The second thing you should consider when choosing your brokerage is the trading platform. Depending on the asset class you want to trade and your level of technical knowledge there are plenty of platforms to choose from. These are the most popular and widespread choices:
MetaTrader 4 also known as MT4 is the most popular forex trading platform in the world. There are more than 2000 brokerages worldwide that offer trading via MT4. It is very popular among retail traders due to several factors:
- Easy trading interface (although somehow outdated)
- An easy and widely supported programming language, called MQL4
- Huge variety of ready-made trading indicators and trading systems (called Expert Advisors or EAs)
- Easy switching between brokers. You don’t need to learn a new trading platform or change your EA if you switch the broker
- There is a mobile version you can use to monitor your positions on the go
Meta Trader 5 is the successor of MetaTrader 4. While it shares most of the popular features of MT4, MT5 remains somewhat unpopular among the trading community. To some extent, the platform fell victim to its evolution. It is much more flexible and powerful than MT4 for both the client and the brokerage. However most of the improvements don’t affect the average retail client, so brokerages were reluctant to put effort into marketing it. This has changed in the last years, as MetaQuotes decided to limit the support of MT4 in favor of the newer version MT5, so brokers will be pushed to use it more. Here are the features that make MT5 a better choice for systematic trading:
- It properly supports multi-asset trading. There is native support for exchange-traded instruments – market depth, order types and etc..
- The programming language of MT5 is called MQL5. It is more advanced and gives better flexibility than MQL4. This, however, makes any indicators or Expert Advisors, written in MQL4 unusable in MT5 so they have to be re-coded.
- The backtesting engine of MT5 is far more advanced than the one in MT4. It allows you to run a tick by tick backtest with real ticks from the broker. It is also quite faster and even supports multi-threading optimization.
Trading via API
Quite a lot of brokers started offering trading via API recently. Usually, it is not the best choice of individual traders, as it requires a more advanced technical skill. In API trading the broker does not provide you with a trading platform. Instead, you just get a connection for order execution. You have to connect a third-party trading software or code your own. The variety of APIs, coding languages and third party software is huge, so if you are into tech, you can explore it on your own.