What is the FSCA (Formerly FSB)?
The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) is the current financial regulator of South Africa. It superseded the Financial Services Board (FSB) effective April 2018, following its creation in August 2017 via the Financial Sector Regulation Act (FSR Act). The FSB was formed as a result of the Van der Horst Committee in 1990 to create an independent regulatory and supervisory body for the non-banking financial sector. The Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services Act (FAIS) of September 2004 expanded the FSB responsibilities to include market conduct in the banking sector, creating a super-regulator in South Africa. With the Financial Intelligence Centre Act (2001), last updated in April 2019, the FSB received a mandate to combat money laundering.
The South African Minister of Finance appointed the chairman and members of the FSB. The Executive Officer also served as the Registrar of Non-banking Financial Institutions, including South African Forex brokers. While South African Forex traders are not legally required to trade with FSB regulated Forex brokers, it was encouraged to increase their protection. An additional four deputy officers oversaw the Financial Advisory and Intermediary Services, Retirement Funds and Friendly Societies, and Insurance and Investment Institutions. As a super-regulator, the FSB ensured all banking and non-banking firms in South Africa complied with applicable rules and regulations, adhered to capital requirements, and promoted financial stability to protect the domestic investment sector. I was a member of the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO), participated in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) activities, and maintained a close working relationship with the Committee of Insurance, Securities, and Non-Banking Financial Authorities (CISNA).
Failure to comply with FSB regulations, misconduct, and other violation resulted in enforceable fines that carried the same weight as a judgment of the Supreme Court of South Africa. The August 2017 Financial Sector Regulation Act (FSR Act) split the super-regulator into two entities, following developed market models. It resulted in a Prudential Authority (PA) with oversight of the banking sector, insurance companies, cooperative financial institutions, financial conglomerates, and select aspects of the capital market infrastructure. The Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) received a mandate to regulate financial products and services. It also oversees financial institutions with licenses granted under financial sector laws, including banks, brokers, pension funds, insurers, administrators, and the associated infrastructure. South Africa aimed to increase the trust and stability of its financial system following failures by the FSB. The dual model consists of a prudent supervisor and a market conduct regulator to improve efficiency and effectiveness. Not enough operational history exists, with just over two years under the new model, to accurately assess the success or improvements of the PA and FSCA.
Why Trade with FSCA Brokers?
Failures and disasters of the FSB, primarily in the South African pension fund sector, resulted in heavy losses. It led to a cratering in confidence in the stability and reliability of domestic financial markets. Accusations of the South African financial services sector against the FSB included favoritism and excessive fees for legal and administrative services. Some companies labeled their interactions with the FSB as unusual, harsh, and even bizarre. In March 2019, the Public Protector, one of six independent state institutions under the South African constitution to protect democracy, outlined a series of failures by the FSB over a decade. The FSCA, on track to rebuild trust in the South African financial sector since its creation, counters claims of incompetence by the FSB as inaccurate. While the FSCA has a challenging task, it started to promote a deeper understanding of financial markets. The FSCA maintains the financial stability of the South African financial sector. It also assists in its development and openly communicates regulatory changes to the public.
In South Africa, all derivatives, including contracts for differences (CFDs) for the Forex markets and other sectors, remain regulated as derivatives & non-banking financial products by the FSCA. Trading with regulated Forex brokers in South Africa ensures that local courts enforce domestic laws to resolve disputes and prosecute misconduct. All FSB-regulated Forex brokers are now FSCA-regulated ones. While there are not many South African ones, a growing number of international brokers acquire an operating license from the FSCA. It requires that a local office exists, together with at least one South African director. A global broker with an FSCA license may accelerate its market share in Africa’s most industrialized nation and second-largest economy measured by GDP, trailing only Nigeria. The FSCA continues to evolve but misses an investor protection fund similar to the UK Financial Conduct Authority and its Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) or the investor compensation fund (ICF) of the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (CySEC).
FSCA (FSB) regulated Forex brokers in South Africa offer domestic traders security and protection against bankruptcy, fraud, or malpractice by brokers. It does sound appealing, but well-regulated international brokers generally provide a superior framework, diminishing the necessity of an FSCA-regulated one for South African traders. The choice of brokers with an FSCA license remains limited, and most traders should seek the best Forex broker to trade with and not place the most significant emphasis on the FSCA. Each trader must conclude the importance of domestic regulation, but well-established international choices provide superior trading environments, and the FSCA or another regulator becomes a byproduct. Rather than seeking FSCA (FSB) regulated Forex brokers in South Africa, Forex traders should focus on registering with a trustworthy broker. I recommend over five years of operational experience and a spotless regulatory track record. Regulation remains necessary, and traders should avoid unregulated brokers, but FSCA regulation, even for South African traders, is not the most defining aspect.
How to Verify if a Broker is FSCA-Regulated
Most regulated Forex brokers in South Africa who claim FSCA regulation usually have one. I always recommend all traders to double-check and confirm with the cited regulator. The Forex industry is home to many scammers and fraudsters, and they maintain an excellent online presence to attract new retail traders. They pry on the lack of their knowledge and deploy attractive bonus campaigns and other marketing gimmicks to mask their intentions. Verifying if a broker is FSCA regulated is simple and takes less than a minute. The FSCA maintains a database labeled Authorised Financial Service Providers. The design is dated, and the user-experience not as friendly as it should be. Since traders will only spend a few moments there, it suffices to confirm the existence of regulation.
All regulated Forex brokers in South Africa have a Financial Services Provider (FSP) number. Traders can locate it at the bottom of the homepage. A missing FSP number represents a red flag. Confirming a broker’s status with the FSCA is most convenient via an FSP search (or what some might call an FSB license check) on the FSCA website. After entering the five-digit FSP number and clicking Submit, a new page will load with the search results. Traders can get more information by clicking on details. I also recommend checking the Products Approved category, the last one available under Details. Since Forex CFDs fall under the category of derivatives & non-banking financial products, brokers must have authorization for Derivative Instruments and Forex Investment, for which four options exist.
Over-the-Counter Derivative Provider (ODP) License
All FSCA (FSB) regulated Forex brokers in South Africa must apply for an Over-the-counter Derivative Provider (ODP) License. The new requirement came into effect in 2019. The FSCA aims to increase the stability and transparency of the South African financial system. Therefore, all Forex brokers have to implement new rules. Before accepting new traders, brokers must complete due diligence and assess if the prospective client understands the risks involved in trading the volatile Forex market. During the process, new traders must provide proof that they have adequate capital to trade. Brokers must also report every transaction to regulators to force open opaque transactions and promote transparency.
The board of directors must approve the business plan and adhere to Principle 7 of the King IV Report on Corporate Governance for South Africa (King IV). They must also establish an audit and risk committee, per Principle 7 of King IV. Each broker must have sufficient capital and liquid assets to operate for six months, allowing enough time for an orderly wind-down of operations in case of default. A funding plan to raise funds in the event reserves fall below the requirement to cover operating expenses must equally exist. Brokers must submit details of provided services and assets. They also have to provide proof of the qualifications of the management team and essential personnel. All key staff must have direct employment with the broker or possess disclosed legal service agreements. Another requirement to receive the ODP license is evidence of the segregation of client capital from corporate funds. Brokers must also submit a description of the onboarding process of new clients.
South Africa and the FSCA complies with G-20 efforts to limit the risk of over-the-counter (OTC) trading activities by enforcing the Over-the-counter Derivative Provider (ODP) License. Regulated Forex brokers in South Africa who fail to apply for the ODP license may face prompt liquidation at the request of the FSCA. The first such case was JP Markets (Pty) Limited, which was liquidated in September 2020 and had its bank accounts frozen. With the implementation of the ODP license, South Africa remains proactive in providing security, transparency, and stability of its financial markets. As South Africans trust their infrastructure and financial institutions, more capital will flow into financial products. It will assist the creation of more domestic Forex brokers and increase international competitors acquiring an FSCA license. The ultimate beneficiary is South African Forex traders due to more competitive choices from brokers with a local office.
Additional FSCA Protections for Forex Traders
The FSCA monitors the domestic Forex market to ensure that FSCA-regulated Forex brokers comply with rules and regulations. It also tries to identify scams, weed out fraud, and protect South African Forex traders from avoidable losses. Through the FSCA FSP search, traders can confirm if their broker maintains regulation from the FSCA. Traders must know that there is no requirement to trade with an FSCA-regulated broker and that international Forex brokers do not require a license to accept traders from South Africa.
Besides the FSCA FSP search tool, another beneficial service is the media release section of the regulator’s website, where it updates on fraudulent brokers and provides information about them. While South African Forex traders can trade where they wish, and no international broker has restrictions against this G-20 member, checking the media release of the FSCA can provide useful information and protect against scams and fraud from a domestic player operating on a global scale.
FSCA Strategy & Structure
The South African National Treasury oversees the FSCA, located in Pretoria. Its mandate is to ‘enhance the efficiency and integrity of financial markets; promote fair customer treatment by financial institutions; provide financial education and promote financial literacy; and assist in maintaining financial stability.’ The FSCA consists of several divisions, overseen by the board, its Commissioner, and Deputy Commissioners. While the FSCA elects its Commissioner, the Minister of Finance appoints the Deputy Commissioners. It grants more freedom than under the FSB, where the Finance Minister appointed all members. The support infrastructure consists of the Chief Risk Officer, General Counsel and Media Liaison Officer. The FSCA ensures cooperation between entities and can order fines, penalties, and liquidations with the same power as the South African Supreme Court. The FSCA also maintains a customer complaint service and a self-policing appeals board.
The strategy of the FSCA consists of ensuring that all regulated Forex brokers in South Africa treat all clients equally and fairly. In case a client feels mistreated, a system exists, defined by law, to resolve the process. Brokers must make this process available or face regulatory and legal actions. The FSCA also demands that Forex brokers must provide written material that does not confuse clients. Brokers must provide educational content and offer detailed descriptions of their services and products. The FSCA maintains a framework for South African traders to receive education, transparency, detailed information about products and services, and alerts to scams or frauds affecting the domestic market. It also strives to improve the efficiency and integrity of the South African financial markets. The FSCA additionally promotes competitiveness and fairness, maintains financial stability by supervising registered entities, and enforces rules and regulations.
FSB Battling Corruption & Fraud
Despite the widespread popularity of Forex trading and the accelerating demand from South African traders to take advantage of the profit potential, direct and indirect, of the largest and most liquid financial market globally, it remains in the early stages not just in South Africa but across Africa in general. There is a lot of misinformation, mis-marketing, and false claims concerning Forex trading, inviting corruption and fraud. The FSB fought both for over 25 years until the FSCA took over. Scammers target new traders following misleading advertising campaigns, often deployed by fraudulent brokers. Ideal conditions for fraud exist amid Forex opportunities, low entry requirements, and demand from new traders. The FSCA tries to take a proactive stand and informs the public of all known scams, uncovered fraud, and brokers or individual actors responsible for them.
While South Africa is the most industrialized nation in Africa and the second-largest economy, it is also an unequal society. Economic issues present a grave challenge, and many look to the Forex market to improve their conditions. South Africa makes slow progress addressing the problems, and as the situation improves, the increased income levels will find a home in Forex trading accounts. The conditions for growth in the sector are excellent, which is why many international brokers acquire an FSCA license, establish a local office, and expand their staff. Unfortunately, the inflow also attracts fraud, but the FSCA appears to have control over the situation.
With education being an essential requirement for FSCA regulated brokers, more South Africans can receive the necessary knowledge to identify corruption, fraud, and scams. Since the Forex market has low capital entry requirements and high leverage, many who open trading accounts are motivated by theoretical profits. Even brokers use this to their advantage and create marketing campaigns to attract first-time depositors. With the abundance of misleading information, the most superior weapon the FSCA has remains education. It will combat unrealistic profit claims from small one-time deposits in highly leveraged accounts with no-to-minimal risk management. The FSB failed to protect all participants in the South African financial markets, but the FSCA enjoys a more capable position. It exists for just over two years and requires more time but shows promise in delivering its mandate.
Which FSCA (FSB) Forex broker has the lowest fees?
Traders can usually find the lowest fees at established brokers with deep liquidity and superior technology infrastructure. International Forex brokers provide a more competitive trading environment, including the lowest trading costs. Some acquired a license, and their local subsidiaries are FSCA (FSB) Forex brokers.
Which FSCA- (FSB) regulated brokers offer ZAR trading accounts?
ZAR trading accounts are rare, and traders should avoid them. While they may sound appealing for deposits and withdrawals, traders will face currency conversion costs on almost every transaction. Since clients place significantly more trades than other financial transactions, a trading account in US dollars or euros makes more economic sense and reduces total trading costs.
Who are the best FSB Forex brokers in South Africa?
The best FSCA (FSB) Forex brokers in South Africa are international brokers with an FSCA license. Domestic brokers cannot compete with the products and services portfolio of well-established international competitors.
Do South Africans have to trade with FSCA-regulated brokers?
No, South Africans do not have to trade with an FSCA-regulated broker. All international brokers accept South African traders, giving them broad choices with industry-leading providers.
What are FSB Brokers?
FSCA (FSB) brokers are brokers with an FSCA license, an office in South Africa, and at least one South African director. An FSCA (FSB) license check can confirm the regulatory status of a broker.
Should I trade with an FSCA-regulated Forex broker?
While the choice depends on individual preferences, most international brokers provide superior trading environments through lower costs, broader asset choices, enhanced trading platforms, higher quality research and education, and more experience. Therefore, South African Forex traders can trade with a competitive edge at non-FSCA-regulated brokers.
How do I know if a Forex broker is regulated by the FSCA?
The FSCA maintains an FSP search function. Each regulated broker has a unique FSP. I recommend traders use the FSCA FSP search tool to confirm a broker’s status with the regulator.
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