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What Is Payment for Order Flow & How Does It Work?

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Although most people are not aware of it, the brokerage firm they use to execute their trades may be receiving payment for order flow (PFOF). PFOF is the compensation that venues like Citadel pay to brokerage companies like TD Ameritrade in exchange for routing client orders to the venue instead of sending them directly to the stock exchange.

Although PFOF is legal, it has come under scrutiny in recent years because it can lead to conflicts of interest. For example, if a brokerage firm is receiving PFOF from a venue, it may have the incentive to route orders to that venue instead of another one which may provide better execution for the client.

Read on for more information about this controversial practice and its potential implications for investors.

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What is Payment for Order Flow?

Payment for order flow (PFOF) is the compensation that venues like Citadel pay to brokerage companies like TD Ameritrade in exchange for routing client orders to the venue instead of sending them directly to the stock exchange. Typically, payment for order flow is based on the number and size of orders that a brokerage firm routes to a particular venue.

Proponents of PFOF argue that it helps to reduce transaction costs, as routing trades through select venues can be more efficient than sending them directly to an exchange. But critics contend that this practice can lead to conflicts of interest.

Impact of Payment for Order Flow on Investors

The main concern with payment for order flow is that it can lead to conflicts of interest between the brokerage firm and its clients. If a brokerage firm is receiving PFOF from a particular venue, it may have the incentive to route orders there instead of another venue which might provide better execution for the client.

Also, critics argue that payment for order flow can lead to front-running, which is when a broker uses its advanced knowledge of an upcoming trade to place its orders ahead of the client’s to take advantage of price movements before the client does.

How Does It Work?

The amount of PFOF that a brokerage firm receives can vary depending on the venue and the type of order. For example, limit orders (which specify the maximum price at which the trade should be executed) generally generate more PFOF than market orders (which are executed at the current market price). In addition, some venues are willing to pay more PFOF than others in order to attract more trading volume.

According to public filings, the top 10 brokerage firms in the US collected a total of $1.65 billion in PFOF in 2020. Of this amount, TD Ameritrade was by far the largest recipient, collecting $745 million. The other firms in the top 10 included Charles Schwab ($ 324 million), Fidelity ($236 million), E-Trade ($135 million), and Interactive Brokers ($115 million).

While some people view PFOF as a hidden cost of trading, others believe that it can benefit investors by providing more liquidity and better execution. Ultimately, each investor will need to decide whether they are comfortable with their broker receiving PFOF.

Statistics On Order Flow

TD Ameritrade and Robinhood garnered the most revenue in 2020 by selling order flow to investment firms such as Citadel Securities, Global Execution Brokers, and Virtu Americas. The 10 leading brokerages earned a total of $2.75 billion last year and payment for order flow increased by a total of 32% from 2020 to $3.62 billion in 2021, according to the newly released data. In the online broker space, TD Ameritrade remained the market leader with 1 billion (+24%) while Webull saw the biggest percentage gain (226%).

The following are the latest statistics as of July 30, 2022.

Payment for order flow income is relatively high, with the top 10 brokerage firms generating a total of $709,103,374 in income during the second quarter of 2022. Although this figure is lower than it has been in recent quarters, it remains fairly high overall. The results of the quarter also show the per-broker split indicates that PFOF income is down for everyone, and Bank of America is no longer profiting from it.

TD Ameritrade continues to lead the payment for order flow business, with Robinhood and E*Trade coming in second and third, respectively. However, Webull’s growth stopped for the first time ever this quarter. Additionally, Robinhood saw the biggest losses in Q2/2022 compared to its earnings in Q4/2021.

Breakdown Of Broker Statistics

Payment for Order Flow from TD Ameritrade

Out of all the brokers, TD Ameritrade had the highest revenue when it came to payment for order flow income. In 2020, they had an annual total of $1.15 billion and a monthly average of $96 million. This shows that they continued to have a high income even though other brokers may have caught up to them slightly. In 2021, their monthly average of 1-12/2021 grew to $118 million, which resulted in a total of $1.42 billion. This means that they are still making more money than any other broker when it comes to this income stream.

Payment For Order Flow From Robinhood

The average monthly payment for order flow (PFOF) from Robinhood was $57 million in 2020. The figure represents a significant increase year-over-year from 2019 when the average monthly PFOF was $27 million. The total PFOF for 2020 was $0.69 billion.

The increase can be attributed to the continued growth in popularity of the Robinhood mobile trading app. In 2021, the average monthly PFOF has grown even more to $81 million, for a total of $0.97 billion PFOF year-to-date. This trend is likely to continue as more and more investors turn to mobile apps for their trading needs. Webull, another popular mobile trading app, has also seen significant growth in recent months. However, Robinhood remains the leader in this segment of the market, with a strong brand and loyal user base.

Payment for Order Flow from E*Trade

E*Trade is quickly catching up with the order flow leaders with a total of $0.40 billion in 2020 and a monthly average of $34 million. The monthly average 1-12/2021 grew to $38 million for a total of $0.45 billion PFOF. In addition to its large PFOF, E*Trade also offers its clients other benefits, such as its robust mobile app and its low commissions. As a result, E*Trade is one of the best brokers for both active traders and long-term investors.

Payment for Order Flow from Charles Schwab

Charles Schwab Payment for Order Flow is one of the largest sources of revenue for the company. In 2020, they made a total of $0.25 billion through this method and their monthly average was $20 million. However, in the year 2021, this number has grown to an impressive $27 million per month, amounting to a total of $0.32 billion by the end of the year.

The increase in payment can be attributed to the acquisition of TD Ameritrade by Charles Schwab, which was completed in October 2020. This deal has resulted in an influx of new customers and business for the company, thus driving up the PFOF revenue. Consequently, the Charles Schwab Payment for Order Flow is expected to continue growing in the coming years, providing a significant source of income for the company.

Payment for Order Flow from Fidelity

In 2020, Fidelity was one of the top 5 brokerages receiving the highest Payment for Order Flow (PFOF) compensation from venues. PFOF income in 2020 totalled $134 million with a monthly average of $11.2 million. In 1-12/2021, the monthly average increased to $13.5 million and a total of $162 million is expected for 2021.

These payments are made by venues to brokers in exchange for directing orders to them for execution. The purpose of PFOF is to encourage brokers to provide liquidity in the market by making it more profitable for them to do so. Accordingly, this income provides an important source of revenue for Fidelity and helps to offset some of the costs associated with providing liquidity.

Payment for Order Flow from Webull

While Webull’s payment for order flow is low compared to its competitors, it has shown the strongest percentage gains compared to the previous year. The PFOF 1-12/2021 is 226% higher vs. 1-12/2020. June 2021 was also the strongest PFOF month in the history of Webull, with a total of $20 million received. With this steady growth, it is most likely that they will outrank other brokers in the mid-term.

In addition to the strong growth in PFOF, Webull has also been expanding its product offerings and entering new markets such as Canada and the UK. With its strong growth prospects and expanding product offerings, Webull is positioned well to compete against the largest brokers in the industry.

Payment for Order Flow from TradeStation

TradeStation is a popular online broker that caters to active traders and investors. The company has been in business for over 25 years and is headquartered in Florida. TradeStation offers a variety of market data, analysis tools, and trading platforms to its clients. In 2020, the company generated $41.8 million in payment for order flow (PFOF) income.

This figure represents a monthly average of $3.5 million. The payment for order flow income 1-12/2021 grew significantly by +39% compared to 1-12/2020. This growth can be attributed to the increase in trading activity during the pandemic as well as the company’s efforts to attract new customers. TradeStation has a long history of providing quality services to its clients and is well-positioned to continue its growth trajectory in the coming years.

Payment for Order Flow from Ally Invest

According to the latest broker statistics, Ally Invest received $15.3 million in payment for order flow (PFOF) from venues in 2020 and $13.8 million in 2021. These figures place Ally Invest as the third-smallest brokerage company on the list. Despite its relatively small size, Ally Invest has managed to generate significant revenue from PFOF.

In addition to being a major source of income for the company, PFOF also helps to offset the costs of commissions and fees charged to customers. As a result, Ally Invest can offer its services at a competitive price. In addition to its low prices, Ally Invest also offers a wide range of features and services that make it an attractive choice for investors.

Payment for Order Flow from Wells Fargo

When it comes to order flow, Wells Fargo is one of the top brokers in the business. In 2020, they received $5.2 million from venues, and in 2021 that number rose to $6.1 million. While this may seem like a lot of money, it’s important to remember that order flow is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to brokerages. In addition to order flow, they also take into account things like commissions, fees, and other charges.

When you break it down, it’s easy to see why Wells Fargo is one of the most popular brokers around. They offer a great mix of features and services, and they’re always looking for ways to improve their offerings. If you’re looking for a brokerage that can provide you with everything you need, Wells Fargo is worth considering.

Payment for Order Flow from Bank Of America

While the specific reasons for the changes are not yet clear, the data shows that Bank of America is now paying more to stock exchanges for order flow than they are receiving from venues for routing order flow to them. This shift could be due to a strategic change in order routing principles, or it may be a response to increased demand from Bank of America clients to route their orders directly to a specific exchange.

Only time will tell if this trend continues, but the data provides an interesting snapshot of the current state of affairs. Bank of America is not the only broker that pays for order flow, but they are one of the biggest, so their decision-making in this area is sure to have an impact on the industry as a whole. Whatever the reason for the changes, it will be intriguing to see how they play out in the coming year.

What Do The Venue Statistics Show?

Although there are many different ways to measure the success of a brokerage firm, one important metric is the amount of order flow that they generate. This is because most firms rely on venues to pay for their order flow, and so the more order flow a firm can generate, the more revenue they will enjoy. Not surprisingly, then, the firms that generate the most order flow are often the most successful.

In 2021, the three firms that generated the most order flow were Citadel, Global Execution Brokers, and Virtu Americas, which together accounted for approximately 65% of all trading activity. These firms were followed by Wolverine and Two Sigma Securities, which saw the biggest year-over-year growth in terms of order flow. Clearly, these five firms are the leaders in terms of generating order flow, and as such, are among the most successful brokerage firms in operation today.

Asset Category Order Flow Payment Procedures

As any trader knows, the spread is the basis for income when it comes to payment for order flow. The wider the spread, the more potential there is for price improvements and meaningful income generation. That’s why it’s no surprise that options and NON-S&P500 stocks dominate the payment-for-order flow landscape.

With smaller spreads and less liquidity, these asset categories provide more opportunities for price improvements and income generation. As a result, brokers and venues are able to share in the spoils more evenly. This benefits everyone involved, from the traders themselves to the investors who rely on their services.

Monthly Breakdown Of Payment For Order Flow

Payments for order flow saw a significant increase in 2020, largely due to the global challenges. With more people working from home, and higher demand to make money trading the stock market because of zero interests, the online trading industry saw news highs quarter by quarter. Another reason for the growth is the zero commission. That’s an interesting situation.

Zero commissions boost payment for order flow revenues since retail investors trade more because it is free to trade. In December 2020, payments for order flow reached a record high of $295.4 million. This is an impressive increase from January 2020, when payments were just $116.3 million. It is clear that the online trading industry is booming and that payment for order flow is playing a key role in this growth.

In February 2021, the 10 leading online brokerages paid out $367 million in order flow fees – the highest amount ever seen. This surge was caused by WallStreetBets Reddit forum’s sudden interest in so-called meme stocks. Though demand for particular stocks like GME, AMC and BBBY has decreased, overall trading activity is still higher than usual.

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Mapping Brokerage

At the heart of any good investment strategy is understanding where your money is going. With so many different brokerages to choose from, it can be hard to keep track of where your money is ending up.

That’s why it’s a good idea to implement brokerage mapping, to help you see at a glance which companies are being paid for order flow and how those payments are being allocated. With this information, you can make more informed decisions about where to invest your money. So take a look and see where your brokerages stand on the issue of order flow payments. Then decide for yourself if you’re comfortable with where your money is going.

Mapping Venue

Mapping the venues is an essential part of the process in understanding the key players within the brokerage 606 disclosures. By mapping the venues, you’re able to focus on the key players and understand the relationships between them. Venue mapping allows you to see which venues were most important to the brokerage business and which ones were not. This is a critical step in understanding the brokerage business better.

What Is The Payment For Order Flow Concept?

In simple terms, when you place an order to buy or sell a stock, your broker may not be sending your order directly to the market. Instead, they may send it to another firm that pays them for this “flow” of orders. That firm might then route your trade themselves or pass it on to yet another party before it finally reaches the marketplace.

The thinking behind this is that, by routing their trades through a particular broker-dealer, the venue can gain access to a larger pool of liquidity (because broker-dealers typically have relationships with multiple venues). In return for this increased liquidity, the venue agrees to pay a small rebate to the broker-dealer (known as the taker’s fee).

While this may seem like a good deal for both parties, some potential problems could arise. First of all, there is a risk that broker-dealers could start routing their trades to venues that offer the highest rebates, regardless of whether or not those venues provide the best possible price for their clients.

This could result in trades being executed at prices that are not in the best interest of investors. Additionally, some critics have raised concerns that payment for order flow could lead to conflicts of interest between broker-dealers and their clients. Overall, however, payment for order flow remains a widely used practice in today’s financial markets.

What Is The Market Potential?

January 2021 was a month for the history books. Wallstreetbets, Robinhood, Hedge Funds, Citron Research, GameStop, AMC Entertainment , Nokia and BlackBerry made headlines.

The Reddit forum r/wallstreetbets grew from 1.8 million members in January 2021 to 7.6 million by the end of that month and 10.0 million in April 2021. From April to July 2021,the number of forum members grew to 10.7mn, but only increased by 300,000 until October 2021 when it hit an all-time high following temporary gains of over +1,000% for some stocks before then falling by 90%.

One could only guess how this media presence would affect the payment for order flow revenue and as a result, an argument started to discuss if paying for order flow is good or bad for investors in the long term because it’s connected to high-frequency trading which many experts often criticize.

Some people say that because of relationships like this, markets become less efficient and “fair”. This caused a lot of Robinhood app users or other broker’s customers to wonder if they’re getting the best execution when using these platforms.

The PFOF situation has come under closer scrutiny and we may see some changes to this dynamic soon.


In recent years, selling order flow has become one of the primary sources of income for U.S. brokers. This practice, which involves routing customer orders to third-party market makers in exchange for a fee, has come under scrutiny in recent months, but it remains a key source of revenue for many brokerages.

TD Ameritrade and Robinhood are two of the biggest players in this space, while Webull has seen the most significant percentage growth. The consolidation of the brokerage industry is also likely to have an impact on the market share of each firm.

Charles Schwab’s acquisition of TD Ameritrade and Morgan Stanley’s purchase of E*Trade are both likely to lead to further consolidation in the industry. Depending on how these mergers are executed and which entities remain, the market share of each brokerage may change in 2021 and beyond.

Payment for order flow remains a controversial practice, but it is clear that it is here to stay. For many firms, it is now their primary source of income. In 2020, Robinhood had total net revenue of $958.8 million, and $687.09 million of that came from payments for order flow. That means that 71% of Robinhood’s total revenues came from selling order flow.

As the brokerage industry continues to consolidate and evolve, the role of selling order flow is likely to change as well.

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FAQs & Further Reading On Order Flow

How Can I Tell If My Broker Is Getting Paid For Order Flow?

You can check the public 606 disclosure of your broker to see if they receive payments for order flow. To do this, search for your brokerage name and add 606 disclosure to find the statements faster. If you are in control of the order routing, then your broker does not receive any PFOF but if you are using order routing methods like “smart” or “intelligent,” then your broker routes the order to one of the venues and receives PFOF.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Rule 606 requires U.S. registered brokers to publish a “Public Order Routing Report Under Rule 606” which includes information about their payment for order flow practices. The report will also show whether the venue pays your broker for directing orders its way and knowing how your broker is being paid helps you make more informed investment decisions.

Should I Use A Direct Access Broker Instead Of A Retail Broker?

For the active day trader, speed and access to a variety of options are critical. A direct-access broker provides the quickest way to place orders and access a variety of networks. The trades are sent directly to the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ or other electronic communications networks without having to go through a middleman. This system offers advantages in both speed and cost.

While you do need to maintain a higher account balance with a direct-access broker, you will also save on commissions. For high volume traders, the savings can be significant. It’s important to note that exchanges may charge fees for placing orders on their network, so be sure to factor that into your overall trading costs.

All in all, if you are an active day trader who places a high volume of trades, using a direct-access broker makes sense both in terms of speed and cost savings.

How Long Has The Concept of Payment For Order Flow Been Around?

Payment for order flow is not a new concept. All stock exchanges and ECNs have tried to make their network more appealing to traders globally by implementing a system where market orders that utilize liquidity pay a fee, but limit orders that provide liquidity may get paid if the order gets filled.

So-called liquidity rebates, or fees and payments, vary among exchanges. However, some order routing constellations enable traders to get more money back in liquidRebates than they paid in commissions to the broker. In these cases, direct-access brokers are faster and cheaper than retail brokers would be.

Is It More Beneficial To Have One Central Order Routing Option?

Having one single-order routing option could provide some benefits to investors but there is no clear consensus on whether it would be better or worse for them. Market makers pay for the right to execute orders to access liquidity and better control the order flow, and retail traders need to ensure that they have access to a broker with good trade execution to get the best possible price for their orders

What Is A Market Maker?

A market maker is any company or individual that provides liquidity to the markets by making two-sided quotes for a security. Market makers are typically members of an exchange or regulated by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the market maker pays for the right to execute orders.

Why Would A Market Maker Pay To Be Able To Execute Orders?

Market makers pay for the right to execute orders because it is beneficial to their business. By paying for execution, they can access liquidity and better control the order flow. They can also lower their trading costs, as they don’t have to pay exchange fees.

What Is The Securities and Exchange Commission?

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is an independent agency of the federal government responsible for regulating the securities markets and protecting investors. The SEC ensures that investors have access to accurate, reliable information about investments and protects them from fraud and other practices that may harm their interests.

How To Make Online Trading Work

There are a lot of different factors that go into making a successful trade and one of the most important things is execution quality. This refers to the ability of a broker to execute trades quickly and efficiently, without incurring any unnecessary costs or delays.

For retail traders, good trade execution can mean the difference between making a profit on a trade or losing money. That’s because when you’re buying or selling shares, you’re competing against other traders who may have better access to information or more experience in the market.

So if your broker can’t execute trades quickly and at a good price, you could end up paying more than you need to or even miss out on valuable trading profits altogether. Fortunately, there are now many good online brokers that offer commission-free trading.

With multiple options exchanges, this market structure means that retail traders now have more choices than ever when it comes to where they execute their trade depending on the prevailing market conditions.

So if you’re looking to improve your trade execution, be sure to shop around and compare the various options available. With a little bit of research, you should be able to find an online broker that can provide you with the quality of service you need to make successful trades.

What Retail Customer Protection Is Available?

In addition to trading with a reputable broker, it’s also important for retail traders to understand the retail customer protection frameworks that are available. Depending on where you’re trading, you may be entitled to certain protections.

In the US, for example, the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIP C) is an important organization that protects retail customers from the loss of their assets due to fraud or bankruptcy. They provide up to $500,000 in coverage per account.

In the UK, there are similar protections in place through the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS). They provide up to £50,000 of coverage per account.

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