Proprietary Trading

AKA Prop Trading is the practice of using a company’s own money to execute trades.

Author: David Bickerton
David Bickerton
David Bickerton
Asset Management | Financial Analysis

Previously a Portfolio Manager for MDH Investment Management, David has been with the firm for nearly a decade, serving as President since 2015. He has extensive experience in wealth management, investments and portfolio management.

David holds a BS from Miami University in Finance.

Reviewed By: Rohan Arora
Rohan Arora
Rohan Arora
Investment Banking | Private Equity

Mr. Arora is an experienced private equity investment professional, with experience working across multiple markets. Rohan has a focus in particular on consumer and business services transactions and operational growth. Rohan has also worked at Evercore, where he also spent time in private equity advisory.

Rohan holds a BA (Hons., Scholar) in Economics and Management from Oxford University.

Last Updated:January 17, 2024

What Is Proprietary Trading?

Proprietary trading, or prop trading, occurs when a bank or a fund trades stocks, derivatives, bonds, commodities, or other financial instruments on its account with its funds rather than utilizing clients' funds. 

Unlike traditional trading methods that involve handling customer funds for a commission, proprietary trading allows the company to profit from the entire transaction directly.

This kind of trading aims to generate surplus profits for banks and other financial entities. These companies frequently possess more market knowledge than the typical investor. The possession of advanced modeling and trading tools confers further benefits.

To lock in profits, prop traders employ a variety of tactics, including global macro trading, volatility arbitrage, merger arbitrage, and index arbitrage. Proprietary traders can make crucial decisions with advanced tools and vast information sources.

Key Takeaways

  • Proprietary trading involves a financial organization conducting transactions with its funds instead of client capital.
  • The financial entity making the trades immediately benefits and loses from proprietary trading. Although there is a chance for large financial rewards, the institution runs a big risk when doing this.
  • Market analysts know that big banks deliberately hide information about proprietary vs non-proprietary trading activities to hide actions that advance corporate self-interest.
  • Financial institutions must make a large capital commitment to engage in proprietary trading. There can be significant differences in the trading desk's size and the funds earmarked for proprietary trading.

Understanding Proprietary Trading

A trading desk at a financial institution, brokerage firm, investment bank, hedge fund, or other liquidity source engages in proprietary trading when the firm uses its money and balance sheet to carry out self-promoting financial transactions. 

Typically, these transactions involve speculation and are carried out via various derivatives or other intricate financial instruments.

The desire for significant earnings is one of the primary motivations for businesses to participate in prop trading.

This can be attributed to several things, including using sophisticated modeling and trading software and having access to exclusive market data. These benefits enable them to spot lucrative trading chances that the typical investor would miss.

Traders utilize various financial products, such as stocks, bonds, currencies, and commodities, to engage in prop trading.

Commercial banks and other financial institutions utilize proprietary trading because they expect to make more money than they would from traditional investment strategies like index investing or bond yield appreciation. 

These companies' imagined competitive advantages in the financial markets are the cause of all that has happened.

How does Proprietary Trading Work?

Financial institutions that engage in proprietary trading use their funds to trade to make a profit. 

Here’s how proprietary trading typically works:

  1. Capital Allocation: Usually, the process starts with the institution transferring a portion of its funds to a proprietary trading desk run by seasoned traders with assistance from technology and research teams.
  2. Market Research and Analysis: Traders analyze news, indicators, and market data analysis to make well-informed trading decisions. Proprietary traders can quickly enter and exit positions using advanced trading platforms, cutting-edge technology, and fast connectivity.
  3. Risk Management: The success of proprietary trading depends on traders' proficiency, the market's current state, and effective risk management strategies. Proprietary trading firms often prioritize capitalizing on price differences across various marketplaces or asset classes.
  4. Trading Strategies: To maximize their profits, prop traders employ various techniques, including volatility arbitrage, global macro trading, and more. To assist them in making critical judgments, proprietary traders have access to sophisticated tools and data repositories.
  5. Profit Generation: The primary source of income for prop businesses is probably the most obvious one: the gains from trading. These businesses acquire and sell a wide range of financial products using knowledgeable traders or advanced algorithms to profit from the difference between the purchase and sale prices.
  6. Compliance: Prop traders and companies are required to abide by several rules and standards known as prop firm compliance requirements. These regulations aim to uphold the integrity of the financial markets, control trade activity, and stop illicit activity. 


Prop firms have compliance officers in charge of upholding these regulations and ensuring the company stays within the lines established by regulatory agencies.

Successful application of this strategy necessitates a high degree of market study and the capacity to forecast market trends, which enables these businesses to take advantage of possibilities that others might pass up.

Even more specialized, many prop trading companies concentrate on particular financial markets like equities, commodities, or foreign currency (Forex). This helps them further to hone their skills and plan for optimal financial success.

Types of Proprietary Firms

It's crucial to remember that certain proprietary trading firms could combine aspects of several kinds and that the world of proprietary trading is always changing due to changes in the market and technological breakthroughs. 

Furthermore, how proprietary trading companies operate is influenced by the regulatory landscape.

Here are some of the types of prop firms:

1. Market Makers 

Market makers give the market liquidity, which makes trading easier. They use automated trading algorithms to control risk and execute deals quickly. They also quote prices for buying and selling financial instruments, making money from the bid-ask spread.

2. Global Macro Firms

International macro enterprises specialize in wagering on geopolitical developments and macroeconomic trends. They might deal in various asset classes, including stocks, commodities, and currencies. 


Global Macro Firms frequently use comprehensive macroeconomic and fundamental research to guide their trading choices.

3. Systematic Trading Firms

Firms engaged in systematic trading rely on methodical, rule-driven approaches. They employ computer models and algorithms to make trading judgments based on past data, market patterns, and other quantitative criteria.

4. Quantitative Trading Firms 

Quantitative trading firms use advanced statistical, mathematical, and algorithmic models to evaluate market data and pinpoint trading opportunities.

5. Specialized Firms

Certain asset classes, such as stocks, options, futures, or foreign exchange, are the focus of some prop businesses. Specialized businesses might become experts in a certain industry and adjust their tactics accordingly.

6. High-Frequency Trading (HFT) Firms 

HFT firms execute many orders at incredibly fast speeds, frequently holding positions for relatively brief periods. These companies mostly rely on cutting-edge technology, low-latency trading platforms, and co-location services to obtain a competitive edge.

Benefits of Proprietary Trading

Prop trading offers commercial banks and other financial institutions a wide range of advantages. Profits could increase dramatically, which is the most evident and possibly biggest benefit.

Here are some benefits:

1. Increased Profits

As we've said, companies that engage in prop trading trade their own cash and keep all profits—rather than simply a commission—from their investments. 

These commission costs often represent a negligible portion of the overall investment gains. It is significant to remember that losses are more likely to occur here.

2. Asset Accumulation for Future Use

Prop trading also helps the company by allowing it to accumulate assets for future usage, which can be advantageous in several ways.


A speculative inventory might first give clients an advantage; for example, the securities can be lent to clients who want to take a short position.

A company with a stockpile of securities is also better prepared for a downturn or illiquid market when it becomes more difficult to buy and sell on the open market.

3. Market Maker Role

The ability of financial institutions to act as significant market makers is a third benefit of prop trading. Because these organizations regularly provide liquidity for particular assets or groupings of securities, they can significantly contribute to improving market stability.

Using its resources, the company buys securities, which it subsequently sells to buyers who express interest in them. It is crucial to understand that the company will bear the losses if the value of the securities it has on hand drastically drops. 

4. Profit from Security Appreciation

The company actually gains when its security inventory appreciates in value or when other people buy it for more money.

5. In-House Trading Platforms

Most proprietary trading firms only employ in-house designed trading platforms limited to using only the company's traders. 

For some companies, owning proprietary software offers significant benefits. It distinguishes them from ordinary traders, who do not have access to specialized equipment and technology.

Best Proprietary Trading Firms

Because the prop trader has access to advanced modeling and trading tools as well as market data that is essential for making crucial decisions, prop trading is extremely profitable.

Prop trading companies can hasten your path to financial independence if you are a skilled trader with a thorough awareness of financial market patterns. Professional traders with limited cash can also take advantage of the chance offered by proprietary trading firms to profit.

It can be difficult to locate prop trading firms or platforms that deal in your choice's tradable instruments or assets and under conditions that work for you.

Here’s a list of the best prop trading firms.

Apex Trading Funding

Choosing the right platform and where to begin can be challenging if you want to get into prop trading. You can enter the futures trading market with a funded account that you can qualify for in as little as seven days by using Apex Trader Funding.

During the assessment time, you will trade mini or micro contracts. If your evaluation is successful, you will switch to a funded account and start earning money for your trading abilities.

With up to 20 active accounts at once, traders receive 100% of their first $25,000 earned per account and, after that, 90% of their earnings. 

This platform offers the highest payout of any futures prop trading account. You can trade on holidays, there are no daily drawdowns, and you can apply your technique to maximize profits.

FX2 Funding

FX2 Funding provides the most economical, one-step evaluation available in the prop trading industry for individuals who like to access the markets on their own schedule. 

With FX2, you can trade just as you would at a big investment business, but you may manage your account and work at your own pace.

You get all the required assistance with trading software, educational resources, large profit splits, adaptable rules for traders and their techniques, and no time constraints. 

With the $200,000 in capital you can get, you may use this platform to grow rapidly, giving you a true competitive advantage.

With FX2 Funding, you can trade FX, indices, crypto, and more instruments. FX2 Funding also allows you to use expert advisors.

Trade The Pool 

Established in 2022, Trade the Pool guarantees traders a venue to trade that works well for both sides by utilizing reliable risk management methods. 

Most traders find it difficult to enter the markets because they lack the funds necessary to take calculated risks and earn enormous rewards. For this reason, dealers use Trade the Pool. You may use Trade the Pool for more than just getting the money you need to start prop trading.

Trade The Pool allows you to trade stocks, and they support beginner and professional traders.


Topstep is the best prop trading platform to use if you specialize in trading futures and derivatives. Because of its high payment and profit split, it is among the most respected prop trading companies.

Like most prop trading firms, Topstep offers the necessary funding, assistance, risk management techniques, and mentoring to enable skilled or employed traders to succeed while paying them a healthy profit share.

Both novice and seasoned traders are welcome on the site, which supports the development of better trading practices. But to be eligible for a funded account, you must demonstrate your ability to trade and manage risk by bypassing the review procedures. 

Unlike other providers, the topstep's evaluation procedure is simplified into two steps.


For good reason, FTMO is regarded as one of the most prosperous prop trading companies. According to its website, the company has paid over $97 million to over 10,000 traders in over 180 countries since its operations in 2014.

With FTMO, you can trade a wide range of instruments (commodities, indices, equities, bonds, cryptocurrency, and forex), but what really sets it apart from the competition is its super-raw spread and 1:100 leverage. 

Because the platform requires one-time costs, even novice traders will find it ideal—especially because they can get their money back at the first profit split. The FTMO challenge and the verification are the two steps of the standard evaluation procedure.

Hedge Funds Vs. Proprietary Trading Firms

Within the financial industry, hedge funds and proprietary trading firms (prop firms) are two separate entities with their own distinct structures, goals, and traits. As pooled investment vehicles, hedge funds manage the money of several investors to produce profits.

Here are the differences in the table below:

Hedge Funds Vs. Proprietary Trading Firms
Aspect Hedge Funds Proprietary Trading Firms


Using its own cash, proprietary trading aims to make money for the financial institution directly. By actively managing a portfolio of investments, hedge funds seek to provide profits for their limited partners or investors.

Capital Source

Instead of obtaining funding from outside investors, proprietary trading desks use the institution's capital to run their operations. Institutional investors, high-net-worth individuals, and occasionally retail investors provide capital to hedge funds.


Prop firms frequently focus on particular trading techniques like high-frequency trading, algorithmic trading, or market-making. The goal is to make money via trading that is both effective and efficient. Hedge funds use numerous methods, such as quantitative models, long/short equities, macroeconomic wagers, and distressed debt. The objective is to attain good returns while diversifying and reducing risks.

Risk Management

Proprietary trading desks carefully manage their risk to maximize profits and reduce losses by utilizing cutting-edge trading tactics and risk control systems. Hedging is a common strategy used by hedge funds to reduce risk. They combine long and short positions, derivatives, and other tools to control market exposure and lower possible losses.


One-time fee or monthly subscriptions and profit splits vary depending on each prop firm with its rules and conditions. Hedge funds often feature a "2 and 20" fee structure, meaning that there is a 20% performance fee and a 2% management charge. The performance of the fund is used to determine these expenses.


Proprietary trading, the practice of a financial institution trading on its behalf rather than on behalf of clients, is a strategic approach that allows organizations to maximize their profits. The ability to retain all investment earnings from proprietary trades sets the stage for optimizing financial gains.

Organizations such as investment banks, brokerage firms, and hedge funds frequently have proprietary trading desks. Large institutions are not allowed to engage in prop trading to lessen the quantity of speculative investments that contributed to the 2007–2008 financial crisis.

Proprietary trading is unique because trading performance and the company's financial performance are clearly correlated. 

Prop trading entities operate in the markets, emphasizing risk management, technology innovation, and specialized techniques while under regulatory supervision. 

Proprietary trading stays at the forefront of financial market evolution, adjusting to shifting circumstances and enhancing the efficiency and liquidity of international financial systems.

Researched and authored by Ray Bassil | LinkedIn

Reviewed and edited by Parul GuptaLinkedIn

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