[Forex] - Trader Scouting and Prop Firms Overview and Comparison

FTMO Trader Scouting

jack

Administrator
Staff member
Scouting programs have grown in popularity in recent years and many are holding themselves out as full fledged prop firms. Let's dig into what they are, where they fit in this industry, and their advantages and disadvantages.

A trader scouting program is one that evaluates potential traders (for a fee) to qualify them for trading a firm's capital on behalf of the firm. These evaluations come in different shapes and sizes, but generally they aim to prove the trader can manage risk and be consistent in their approach to the markets.

Many of these companies call themselves "prop firms," and while not technically incorrect, it's important to not the distinction between various types of prop firms and scouting programs:
  • Traditional prop firms
    • These are companies that have fully aligned their interest with their traders. The firms will typically pay a base salary, and bonus traders out at their discretion (based on performance but not strictly tied to it.) They typically require you to work on a trade desk, on a trade floor, in major financial centers around the world.​
    • These firms typically only hire fresh grades from top schools, or established institutional traders. For this reason, these firms are often inaccessible to retail traders looking to get into the institutional side of the industry.​
    • When people on the institutional side of the industry talk about 'prop firms' they typically mean this class of company.​
    • Examples include Jump, First New York Securities, Wolverine Trading, and Optiver (to name a few.) These days, most traditional props also are heavily involved in electronic market making or exotic markets.​
    • The firm's main source of revenue comes from trading operations and trading profits.​
  • Depository prop firms / first loss / broker-dealers
    • A depository prop firm is one where the trader's interests are far less aligned with the firm. The trader isn't backed by the firm and has to put up a risk deposit. The trader also doesn't get a base salary, and will likely be charged a fee for using a spot on a desk each month.​
    • Should the trader lose money, they lose their own money first. This transfers the risk from the firm to the trader, and in return the payout percentage the trader gets from these firms is much higher than elsewhere (70%-95%.)​
    • Examples include T3 Trading, Bright Trading, and WTS (to name a few.)​
    • The firm's main source of revenue comes from marking up transaction fees and charging for training courses. Despite all this, many traders will go with a depository firm for access to institutional grade access to the markets (DMA, professional software and platforms, etc..)​
  • Scouting firms
    • As mentioned in the beginning of this article, a scouting firm operates more like a service than a firm and evaluates traders for potential funding. The trader doesn't have to put up any risk capital, but they do have to pay an evaluation fee.​
    • There is no barrier to entry to these scouting firms; if you pay for an evaluation, you have the same chance of getting funded as anyone else and it's entirely dependent on your performance.​
    • Scouting firms are typically marketed toward retail traders, and as such, they focus on tools and software commonly found at retail brokerages. Unlike traditional prop firms, or some depository shops, these firms are typically virtual and do not have a trade floor to physically join.​
    • Some scouting firms will go further and offer guidance, training, mentorship, etc.. once you've passed their evaluation. Often these are the firms that hold themselves out as "prop firms" instead of just a trader scouting program.​
    • Examples include the firms listed in the table below.​
    • The firm's main source of revenue is the evaluation fees, and these fees can be substantially more than they make from profitable traders working for them.

With that said, when it comes to forex trading, the most accessible of the three categories above are scouting firms. There are many advantages here for retail traders:
  • Access to capital / backing
  • A risk system and risk monitor
  • Mentors or supervisors who encourage positive trading habits
  • Downside is just the evaluation fee and your time commitment
The above points will especially make a scouting program attractive to novice traders who are just starting out.

Below you will find the 4 of the most popular scouting programs and their offering for comparison:

Note: Any field with "Entry" and "Max" refers to the entry level evaluation package as compared to the highest end evaluation package. These come at different price points.

Trial Account Max Buying Power / Leverage100:1Entry: $200k
Max: $500k
100:1Entry: $30k (0.30 lot)
Max: $65k (0.65 lot)
Trial Account SizeEntry: $10k
Max: $100k
Entry: $2k
Max: $5k
Entry: $25k
Max: $100k
Entry: $6k
Max: $13k
Funded Account SizeEntry: $10k
Max: $100k
Entry: $2k
Max: $5k
Entry: $25k
Max: $100k
Entry: $24k
Max: $52k
Challenge Period30 Days, but 2nd round verification required with stricter conditionsNo Time Limit (3 month inactivity timeout,) but 2nd round verification required with stricter conditionsNo Time Limit (3 month inactivity timeout)6 Months (or less)
Profit Share70%100% of first $5k, 80% thereafter60%50%
Overnight / Over-Weekend PositionsWeekday overnights permitted, NO weekend positionsWeekday overnights permitted, NO weekend positionsWeekday overnights permitted, NO weekend positionsOvernights and weekends are permitted
News Trading / RestrictionSome news releases are restricted for tradingNoneNoneNone
Minimum Trading Days10 DaysNoneNone20 Days
Daily / Weekly / Position Loss LimitEntry: $500 (Daily)
Max: $5,000 (Daily)
Entry: $1,300 (Weekly)
Max: $3,300 (Weekly)
Entry: $500 (Weekly)
Max: $2,000 (Weekly)
-1.5 % max loss per position (!)
Maximum Loss LimitEntry: $1,000
Max: $10,000
Entry: $1,300
Max: $3,300
Entry: $1,000
Max: $4,000
4% Absolute drawdown (not trailing)
Profit TargetEntry: $1,000
Max: $10,000
Entry: $2,000
Max: $5,000
Entry: $2,500
Max: $10,000
Entry: $375
Max: $1,200
Refundable FeeYesNoNoNo
PlatformsMT4, MT5, cTraderMT4MT4MT4
NotesIf you do not pass the challenge, but didn't violate any risk rules, your next challenge is freeTopStepFX also has a scouting program for futures trading called TopStepTraderStop loss orders must be attached to every position and pending limit orderLive account evaluations and earning from evaluation carry forward into your funded account.
Cost Per Attempt:Entry: €155
Max: €540
n/aEntry: $199
Max: $350
Entry: $270
Max: $840
Cost Per Month:n/aEntry: $125
Max: $275
n/an/a


And finally, my own thoughts and recommendations on the above companies:

They are all marketing heavy, which is fine, but it's important not to get caught up in flashy numbers. When a scouting program advertises $100k of buying power in forex, that's just 1 standard lot, and at 100:1 leverage, that would imply you're trading a $1000 sized account. Perhaps the evaluation fee would be worthwhile for the risk system, structured environment, and training...but judging these programs on just the account balance alone might make some look a bit skimpy.

There's a lot to be said about having accountability and risk controls when you trade, and these programs all enforce it. You may not find value in the profit split or account size (especially if you're well off and already have funds to trade,) but trader scouting program might just be what gives you the structure you need to find consistency. Simply put, some people just need a stronger framework applied externally to excel in the trading world, and there's nothing wrong with that.

The profit split is the most favorable with TopStepFX at 80%, and a huge plus is how your first $5,000 of profit is 100% your own. As a trade off here, TopStepFX goes by the monthly subscription model, and if it takes you more than a month to pass their evaluation, you might be spending a bit more than you expected before earning anything in return.

Traders4Traders has ok conditions but the 2nd worst profit split available.

The 5%ers drawdown and max lot limit really affects the impact of their account size. Yes, they offer an $80k account balance on the high end, but you'll be trading it so conservatively to fit within their risk controls that it won't be much better than smaller account sizes at other firms. They also offer the lowest profit split of the group, at only 50%. The upside with The 5%ers is their evaluations are done on live accounts and any profits you earn during the evaluation gets rolled into your funded account with them. Lastly, they do not offer trading outside of forex pairs (no metals, CFDs, etc..)

FTMO is a strong candidate here as their payout is the 2nd highest of the group at 70% and they offer additional trading platforms like MT5 and cTrader. Further, FTMO provides trader workshops, webinars, community interaction, and some coaching. Their main drawback is the restriction of trading during most high impact news releases.

Personally, if I was going to seek funding through a scouting program, I'd likely go with FTMO or TopStepFX for their more comprehensive offering (coaching, guidance, risk framework, trading analytics, etc..) and better payouts.

---

I hope this overview has been helpful. Feel free to reply with any questions or comments about trader scouting programs, I'll answer what I can and point you in the right direction.
 
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rod178

Well-Known Member
where does the WCC fit into this

Also does Darwinex have anything similar, my impression is not.
 

jack

Administrator
Staff member
where does the WCC fit into this

Also does Darwinex have anything similar, my impression is not.

Different business model. WCC and Darwinex usually need the trader to fund their own account and show performance first before attracting outside capital.. they act as middlemen and take a cut of the funds being allocated or returns from the allocation. In contrast, trader scouting programs, like the ones mentioned in this post, evaluate on paper accounts and if the evaluation is successful the trader gets live account funding (backed by the firm,) to trade on their behalf.

So.. one business model has the traders using their own money (risk) in an account that's hooked up to a ranking service (which is then marketd for others to copytrade,) and the scouting business model involves traders passing an evaluation to trade a corporate account that's in the firm's name (firm's risk instead of trader's risk,) and the trader gets paid by a profit split with the firm. The contrast I'm trying to highlight is who foots the risk.. having a firm fund you and cover your downside can be better in a lot of ways... heck, I know many prop traders who are cool as a cucumber when trading firm capital, but have issues keeping their head on straight when it's their own funds on the line.

Also, not sure if you noticed, but I heavily edited the post since you first replied.
 
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rod178

Well-Known Member
Do these Prop Firms have (ie require) the new Traders located in the Prop office or do they Trade remotely?
 

rod178

Well-Known Member
They are all virtual / remote.
"...They typically require you to work on a trade desk, on a trade floor, in major financial centers around the world...."

Supposing this is for green new Grads only?
 

jack

Administrator
Staff member
"...They typically require you to work on a trade desk, on a trade floor, in major financial centers around the world...."

Supposing this is for green new Grads only?
Oh, I misread. I thought you were asking specifically about scouting firms.

Above I broke out three common types of prop firms, and in the scouting program category it is most common for everyone to be remote / virtual.

Traditional prop firms absolutely have physical offices to trade from, given they more often deal with institutional access to the markets there's a lot of reasons why physical trade floors aren't going away anytime soon. So yeah, if you're more interested in the 'traditional' prop firm category, you'd have to be local to their office.
 

Mcquant

New Member
FTMO is far worse option IMO. Actually those 30 days max are calendars days so the aspiring trader has to fulfill their assessment in 20 trading days, and IMO considering theirs other rules and constraints it's only possible with very aggressive and rather gambling type of strategy. Additionally they do not provide real accounts to the traders passed the evaluation, only demo account which is very suspicious, but they have got explanation for that ( ask them yourselfs )

T4T and The5ers are the best options to me.
 

jack

Administrator
Staff member
FTMO is far worse option IMO. Actually those 30 days max are calendars days so the aspiring trader has to fulfill their assessment in 20 trading days, and IMO considering theirs other rules and constraints it's only possible with very aggressive and rather gambling type of strategy. Additionally they do not provide real accounts to the traders passed the evaluation, only demo account which is very suspicious, but they have got explanation for that ( ask them yourselfs )

T4T and The5ers are the best options to me.

Yes, it's actually extremely common for a prop firm to interface with their execution partners as one giant pooled account instead of manage separate cooperate accounts for each trader. This allows them to internally control risk and set risk rules that might not be an option with their executing brokers.. not to mention the HUGE cutdown on administrative burden on the executing broker's end, which translates into better / reduced costs for everyone involved.

Heck, in some markets (equities and futures) and in some jurisdictions, a prop frim actually has to operate this way for compliance reasons. And I actually wouldn't be surprised if that's how most of the other firms on the list in this thread also operate, despite how they hold themselves out.

The only negative here is how FTMO presents this structure. Something that is well understood in the institutional world seems 'scary' or 'not normal' to someone coming from the retail trading world. FTMO would do well to better explain how it all works in a way that makes more sense to retailers...

In the end, it really doesn't matter if the account says one thing or another.. all that matters is they will pay out and honor their end of the contract, which they do.
 
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