker, it's essential to check the tax treaty between Switzerland and your country of residence. Overall, it's crucial to consult with a tax specialist.
How much money do I need to get started?
Different brokers have different minimum deposit requirements. Some brokers allow you to open accounts with as little as $1, while others might require $500, $1,000, or more. How much you should start with depends on your goals, strategy, risk tolerance and the parameters set by your chosen broker.
Can I trade forex in Switzerland without a broker?
We wouldn’t advise it, although, technically, it’s possible. Just know that it’s not really practical for retail traders. For the casual investor, brokers offer a far more accessible entry point into FOREX trading. They provide trading platforms, leverage, and other tools that make trading possible for individual clients.
What is leverage?
Leverage in financial trading refers to the ability to control a large position with a relatively small amount of capital. It's a tool provided by brokers that amplifies a trader's capacity to trade by allowing them to deposit a fraction of the full value of their trade. This magnifies both potential profits and potential losses.
Is FOREX trading risky?
Yes, Forex trading involves significant risk. It's possible to lose more than your initial investment, especially when using high leverage. Proper risk management strategies are crucial.
Adrian Ashley is a seasoned business and finance writer. With a corporate career spanning over 20years, he has developed deep experience in such diverse areas as investing, business, finance,technology and macroeconomics. He is passionate about captu...