What Is Proprietary Trading? How Does It Work?

Triston Martin

Jun 12, 2022

Many investors believe that most of the stock market's trading activity comes from individuals. This is not the case. That, on the other hand, is completely incorrect. Institutions, businesses, and corporations all participate in the daily stock market activity in addition to individual retail traders. Even stockbroking firms with whom investors have trading accounts are often involved in the stock market trading and investing. Proprietary trading is the term used to describe this behavior. Are you interested in learning more about "proprietary trading"? By reading on, you can learn more about this novel idea of what is proprietary trading.

What Does Proprietary Trading Mean?

When a financial institution or commercial bank engages in proprietary trading, it is doing so to benefit directly from the market rather than earn commissions by trading on behalf of customers. Profiting from market action rather than thin-margin fees gained from client trading, this style of trading is often referred to as "prop trading." For example, a trader may engage in proprietary trading of stocks, bonds, commodities, or currencies. Proxy trading is a strategy used by financial institutions and commercial banks that feel they have the edge over other types of investment, such as stock market indexing and bond yield appreciation, in generating higher yearly returns.

How Does Proprietary Trading Work?

When a financial institution's trading desk, brokerage business, investment bank, hedge fund, or other liquidity source utilizes the firm's money and balance sheet to execute self-promoting financial transactions, known as "prop trading," it is considered proprietary trading. Investment instruments such as derivatives make these transactions possible, but they are generally very risky and speculative.

Benefits of Proprietary Trading

  • There are several advantages to banks engaging in proprietary trading, but the most significant one is the amount of money they earn. They are able to retain all of their money because of their trade. Proprietary trading results in a profit that the banks retain entirely for themselves.
  • As a second advantage of using prop trading, financial institutions may store the assets for future usage and then sell them to customers who want to acquire them later.
  • For the third advantage, prop trading allows banks to become the market's dominant participant rapidly. No one except the banks would be able to reap the full benefits since they have access to all of the information.
  • Fourthly, prop traders have access to cutting-edge technology and automated tools that investors may not be able to purchase.

Proprietary Trading Vs. Hedge Funds

It is generally agreed upon that the global financial crisis was caused by two distinct forms of trading, namely hedge fund and proprietary trading. That is why it is always wise to distinguish between them:

  • Proprietary trading differs from hedge funds in that the hedge fund manager owns it. A fund manager and his team manage hedge funds on behalf of investors. On the other hand, prop trading involves the bank managing the whole fund.
  • Investors in hedge funds pay a hefty fee to the fund managers because of this arrangement. There is no limit to how much a private trader may earn.
  • The fund manager's risk is restricted in the case of hedge funds. Because he has to consider the success or failure of his customer, he is willing to take a chance. Prop traders, on the other hand, are solely responsible for their own success or failure. As a direct consequence, the proprietary traders are free to assume whatever level of risk they see fit. Naturally, those willing to take on greater risk generally make more money than hedge fund managers do.

A Proprietary Trading Desk Example

The proprietary trading desk is usually separated from other trading desks so it can do its job well and keep the institution's clients in mind. Even though this desk generates a significant amount of the financial institution's income, it is completely independent of client activities and operates independently.

If you've read this far, you know that proprietary trading desks may also be market-makers. This kind of scenario occurs when a customer wishes to trade a significant quantity of a single asset or wants to trade very illiquid security. With few buyers or sellers in this market, a proprietary trading desk will serve as the buyer or seller, initiating a deal for a client's account.


Even though proprietary trading is very lucrative for financial institutions, it does not immediately benefit regular investors. As a result of the 2008 financial crisis, proprietary trading is now much more strictly regulated to guarantee that banks and other financial institutions are putting their clients' interests first.

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