The Difference of True and False ECN/STP Brokers

Since online trading is introduced to the public, traders learn more and more every day. Few years ago, most traders would have no answer if you asked what ECN/STP was. Thanks to the Internet and the free information accessible to public through it, now most traders know how to choose a good broker and what a market maker and ECN/STP brokerage system is.

However, scams never stop cheating. Since most traders look for ECN/STP brokers to open an account with, many scam brokerages that were used to be market maker, call themselves ECN/STP now, just based on some small changes they have made in their systems. They are not true ECN/STP brokers. This is what you have to be aware of. So, what is the difference of a true and a false ECN/STP broker?

ECN stands for Electronic Communications Network. An ECN broker is the one that its platform is electronically connected to the network of international banks or liquidity providers. When you trade through such a platform, indeed you are communicating and trading with the real and true international currency market.

STP stands for Straight Through Processing. It means everything from placing the orders to closing them is done automatically and electrically without any manual intervention.

ECN BrokerDoes it mean that if a brokers electronically and without any human intervention connects the platform you install on your computer to another organization called liquidity provider, it is an ECN/STP broker?

Technically speaking yes. It is an ECN/STP broker, because it routes your orders to a liquidity provider electronically and without any human intervention. But what if that so called “liquidity provider” is another market maker broker that belongs to the same company but with a different name, or a sister company?

That is still an ECN/STP broker from the electronic and technological point of view. But it is a fake ECN/STP broker, because he routes your orders to another market maker broker that rips you off and shares the profit with him (the broker). Or, it routes your orders to a different system with a different name which indeed belongs to the same company. I mean they take your money from one pocket and put it in another pocket. In both cases, you are not trading with the real currency world. You are dealing with a market maker broker that wants you to lose.

Why do they do this?

They do it because they want to claim they are ECN/STP, not market maker. They proudly advertise it on their sites. As I mentioned, they are ECN/STP from the electronic point of view, but they are market maker indeed.

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Who Is a True ECN/STP Broker?

A true ECN/STP broker is the one that its platform is connected to at least one trusted and well-known liquidity providing organization (like Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Citi Bank, Nomura, HSBC) that has nothing to do with brokerage firm and there is no relationship between them. The broker just routes your orders to the liquidity provider. The liquidity provider makes money through the spread and swap and the broker makes money through the commission they charge you. You pay the spread and swap to the liquidity provider, and the commission to the broker.

Nowadays, most true ECN/STP brokers are connected to several liquidity providers at the same time. When you want to place an order, the system automatically chooses the liquidity provider that is offering the best price, and your order will be routed to that liquidity provider. Therefore, your orders will be distributed among several liquidity providers and none of them will have any chance to know your account and go against you in case you make money. That provides the best possible service for you as a trader, and because liquidity providers compete with each other, they offer lower spread every day which is good for retail traders.

Some brokers are true ECN/STP brokers, but they increase the spread in addition to the commission they charge you. What they add to the spread is called markup. They are not allowed to do that, unless they let the clients know. However, many of them don’t inform the clients about this hidden fee and extra charge and when you ask them why the spread is too high, they answer that it is the market’s normal spread, which is a lie. So, even a true ECN/STP broker can cheat you too. Read this: 6 Ways Brokers Cheat You

So, when you want to choose a broker, make sure it is a true ECN/STP broker first. Also ask them if they charge markups or not. You have to ask them about this and ask for proofs. In case they refused to give you a good answer, don’t open an account with them.

Published by

LuckScout Team

"Whether you think you can, or you think you cannot, you are right." - Henry Ford


  1. Hi and all,

    I don’t see any strong trade setup on daily and weekly for the coming week. The closest to strong setup is Usdjpy on the weekly timeframe. However it has a lot of negative points and thus it has to be ignored.

  2. For me I’ve decided I’ll open a trading account with my local broker whose office I’ve been to several times before and it’s well known.

    1. Hello Okeke!

      If you are from Nigeria, Pls kindly notify me of the local broker that you made mention of.

      Best Regards!

  3. Hi

    Unfortunately it doesn’t seem possible to open an ECN/STP account with less than £6k and so this type of account does not appear to be available if we want to follow your advice to start with a small account and grow it.


    1. Hi Barbara,

      1. I don’t think so. There are some good ECN/STP brokers that you can open a much smaller account with.

      2. Let’s say that is true. For now, just keep on demo trading to master your trading system. If you could be consistently profitable for 6 consecutive months at least, then you can think about opening a live account. If you learn how to trade, you will have the money to open your live account when it is the time to.

    2. Hi,

      I asked who are their liquidity providers. They talk me Citi Banks. So how can I contact them and verify. Please explain me. Thank.

    3. Sma,

      You mean Citi is the only liquidity provider they have?

      Unfortunately you cannot verify that on your own, because in most cases brokers don’t have a direct contract with the liquidity providers and they are connected to them through mediator companies. You have to ask the broker to show more proof.

    4. Hi,
      Can I ask you some question about broker? How can I ask a broker to show proof that broker is true ECN/STP broker? I asked liquidity provider name. This broker answered me all European major banks like Deutsche that they connected. So how can I know that is sure again.

    5. There is no way to verify this. They can hide everything from you. The only way is that you just trust what they say, and then try them for a while if they cheat or not.

  4. Hi,

    I think the broker who offer a PAMM service is a true ECN/STP broker (or at least a good broker) because the more PAMM trader win the more investors come so they can’t “take your money from one pocket and put it in another pocket”.

    How do you think?

    Thank you.

  5. I just did a search. Some of Liquidity provider from the list you provided actually offer online trading services, so I guess we don`t need broker !

    1. But again of course you need good amount of capital $10-25K to open account with True ECN brokers. `ll get in there someday 🙂

  6. Hi,

    There is a stupid question: Who make (decided) price moving up/down and/or who runs the system provide price at the market?

    I know there are some factors (supply/demand, news…) makes price up/down but I want to know WHO (in personal) control price!?

    Thank you.

    1. They are there to make money, and do their best to make more if they can. It is good they are supervised. What they did to JP Morgan is a good lesson for the others. Of course, I don’t think what JP Morgan did could affect retail traders.

    2. Yes I wish trade was more regulated but I guess since its over the counter market that make is highly liquid and liquidity is good for us.

  7. Hi because I wanted to demo trade with the broker I intend to trade with I searched the net but couldn’t find any. Maybe because they don’t do mini and micro lots. Who knows.


  8. Dear,

    I’ve finished the 5 step track articles and this weekend I’ve started looking at the charts and trying to locate my first setup on demo.

    Didn’t locate anything on the daily charts. Was there anything I didn’t see?

    What do you think of the trade setup formed on CADJPY weekly?

    I would say it is a strong bearish engulfing, BB breakout is not too strong but possibly enough because the bearish candle is too strong.

    I’m a afraid the bullish trend is not exhausted because previous candlestick were too bullish.

    What do You think of my analysis?

    Would I be not disciplined if I try and take it?

    Thank you!

    1. Dear, thank You for adding the CADJPY analysis.

      Placing SL and TP is what I still don’t have clear. Would You please help me with this?

      Just for the sake of exercise, let’s consider that CADJPY weekly offered a good setup and I took it.

      Now, You teach that I should put SL at the open of the bullish candle of the (supposedly strong) bearish engulfing pattern.

      I take position going short at 102.203 and the candle opened at 106.203.

      The distance is 400 pips!

      If my account is $5000 and I take 0.1 lots (the minimum allowed by a true ECN/STP broker), then my risk would be $400 per 2 positions (TP1 and TP2), for a total of $800, that is 16% of my $5000 account!

      If then I want to risk 2% per 2 positions for a total of 4%, that would be 200$, and divided by 400 pips would be 0.05 lots (which I cannot take with true ECN/STP).

      To risk $800 as 4%, my account should be $20000.

      If I am not wrong in my calculations, does this mean that I cannot take position on weekly and monthly timeframes if my account is not big enough?

    2. I offer two stop loss levels. In case of a short position, the risky one is at the middle of the bearish candlestick which has formed the setup. And the safer one is around the open or high price of the same candlestick.

      When your account is not big enough to handle the risk, then you have to avoid the setup.

    3. Excuse me, but let’s say I have an account big enough to have a 400 pips SL.

      Since TP1 is 5x SL, then for a 400 pips SL the TP1 would be 5×400=2000 pips!? That is way too much! Where am I wrong?

      Thank You.

    4. Sorry I am saying this because in the case of CADJPY, if I took position going short at 102.203 and the candle opened at 106.203, the distance seems to me 400 pips!
      Or am I wrong because the yen doesn’t have 4 (or 5) figures after the point?

      Assuming CADJPY was a setup to take, what would the correct SL be for You?

      Thank You!

    5. Yes, in case of CAD/JPY short setup on the weekly chart, the risky stop loss would be about 195 pips and the safer stop loss 380 pips.

      When an account is not big enough to handle such a wide stop loss, then skipping the stop loss is all we could do.

    6. Thank You very much for clarifying this to me!
      Your answers were really helpful.

      If You feel like doing it, please consider writing some more articles on position sizing with some real practical examples! Possibly that would be useful for novices who are placing the first trades following Your trading strategy!

  9. Hi,

    Bellow is the conversation between me and my broker support:

    Me: Are you a true ECN/STP broker?
    Support: we are STP broker only
    Me: Who are your liquidity providers?
    Support: Please wait while I check for you
    Support: sorry we do not provide such kind on information i can tell you that liquidity providers belong to TIER 2
    Me: So who is your TIER 2?
    Support: sorry we do not provide details
    Me: Why?
    Support: this is confidential information sir if you wish you can arrange call back from our representative so he will assist you via phone with all details

    So how do you think of this broker Mr.?
    Thank you so much!

  10. Hi,
    How are you, I hope you had a nice weekend.

    You mentioned in the case of strong bullish/bearish engulfing setup with long upper or lower shadow, it is not rated as 100% setup and can take the price in the opposite direction for several candles.
    I notice that the price consolidate for some time and then follow the original setup. What do you think? And if we take this setup is it rated 100% after the consolidation?
    Thanks for your great effort

  11. hello chirs,

    i found it still hard to know the true ecn/stp broker. Because they all claim that they are true ecn/stp broker.

  12. Is it a sufficient proof that a broker is true ECN/STP broker if she advertises on her webpage that she is connected to JP Morgan, Citibank and the rest?


  13. Hi,

    Hope you are doing good…

    I think you personally don’t trade in gold and silver but
    Kindly make a detailed analysis about gold and silver (Spot).


  14. Sir, many broker give us promotion about no deposit bonus , like 10$ 25$ free bonus , so is this real money ? and how can they manage this bonus promotion ?

  15. Hi,

    Thanks again for all the hard work and input into your articles. Very insightful and helpful. I have a question about ECN/STP brokers.

    Isn’t it possible that a broker is a true and genuine ECN/STP broker, and may even offer proofs and be attested to by one of his liquidity providers, and will act in that capacity only when you deposit a lot of money with him (e.g. over 10,000 USD); but, he will at the same time accept deposits less than this (e.g. 2000 USD) and handle those accounts as a Market-maker would?


    1. Thank you for your reply,.

      So, if I deposit my limited funds with such a broker, believing him to be an ECN/STP broker (which he is, rightfully), how can I know that he is taking positions against me and actively trying to make me lose?


    2. You will know it only when you trade and see the broker’s reactions. If you can get in and out without any problems, the spread is normal and doesn’t hunt your stop loss, then the broker doesn’t care about your win and loss which means it is a true ECN/STP.

      There is no way to find out, but trading with them or ask from the other traders who actively trade with the broker.

      Of course, most traders are used to blame the others for their losses. It means you have to ask the profitable traders, not the losers.

  16. Hello,

    this is the message I have got from my broker today:


    Can we draw a conclusion whether they are true ECN or just a market maker only based on this message? Is the situation on USD/RUB quite so exceptional? It is indeed a trend caused by the current political tensions, but is this a reason to cut the leverage 10 times or more? (maybe some clients had a leverage higher than 1:100 on their account). Now most of them have to close their positions.

    This broker also reduces the leverage to a third on weekends on all accounts starting with 18:00 GMT Friday. If you ask them why they say in order to protect the accounts of the clients from price fluctuations.

    They claim to be a true ECN, however they allow also 0.01 lots positions, but to be honest most of the brokers which claim to be ECN allow microlot positions …

    What do you think?

    1. It doesn’t look like a bad action from your broker. I think they are good because they are thinking about the safety of the traders’ capitals.

      By the way, do you really have to trade USD/RUB while there are too many other pairs with great liquidity?

    2. I will certainly trade USD/RUB if I see a too strong setup which fulfills our checklist 🙂 but for the moment I don’t see anything on this pair.

      Glad to hear your opinion. I will stick with them for a while. Would definitely love to win back my 90%+ capital which I burned until I found your website.

      I have now opened a demo account with another broker which offers also CFDs on some indices, shares and futures. I am curious how I will perform in the next months. I will definitely stick to the candlestick patterns and BB system but I have to become more patient and get rid of my fear/greed. My fear/greed was also the reason why I have closed my long positions on GBP/CAD (taken based on weekly candlestick from 24.11) too early. To all of you who with open positions on this pair I wish you lots of green pips!

  17. Hi,

    I asked my broker to give me a list of their liquidity providers and they did: all the big banks! I also pointedly asked them about their ECN status. Their first response (in cleverly veiled language) was a little evasive. And so I asked them a second time, and more specifically, about their STP protocols: and they were forced to admit that they do not offer STP with their MT4 and only with their so-called ECN accounts.

    Can I risk trading on the MT4 platform of this broker? Is this broker hiding something else, and can he be trusted? Are their more accommodative brokers out there whose MT4’s are STP?


    1. > Can I risk trading on the MT4 platform of this broker?

      Of course not. When a broker is ECN/STP he proudly gives the list of his liquidity providers.

      > Is this broker hiding something else, and can he be trusted?

      They are hiding a lot of things and they cannot be trusted.

      > Are their more accommodative brokers out there whose MT4’s are STP?

      MT4 is one of the best for ECN/STP systems. Yes, there are so many brokers out there.

    2. Just to clarify,.

      They did give me the list of all their liquidity providers (I don’t know whether they did it proudly, but it didn’t seem that they were hesitating): Their liquidity providers included all the big banks across the world e.g. Citibank, J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank, UBS, Barclays, Bank of America, etc.

      However, I just don’t understand why their MT4 accounts are not STP. And the spreads with their MT4 accounts are much, much wider than with their ECN accounts e.g. minimum spread USDZAR with MT4 is 75 pips; but on their ECN the minimum spread is 5 pips.

      Is this still strange? What are they hiding?


    3. Oh yes,

      I’ve just remembered, they also charge a commission on their ECN accounts of $65 for every $1,000,000 traded.

      I do not know whether this a normal and standard practice with all ECN/STP brokers?

      I apologize for being so talkative,. 🙂

    4. So they have both systems. One is market maker or dealing desk and the other one is ECN/STP. They place the small accounts and the losing accounts on the DD system, so that they can earn the losses. But to be at the safe side, the place the profitable account on the ECN/STP system.

  18. Hi

    Saw a strange thing today for EURCHF. At approx 13:30 GMT the price dropped 19 pips and broke through the 1.20 barrier and then came straight back up again. This was visible on [removed] only. I have other demo accounts and cannot see the same spike from the others. I spoke with them and they claim 8 of their 14 liquidity providers had sent through prices at 1.991.

    I asked them if this was an error and they claim they are investigating, but basically if the stop was was hit, then the trade would be closed.



    1. No positions, but I imagine there were a lot of stop losses at just below 1.20 that got hit.

      I just found it strange that it happened on [removed]. Stop loss hunting ?

    2. Spikes like that can be seen on all brokers charts sometimes. Many of them are because of the technical issues. I have seen spikes for hundreds of pips long while I do know that it was not done by the broker intentionally.

      I mean we cannot accuse the brokers for all the problems that happen on the platform. Many of them are technical issues.

    3. Hi

      I imagine there will be a lot of people fuming at the moment from their stopped out trades.

      Eurchf jumped 90 pips after the central bank announcement.

      Just a bit too much of a coincidence 🙁



  19. Honto

    I’ve been watching EURCHF for a while as it appears to be in a monthly squeeze for a long time now. No movements on my demo platform.

    what’s your view on this and also the possibility of a future short on this squeeze under the BB Squeeze trading strategy shared by one of your buddies?


  20. Hi!

    I had today a phone call with my broker and this is the summary:

    – the claim to be a pure ECN broker with no Dealing Desk
    – they are also a bank (deposit protection up to 100.000USD)
    – the have a considerable list of well known liquidity providers for FOREX which is not even updated on their website. All the big banks are represented
    – high liquidity and very tight spreads. In the evening the spread increases, but I think it’s normal.
    – I am trading with them since 6 months already, every trade was executed automatically with slippage < 1 pip in normal times. During news time however I had a slippage once of 15 pips or so.
    – has never requoted
    – I didn't had the feeling that they hunt my SLs
    – they claim that all the orders which go through them reach the liquidity providers anonimised
    – they charge a fixed amount for each milion traded
    – they are supervised by a well known supervising authority

    – you can trade microlots with them
    – they reduce the leverage to a third starting with 18:00 GMT even if you have open positions. They say in order to protect the client accounts from price fluctuations on weekends
    – they have recently introduced CFDs on oil and some indices. They have 2 liquidity providers for the CFDs. I called at one of them and they admit that they are a market maker. However they say its normal because each liquidity provider is a market maker. Maybe we should name a market maker actually one who has a Dealing Desk?
    – they offer binary options. Here they admit that they have a dealing desk.

    I would stick with them for a while.
    What do you think?

    1. Hi Daniel,

      They are not true ECN/STP, otherwise they would not reduce the leverage. It has nothing to do with protecting the clients accounts. It can hurt the clients when market opens with a gap after the weekend.

      Each liquidity provider is market maker, but it is different from having a dealing desk. Big liquidity providers offer too many services and have too many investments. They don’t bother to make traders lose. I have explained it here:

    2. Daniel also asked the same question earlier on this page, and you replied:

      “It doesn’t look like a bad action from your broker. I think they are good because they are thinking about the safety of the traders’ capitals.”

      But now you say that it has nothing to do with protecting the clients accounts?

    3. It was not the “same” question. Daniel’s broker had reduced the USD/RUB leverage and Daniel’s question was about that action. And, as USD/RUB is an exotic currency pair with strange and strong movement it makes sense to reduce the leverage to protect both the broker and client. My answer to Daniel was related to USD/RUB leverage. However, if a broker reduces the leverage on weekends, that is too bad and it causes so many accounts with negative positions reach the stop out level and get wiped out.

    4. You’re right, i’m sorry. In his first comment he mentioned both issues (USD/RUB and also the lowering of leverage on the weekends). I mistakenly assumed you were replying about the weekend issue when you said it was ok. Now i know you meant the USD/RUB issue.

  21. When we choose a broker, we need to ensure that the country’s central or national bank regulates it at least. That gives me the assurance. Thanks for writing.

  22. It is crucial to read the actual contract that a trader signs with the broker. This contract controls the relationship between the trader and the broker. For example, the contract may have a clause in it that says that the trader is only risking the amount of money in their account. Such a clause protects the trader from going negative, and being legally obligated to pay the broker for losses beyond the account balance. This contract document will give information that can help determine whether the broker is a true pass through to liquidity provider(s), or simply a faux market maker.

  23. Do you know this Insta broker ?
    Are they true ECN broker ?
    What should I look for when selecting a ECN Broker ?

  24. I noticed many brokers are not True ECN as they claim on their web site. One of them is IC Markets. They claim ECN broker but they have totally different spreads varying from time to time and reduce margin and stop out. Their prices and spreads dose not match with inter bank prices.

  25. Thanks

    So if I understand correctly all API, DMA atc. behind screen still can be there some magic finger correcting price in there favour

    Tnx iva

  26. Hi,

    I can’t thank you and your friends enough for this site. There’s a broker runs the business from Cypress. They don’t accept US base credit cards for live acct activation. They accepts ones from the middle-east or even pre-paid cards. What does that really mean? Is it for tax purposes or you have a different explanation? Thanks again for all of your help.

  27. Hi,
    GCI Financial sounded good to me but there’s no way find out about their Liquidity Provider. What do you think about this company if you know it and how do I find out about their Liquidity Provider. Can you please name few trusted ones!
    Again…can’t thank you enough.

  28. Can someone please tell me whether or not I need to be concerned about true ECN/STP brokers if i trade Binary Options as well? I’ve experienced these nasty “tricks” by various brokers with Binary Options trading, and am on a quest to find a better broker. So, if someone can please tell me if the same criteria apply for as with Binary Trading, please give me your opinion.

  29. Two weeks ago I read an article in which you mention that leverage that liquidity providers offer to the ECN brokers is no more than 1:100. Does this mean if a broker offer us bigger leverage than this is a market maker? Thanks.

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