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Principal Trading vs Agency Trading

15 Sep 2023


Principal Trading and Agency Trading are two distinct approaches to the world of finance. Understanding the differences between them is crucial for investors and market enthusiasts. In this guide, we will delve into the realms of Principal Trading and Agency Trading, shedding light on their roles, benefits, and impact on the financial markets.

What is Principal Trading?

Principal Trading, often referred to as proprietary trading, is a trading strategy employed by financial institutions where they use their own capital to execute trades in various financial markets. The primary objective of Principal Trading is to generate profits directly from market movements.

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What is Agency Trading?

Agency Trading involves financial intermediaries, such as brokerage firms, acting as intermediaries between buyers and sellers in financial markets. In this approach, the intermediaries execute trades on behalf of their clients, with the primary goal of achieving the best possible execution for the client.

How Do Principal and Agency Trading Compare?

Principal Trading and Agency Trading differ in several critical aspects:

  • Risk vs. Reward: Principal Trading carries higher risk and reward potential because the intermediate costs are close to zero. On the other hand, Agency Trading offers lower risk and limited profit potential because a percentage of returns goes to financial intermediaries.
  • Control vs. Objectivity: Principal Traders have more control over trades because the capital is their own and there are no investment constraints. Whereas Agency Traders prioritise objectivity and best execution for clients because they are bound by pre-determined investing styles and have the responsibility to cater to a large pool of clients.
  • Profit vs. Service: Principal Trading's sole aim is profit generation. whereas Agency Trading emphasises client servicing and satisfaction more than profit maximisation.

How to choose between Principal and Agency Trading?

Here is a comparative analysis for your perusal:

  • Market Conditions: The prevailing market conditions and the state of the economy directly influence your decision. A developed economy, for instance, may favour the principal trading approach over the agency trading approach due to perceived low volatility.
  • Investor Goals: Individual investor goals and risk tolerance play a significant role in selecting the appropriate strategy. If the risk tolerance and return requirements are high, the principal trading approach might be a suitable choice. Whereas, if the investor is less knowledgeable about the markets, the agency trading approach will be more suitable.
  • Regulatory Considerations: Compliance with financial regulations may dictate the choice of trading approach. High regulatory requirements might call for a particular trading approach over another when compared to a low regulatory approach.


Principal Trading and Agency Trading each have their merits and drawbacks. The choice between them should align with your risk tolerance, investment objectives, and available resources. Understanding these trading approaches empowers you to make informed financial decisions.


Related Articles: Power of the Third Market in Financial Transformation | What is Spot Trade and How Does it Work | What is a Spot Rate | Secured Vs Unsecured Bonds


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