Which is Better for You?

Understanding the differences between proprietary trading and retail trading is crucial for anyone considering a career in the financial markets. While both trading types share the common goal of profiting from market movements, their structures, benefits, and challenges vary significantly. In this article, we’ll decode prop trading and retail trading, comparing them to help you decide which path suits you best.

What is Proprietary Trading?

Proprietary trading (or prop trading) is a trading approach where financial institutions or proprietary trading firms trade stocks, forex, derivatives, and other financial instruments with their own money, as opposed to trading on behalf of clients. The primary goal of prop traders is to generate direct financial gain for their firms, with the firms absorbing the risk of potential losses.

A prop trader’s role is typically dynamic, involving extensive analysis of market conditions, strategy implementation, performance monitoring, and risk management. For an in-depth perspective on a prop trader’s day-to-day life, explore our article here.

What is Retail Trading?

Retail trading, on the other hand, involves individual traders who trade securities with their own capital. These trades are typically conducted through online brokers, and the retail trader keeps all profits while bearing the losses. Retail traders often engage in day trading, which involves buying and selling financial instruments within the same trading day.

Comparing Prop Trading and Retail Trading

Capital and Leverage

Prop trading firms typically have significantly more capital than retail traders. This capital advantage allows them to take on larger positions and potentially earn larger profits. Additionally, prop traders often have access to higher leverage, enabling them to amplify their trading activities.

On the other hand, retail traders are often undercapitalized, limiting the size of their positions. However, while they have less capital and leverage, they also have the flexibility to manage their own investments and the freedom to implement their own strategies.

Training and Tools

Prop trading firms usually provide their traders with advanced trading platforms, tools, and ongoing training. This support can be particularly beneficial for those looking to enhance their trading skills and stay updated on market trends. If you’re interested in becoming a successful prop trader, be sure to check out our comprehensive beginner’s guide to understanding prop trading.

In contrast, retail traders generally need to be self-reliant, both in terms of education and trading tools. Although online brokers may offer educational resources and trading platforms, retail traders need to be proactive in continuing to develop their skills and stay informed about market conditions.

Risk and Rewards

In prop trading, the risk of trading is absorbed by the firm, whereas in retail trading, the trader bears all the risk. This structure can make prop trading a less risky endeavor, particularly for inexperienced traders. However, it’s important to note that both trading types involve a high level of risk, and there are no guaranteed profits in trading.

On the reward side, prop traders typically receive a share of the profits they generate, known as a profit split. The firm takes the rest. In contrast, retail traders keep all of the profits they make from their trades, but they also bear all of the losses.

Understanding the Trading Skills Required for Prop and Retail Trading

To further help you decide between prop trading and retail trading, let’s delve into the specific skills and attributes that each type of trading typically demands. Regardless of the trading route you choose, enhancing these skills can significantly improve your trading performance.

Skills for Prop Trading

Prop traders operate in a fast-paced and high-pressure environment, requiring a specific set of skills:

  • Analytical Skills: Prop traders must be able to analyze complex financial data quickly and accurately. They use this analysis to predict market trends and make trading decisions.
  • Risk Management: Understanding and managing trading risk is a key skill for successful prop traders. They must be able to make quick decisions to mitigate losses and protect their firm’s capital.
  • Resilience: Prop trading can be stressful, with traders often experiencing periods of losses. Resilience and the ability to manage stress are therefore crucial for prop traders.
  • Teamwork: Many prop trading firms operate in teams, making teamwork and communication skills vital. A successful prop trader can collaborate effectively and thrive in a team environment.

Skills for Retail Trading

While retail traders share many skills with prop traders, there are also some unique requirements for those choosing to trade independently:

  • Self-Discipline: Without the structured environment of a prop trading firm, retail traders must have the discipline to stick to their trading plans and avoid emotional trading decisions.
  • Self-Education: Retail traders must be proactive in their learning, continuously updating their knowledge of financial markets and trading strategies.
  • Money Management: Retail traders are responsible for managing their own capital. They need to set budget allocations for different trades, ensuring they don’t expose too much of their capital to risk at any one time.
  • Patience: Profitable trading opportunities may not occur every day. Successful retail traders demonstrate patience, waiting for the right market conditions before making trades.


So, prop trading or retail trading – which is better for you? The answer depends on your individual goals, risk tolerance, trading skills, and available capital. Prop trading can offer opportunities to trade with substantial capital, receive professional training, and mitigate personal financial risk. However, retail trading provides the freedom to control your own trading decisions and retain all profits.

Regardless of whether you opt for prop trading or retail trading, lifelong learning and keeping up with market trends is vital. At Modest Money, our mission is to equip you with the necessary resources and knowledge to guide you on your trading journey. To help you make an informed decision on prop trading, we have an excellent guide on the best prop trading firms which you can check out here: Best Prop Trading Firms. Be sure to stay tuned to our blog for more insightful articles on trading and investing.

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