Even during World War 2; it wasn’t hard for those living, no matter what country they lived in, to know that the world was forever changed, and that an unprecedented amount of time, energy, and industry would be needed to rebuild and revitalize the world economy. Human beings, as innovative as they are, came up with a way to try to help the entire world do this, and the Bretton Wood Conference helped to do this.
It was at this conference that the IMF was created, and set the foundation for the idea that there needed to be global exchange rates. These rates could help to prevent all sorts of tension, and the idea of “economic nationalism”, where the state essentially intervened in commerce. Open markets was the mark of a modern mentality, as countries were able to come together and realize that something had to be done to protect markets globally, because the world would continue to be interconnected, and even more so, given the trends of technology and trade. Essentially, countries from all different continents understood that international trade was only going to increase, and that some kind of fair way to navigate the market was essential to human civilization.
In the 1990s, when banks introduced their own trading platforms, the concept of trading stocks and forex became infinitely easier, and forex was especially affected given the 24/7 nature of the market. The platforms from the banks allowed traders to execute their own trades. However, some very smart people decided that the banks weren’t the only ones that should have all of the fun! They knew that many people wanted to trade, and that a bank wasn’t necessarily required if they created their own platforms.
Thus, the retail broker was born. Anyone can contact a broker, deposit some money – and BOOM! You’re in the game. These brokers come typically in two forms: market makers and ECNs, or electronic communications networks. The big difference between these two is that market makers tend to literally create their own bid/ask spreads, which can be unfair to actual retail traders, even though they are necessary to provide liquidity. ECNs often charge less commissions, set their own prices, which often means a tighter/ask bid, which can be better for the individual trader in many cases. Of course, this all depends on preference, as well.