Dealing Desk vs. Non-Dealing Desk Brokers: Which Model is suitable for your Brokerage Business?

When financial institutions and businesses consider engaging with brokerage services, understanding the nuances between Dealing Desk (DD) and Non-Dealing Desk (NDD) brokerages is essential. The choice can significantly impact transaction costs, execution transparency, and overall market access. This article provides a comprehensive analysis tailored to businesses, highlighting the key features, advantages, and disadvantages of Dealing Desk and Non-Dealing Desk brokerages.

Dealing Desk Brokerages

Definition and Operation

Dealing Desk brokerages, also known as Market Makers, create their own market for their clients. These brokers take the opposite side of their clients’ trades, meaning they profit when clients lose and vice versa. They can set their own bid and ask prices, which may include a markup over the interbank rates.

Key Features

  1. Price Setting: Dealing Desk brokers have control over the prices they offer, often resulting in fixed spreads.
  2. Internal Execution: Trades are executed within the brokerage, which can lead to faster execution times.
  3. Liquidity Assurance: The broker guarantees liquidity, ensuring all trades can be executed.

Advantages for Businesses

  1. Predictable Costs: Fixed spreads provide certainty regarding transaction costs, aiding in budgeting and financial planning.
  2. Execution Speed: Internal trade execution can result in minimal delays, crucial for businesses requiring quick transactions.
  3. Liquidity Guarantee: The assurance of liquidity ensures that businesses can execute large orders without market impact concerns.

Disadvantages for Businesses

  1. Conflict of Interest: The broker’s profit model, which benefits from client losses, can lead to potential conflicts of interest.
  2. Price Manipulation Risk: The ability to manipulate prices might affect the fairness of trade execution.
  3. Transparency Issues: Internal execution processes may lack transparency, making it harder for businesses to audit transactions.

Non-Dealing Desk Brokerages

Non-Dealing Desk brokerages provide direct market access, acting as intermediaries between clients and the interbank market or liquidity providers. These brokers do not take the opposite side of clients’ trades but instead route orders directly to liquidity providers or the interbank market.

Key Features

  1. Direct Market Access: Businesses receive market-reflective prices through direct access to the interbank market or multiple liquidity providers.
  2. Variable Spreads: Spreads are variable and fluctuate according to market conditions.
  3. Execution Models: NDD brokers operate under two primary models – Straight Through Processing (STP) and Electronic Communication Network (ECN).

STP (Straight Through Processing):

  • Straight Through Processing (STP) is a model that automates the routing of client orders directly to multiple liquidity providers, ensuring transparent and efficient trade execution without manual intervention. This model offers competitive pricing by aggregating quotes from various sources, providing better bid and ask prices, and reducing conflicts of interest since the broker does not take the opposite side of trades. While STP provides transparent and fair pricing, its variable spreads can lead to unpredictable transaction costs, and potential slippage may occur during high volatility or low liquidity periods. Additionally, some STP brokers charge commission fees, adding to the overall trading costs. For businesses, STP’s automated, transparent, and conflict-free execution makes it an attractive option, provided the cost structure and technology integration align with their strategic goals and operational needs.

ECN (Electronic Communication Network):

  • Electronic Communication Network (ECN) is a Non-Dealing Desk (NDD) brokerage model that offers businesses direct access to the interbank market and other liquidity providers, ensuring transparent, competitive, and market-reflective pricing through a digital trading platform. ECN brokers aggregate orders from multiple market participants, resulting in tighter spreads and better execution, while providing anonymity and reducing conflicts of interest since they do not take the opposite side of trades. Despite the advantages of transparency and competitive pricing, businesses must consider the additional costs associated with commission fees and the variability of spreads, as well as the potential for slippage during periods of high volatility or low liquidity. Overall, ECN is an attractive option for businesses seeking a fair and efficient trading environment, provided the cost structure and execution conditions align with their strategic goals.

Advantages for Businesses

  1. Transparent Pricing: Direct market access ensures transparent and fair trade execution, essential for auditing and compliance.
  2. No Conflict of Interest: Since NDD brokers do not trade against clients, businesses can trust the impartiality of trade execution.
  3. Market-Reflective Prices: Variable spreads reflect true market conditions, providing more accurate pricing for strategic decisions.

Disadvantages for Businesses

  1. Variable Costs: Spreads can widen during high volatility, potentially increasing transaction costs unpredictably.
  2. Commission Fees: ECN brokers often charge commissions per trade, which can add to the overall trading expenses.
  3. Potential Slippage: Direct market execution can result in slippage, especially during periods of low liquidity or high volatility.

Strategic Considerations for Businesses

Choosing between a Dealing Desk and a Non-Dealing Desk brokerage involves strategic consideration of the following factors:

  1. Cost Predictability: Businesses requiring consistent transaction costs for budgeting may prefer Dealing Desk brokers with fixed spreads.
  2. Transaction Transparency: For companies prioritizing auditability and compliance, Non-Dealing Desk brokers offering transparent pricing and execution might be more suitable.
  3. Market Conditions: Understanding how each brokerage type performs under different market conditions can inform better strategic decisions.
Dealing Desk vs. Non-Dealing Desk Broker Comparison

Dealing Desk (DD) vs. Non-Dealing Desk (NDD) Broker Comparison

Aspect Dealing Desk (DD) Non-Dealing Desk (NDD)
Execution Orders executed internally by broker Orders passed directly to liquidity providers
Conflict of Interest Potential conflict as broker may trade against clients Reduced conflict as broker acts as intermediary
Execution Speed Can be faster under normal market conditions May vary based on liquidity provider and market conditions
Spread Typically wider due to mark-up Generally tighter as passed directly from liquidity providers
Trading Costs Broker may charge commission and widen spread Commission-based or spreads without mark-ups
Market Access Limited to broker’s liquidity and pricing Access to broader market liquidity and pricing
Transparency Less transparent on pricing and execution More transparent due to direct market access
Strategy Restrictions Potential restrictions on trading strategies Allows various trading strategies including scalping and news trading
Risk Management Depends on broker’s risk management policies More control over risk management
Suitability Often preferred for beginners due to simplicity Preferred by experienced traders for flexibility and transparency


For businesses, selecting the right brokerage type is a strategic decision that affects cost management, transparency, and market access. Dealing Desk brokerages offer predictable costs and guaranteed liquidity but come with potential conflicts of interest and transparency issues. Conversely, Non-Dealing Desk brokerages provide transparent and fair pricing, without conflicts of interest, though they may have variable costs and additional commission fees. By carefully considering these factors, businesses can choose the brokerage model that best aligns with their operational needs and strategic objectives, enhancing their efficiency and effectiveness in the financial markets.

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