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What I've Learned From Searching for a Broker


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What I've Learned From Searching for a Broker

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  #1 (permalink)
adamcollins
Mississippi
 
 
Posts: 2 since May 2011
Thanks: 0 given, 1 received

Hi all, this board has helped me a ton in choosing my first broker for trading futures. I've traded stocks and options before but realized there was a lot to learn about brokers, data feeds, and platforms. I've been trading silver and crude for the past four months through the NT/Zen simulation and have found that scalping via the static DOM is my favorite/most profitable way to trade. Attached is an image of what I stare at from 7-11 central Monday through Friday. I know it's strange that I use ToS for my charting but I like how the volume profile looks and I don't trade off of it, so it's fine with me. A few days ago I began searching for the best combo of broker/feed/platform for when I go live, and here are my results.

BROKER

I began by looking at these...
  • Advantage
  • AMP
  • Apex
  • Cannon
  • Deep Discount Trading
  • Global Futures
  • Infinity
  • Interactive Brokers
  • MB Trading
  • Mirus
  • Open E Cry
  • Optimus
  • TD Ameritrade
  • Velocity
  • Vision Financial Markets
...and have narrowed it down to Velocity, Mirus, Optimus, and Deep Discount Trading. Courtesy, commissions, intraday margins, platform selection, data feed selection, and tech support details all played a role. Velocity and Mirus were both pretty equal in how nice they seemed on the phone, while Optimus and DDT seemed a bit more personal and accommodating to someone new to futures trading.

DATA FEED

This is probably what I spent the most time learning about. I talked to a number of people about various data feeds and their intricacies, and here's what I've discovered. A few years back Rithmic decided to provide data for futures since they considered the amount of data small in comparison to what they were currently providing (equity options), and soon Mirus approached them and asked if they could offer their feed. Apparently at the time the feed didn't have a name and Mirus wanted to label it so they eventually decided to name it Zen-Fire. It's cloudy to me what happened after that but basically Zen-Fire branched off, became its own white label entity, and uses their own hardware with Rithmic's software (Definitely could have been confused about this point, let me know if I'm off). Another data feed I'm entertaining is TT from the guys who make X-Trader. A couple of forum posts I read said that the feed was filtered into "bursts" of 150ms, or 250ms, I forget the number. I asked someone at Rithmic and at Crossland, the FCM DDT introduces for, and they both said it's up to whoever hosts the TT FIX adapter whether or not they will coalesce, or filter, the TT feed. I asked Howard at DDT if they filtered the TT feed and he said no. After talking more and more to Rithmic and explaining how I plan to trade, manual order entry via the DOM, they basically said it won't matter if one feed is 100ms faster than another since a human can't possibly act fast enough to make a difference. I also looked at Kinetick and IQ Feed but I decided they'd only be worth the cost if I decided I needed more historical data or needed a good feed for cumulative delta charting. My conclusion is that Zen-Fire, Rithmic, and TT are all great for how I intend to trade and I doubt I'll notice a difference between the three. It was sort of disappointing to come to the conclusion that I probably won't notice a difference, but oh well.

PLATFORM

I've been using NT like I said for a couple of months and haven't had a problem with it, so I didn't see a reason to switch from it. I considered R Trader but once I figured out the DOM was dynamic it was no longer a possibility. The only thing that sort of turned me off from NT is the fact that I'd have to buy credits to use the static DOM which would amount to ten cents a side. I've been told that Sierra Charts offers a static DOM at an additional five cents a side, saving me ten cents over NT per roundtrip. Later this week I'll be trying out Sierra's static DOM with TT. I honestly would like to have X-Trader but I'd only buy that if I could pay for it with live trading profits. The one feature that I wish NT's static DOM had is the total number of contracts traded at a price like X-Trader displays. A full live NT license with the ATM functionality and all the other goodies is $60/month and a live license for Sierra is $18/month. If I were to go with NT I'd probably go with the free live license without the extras.

COMMISSIONS

Not much to say here other than provide a list. Each price includes the TT credits so it's the final, all-in, roundtrip commissions for trading one contract via the static DOM.

COMEX Silver Commissions

Velocity
Free X-Trader with TT: $5.14
NinjaTrader with TT: $4.64
Sierra Chart with TT: $4.34

Mirus
NinjaTrader with Zen-Fire: $5.24

Optimus
NinjaTrader with Rithmic: $4.95
Sierra Chart with Rithmic: $4.85

Deep Discount Trading
NinjaTrader with TT: $4.24
Sierra Chart with TT: $4.14
NinjaTrader with Rithmic: $4.84
Sierra Chart with Rithmic: $4.74

10-Year Treasury Note Commissions

Velocity
Free X-Trader with TT: $3.36
NinjaTrader with TT: $2.86
Sierra Chart with TT: $2.56

Mirus
NinjaTrader with Zen-Fire: $3.46

Optimus
NinjaTrader with Rithmic: $3.20
Sierra Chart with Rithmic: $3.10

Deep Discount Trading
NinjaTrader with TT: $2.36
Sierra Chart with TT: $2.26
NinjaTrader with Rithmic: $2.96
Sierra Chart with Rithmic: $2.86

INTRADAY MARGINS

This is the least important topic to me since I've been more focused on actually becoming profitable, and because I'm flexible in regards to how much I can open an account with.

Velocity
SI: $10,000
GC: $2000
CL: $3000
ZN: $500
ZB: $500
6E: $500

Mirus
SI: $2500
GC: $1000
CL: $1000
ZN: $500
ZB: $500
6E: $500

Optimus
SI: $4000
GC: $1600
CL: $1350
ZN: $430
ZB: $740
6E: $1100

Deep Discount Trading
SI: $4700
GC: $1700
CL: $2100
ZN: $540
ZB: $930
6E: $1350

CONCLUSION

I'm going to grab a demo of NT with Rithmic and Sierra with TT later this week just so I can make sure all three feeds are comparable, and to see if Sierra's static DOM is worth switching over to for an additional ten cents in my pocket per roundturn. I usually do 25 roundtrips each day with one lot of SI which would amount to saving $550 a month if I were to go with say, Sierra w/ TT on DDT vs. NT w/ Zen on Mirus. That's quite a bit and the savings would add up if I become fortunate enough to increase the amount of contracts I trade with (Not that you can trade with much size in silver...). Moral of the story is, Optimus and DDT are friendly, offer good commissions, margins, and platform/data options while Velocity offers free X-Trader with good commissions on other platforms and Mirus has the most competitive intraday margins. I'll report back later on who I decide to go with. Again, thanks to this board for letting me even know of my options to begin with.

EDIT: I wanted to clarify that the margins I quoted were intraday and that I'm aware of NT with TT acting wonky when you hold positions overnight. While that does slightly concern me, it shouldn't actually affect me since I plan to be done by 11 AM.

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  #3 (permalink)
 Big Mike 
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Good post,

I would double check those silver margins by email, they were recently raised and websites may be out of date.

Mike

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  #4 (permalink)
 Lornz 
Oslo, Norway
 
Experience: Advanced
Platform: CQG, Excel
Trading: CL
 
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Posts: 1,198 since Apr 2010

Seems like you've done your homework. I am kind of curious as to why Advantage didn't make your shortlist, though?
And it seems you never even considered CQG Trader?

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  #5 (permalink)
Trader Y
Windsor, ON, Canada
 
 
Posts: 58 since Dec 2010
Thanks: 14 given, 22 received

Great post for those those looking into their various options.

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  #6 (permalink)
adamcollins
Mississippi
 
 
Posts: 2 since May 2011
Thanks: 0 given, 1 received


Lornz View Post
Seems like you've done your homework. I am kind of curious as to why Advantage didn't make your shortlist, though?
And it seems you never even considered CQG Trader?

Definitely considered Advantage, they were really nice and seemed like they attracted a number of "professional" traders. Their commissions ($3.34 RT for ZN) and intraday margins (50% initial) just weren't competitive enough. They do seem like an attractive choice for high volume traders, though.

Regarding CQG, I think it was purely a personal preference thing. I don't really like how it looks (lame reason, I know) and I couldn't discover any advantage it would offer me over NT or Sierra. I'd be really interested to hear why someone has chosen CQG over the other platforms because I honestly don't know that much about it.

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  #7 (permalink)
 rani 
Prague, Czech Republic
 
Experience: Advanced
Platform: AgenaTrader, Track'nTrade
Broker: DeCarley/OEC, IBKR, IQFeed
Trading: futures, options
 
Posts: 180 since Sep 2010
Thanks: 66 given, 84 received


adamcollins View Post
Definitely considered Advantage, they were really nice and seemed like they attracted a number of "professional" traders. Their commissions ($3.34 RT for ZN) and intraday margins (50% initial) just weren't competitive enough. They do seem like an attractive choice for high volume traders, though.

Regarding CQG, I think it was purely a personal preference thing. I don't really like how it looks (lame reason, I know) and I couldn't discover any advantage it would offer me over NT or Sierra. I'd be really interested to hear why someone has chosen CQG over the other platforms because I honestly don't know that much about it.

Hi,

one reason for choosing CQG might be the serverside OCO. Second would be the datafeed / execution.

Regards

Rani

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  #8 (permalink)
 Lornz 
Oslo, Norway
 
Experience: Advanced
Platform: CQG, Excel
Trading: CL
 
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Posts: 1,198 since Apr 2010


adamcollins View Post
Definitely considered Advantage, they were really nice and seemed like they attracted a number of "professional" traders. Their commissions ($3.34 RT for ZN) and intraday margins (50% initial) just weren't competitive enough. They do seem like an attractive choice for high volume traders, though.

Regarding CQG, I think it was purely a personal preference thing. I don't really like how it looks (lame reason, I know) and I couldn't discover any advantage it would offer me over NT or Sierra. I'd be really interested to hear why someone has chosen CQG over the other platforms because I honestly don't know that much about it.

Yes, Advantage is geared towards volume costumers. Both commissions and margins are negotiable...

Rani already mentioned that orders are server-side, not to mention the "smart orders"-types etc. The datafeed and order routing is nearly flawless. The IC is really good for spreads too.

I will say that TT and CQG is in another league than NT and similar programs. But you have to pay for it...

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