Financial trading explained

Financial trading is no different to any other form of trading: it is about buying and selling assets in the hope of making a profit. Here we discuss the key concepts, participants and markets involved in financial trading.

What is financial trading?

Financial trading is the buying and selling of financial assets. It is carried out in one of two ways: via an exchange or over the counter (OTC). An exchange is a highly-organised marketplace where you can trade a specific type of instrument. For example, you can trade US shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). When you trade over the counter, the trade is made directly between two parties. For example, buying a CFD contract from a trading broker

What is traded in financial trading?

Financial instruments such as shares, forex or bonds, or derivatives such as CFDs, futures or options can be traded. Whatever the instrument being traded, the intended outcome is always the same: to make a profit. If you buy an instrument at a low price and sell it at a higher price, you make a profit. If you sell an instrument for less than you bought it, you’ll make a loss.

Who trades?

In financial markets, millions of companies, individuals, institutions and even governments are all trading at the same time. But what is a trader? A trader is defined as a person who buys and sells financial instruments with the aim of making a profit.

Some traders stick to a particular instrument or asset class, while others have more diverse portfolios. Some do lots of research before placing a trade, while others read charts and watch out for trends. But trades all have one thing in common – they all carry risk. Risk is a key concept to all types of financial trading. No matter what instrument is being traded, who’s trading it or where the trade takes place, balancing potential profit against risk is key to a successful trading strategy.

Which markets can be traded?

There are thousands of different financial markets to be traded, including shares, indices, cryptocurrencies and forex.

Trading vs investing: what’s the difference?

The difference between trading and investing lies in the means of making a profit and whether you take ownership of the asset. Traders attempt to profit from buying low and selling high (going long) or selling high and buying low (going short), usually over the short or medium term. Investors will also attempt to profit from buying shares at a low price and selling high, but over a longer term. They may also aim to earn income in the form of a dividend.

A popular method of trading includes CFD trading, while investors can choose from share trading or ETFs. When you trade derivatives, you do not own the physical asset, but when you deal in shares, you own them.

How to get started with financial trading

  • Open an account
  • Find an opportunity
  • Open and monitor your first trade
  • 1. Open an account

    Create a CFD or share trading account in minutes. Once we've verified your identity, add funds using your debit card, PayPal or via bank transfer. If you’d like to try your hand at trading in a risk-free environment, you can open a demo account.

    2. Find an opportunity

    Browse over 16,000 markets and make use of our extensive range of tools and resources to find your first trade. Then, choose which market you want to trade based on your experience and risk appetite. All trading involves risk, especially if you’re trading using leverage, which is why you need a risk management strategy to protect against unnecessary losses

    Open and monitor your first trade on a range of devices

    Once you’ve completed these steps, it’s time to enter the market. When you trade with CFDs, you can speculate on both rising and falling markets. If you think the price will rise, you would open a position to ‘buy’, and if you think the price will decline, you open a position to ‘sell’. Your trading decision should be based on your analysis of the market and your trading strategy. You can trade on a variety of platforms, including PC, Android, Apple iPad and more. You can also utilise our powerful charts to spot trades and stay ahead of the curve.

    Financial trading in summary

    We’ve summarised a few key points to remember on financial trading below.

    Start Trading CFDs

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