When it comes to spread betting, your strategy is everything – it’s how you trade and ultimately the thing that sees you into profit or a loss. For this reason, you need to ensure that everything about your trading life compliments your strategy – nothing should get in the way. While it might not be immediately obvious to everyone, the platform you decide to use is going to be a big part of this, so taking some time to choose the right one is important. It’s not just a computer program – it’s almost like your place of work, and is therefore vital. Let’s go through some of the main points that you need to look out for if you want to make sure that you get this right.
Different strategies will call for different tools, and no two traders are going to want to use the same tools with the same frequency. Those who primarily work with fundamental analysis for instance are not going to be overly interested in platforms that prioritise extensive charting tools within the package. They’re going to be far more interested in things like live notifications and news, which will help them build a picture of what is going on. They may even have very little use for the platform other than making the trade itself, so lightweight might be best.
For this reason, flexibility and a wide range of choices is going to be very useful indeed when making your decision. Fortunately, it’s not too difficult to find out what tools are included with a platform – the information is readily available generally on the site of the broker you choose, or the website for the platform itself. Do note that some platforms might vary between brokers, so double check even if you think you’re already familiar.
Bear in mind that for any tools that are not included, you will need to have a separate application (or multiple). This isn’t always ideal, especially if you start using several because it takes time to move between them, and generally makes the experience less seamless.There are a lot of them out there to compliment your strategy though.
User interface, and with it the user experience as a whole, is not necessarily a major part of your decision making process, but it’s still worthwhile thinking about. You’re always going to enjoy your time more if you like the program that you’re working with, even if this is just down to how the things looks and feels.
Try out a few of the free demos that you can easily get through brokers, and see which you like best. Think about which information you want to be able to see at any given time, and how easy it is to navigate around this. Some people prefer stripped back interfaces that cram all the data into one screen, where others might like a more polished, aesthetically pleasing look. It’s entirely up to you, and there’s no right or wrong answer, as long as you’re doing what’s best for your strategy.
Do be aware when looking that brokers might offer their own white label versions of popular platforms, so they’ll be essentially the same, but reskinned and with different branding, so you might not need to try all of them out if you can work out which ones are the same.
Reliability and Security
Most good platforms will now come on a variety of devices such as desktop, browser and smartphones, but they’re not all made equal. Some platforms are smoother and quicker than others, and if you’re unlucky you might find yourself using a platform that crashes, freezes or is slow. Check out the reviews for platforms online. Real reviews from real people are often the best way of gauging reliability.
Ultimately, any time spent dealing with a difficult application is time lost that you could be turning a profit, so don’t discount the importance of this point. It could also cost you if you’re not a very careful user of things like stop loss orders. We’d all like to think that all platforms are made to be fool-proof but it just isn’t always the case. As a segue to this, you should give a little bit of thought to security too – different platforms offer different levels of protection for your data, with MetaTrader products generally considered the most secure.
As we mentioned in the last point, you can now get platforms across multiple devices rather than just having your usual desktop program. Now, if all of your trading is done at your desk, then you probably have little interest in mobile trading, but if your strategy calls for constant market monitoring, then it’s probably wise to choose one of the platforms that lets you seamlessly swap between your laptop and a tablet.
Full functionality isn’t always available on smartphones, and it can be fairly difficult to read charts well on smaller screens, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a potentially valuable tool for you to use for monitoring positions. In general we’d recommend sticking only to platforms with a mobile option – it is nearly 2016 of course. Investopedia has some good resources on smartphone trading, which can be found here.
Always remember that you can change your platform if you need to – you’re limited to what your broker offers, but they’ll usually have a selection, and platforms are being updates all the time. ETX Capital for instance have four different spread betting platforms. Of course some, such as the ever-popular MT4, are customisable too, so you can get almost exactly what you need.