The final section of this guide lists a few international stock brokers that may be of interest to investors in some of the less accessible markets. In general, these relate to markets that I am not personally involved in and know relatively little about the options for foreign investors. The stock brokers have been suggested to me by people who are, but I have generally not had the opportunity to get full details of what they offer. If you can recommend stock brokers or share useful information on investing in these countries, please email me.
Very important note: Some of these firms below operate out of well-regulated financial centres or are subsidiaries of major financial institutions. Other may offer much less investor protection and are included here because they represent the most promising solution that I’ve received for accessing more difficult markets. While I try not to include firms I believe to be suspect or suggest unregulated or lightly regulated firms where better regulated options are available, you should take considerable care and exercise due diligence in dealing with any firm in many of these markets. Be aware that in some countries it could be easier to invest than bring your money back home. As with the rest of this guide, I do not endorse any particular firm and details below are provided only to assist your own research.
Vietnam is bureaucratic, requiring you to obtain an individual trading ID and open a local bank account. I understood that it was necessary to visit the country in person, but this site now says that it is not (although I have not confirmed this). Nonetheless, there are a number of brokerages offering services in English that will help you to navigate the process. Saigon Securities seems to be the most popular choice among foreigners. You can only have a single trading account open at any one time, so if you plan to shop around, make sure you do it before opening an account.
Mongolia has been a buzzword lately on the basis of its mineral wealth. I would be very cautious – this is right out on the frontier of investing, with little certainty of what you’re buying. But a number of local stock broking firms are set up to deal with English-speaking clients and the process is said to be relatively simple. BD Sec and Asia Pacific Securities (formerly Altan Tan) are two of the bigger names.
Pakistan has no shortage of stock brokers offering online trading for Karachi (none seem to offer the smaller Lahore and Islamabad exchanges online in the same account). AKD Trade, Arif Habib and KASB Direct are well-known names. Non-residents need a special convertible rupee account to make it easy to bring funds into and out of the country – a stock broker should help open this.
New stock brokers have proliferated in Bangladesh in recent years during the Dhaka exchange’s spectacular boom and subsequent bust. In a similar way to Pakistan, foreign investors will need a non-resident investor’s taka account to receive cash from abroad or remit it. Firms that offer this service include LankaBangla Securities, the country’s largest brokerage.
For Sri Lanka, the simplest solution is currently to use Phillip Securities (see the Singapore international stock brokers list). However, its local division Asha Phillip Securities may be a good place to start if you still need a local account. Swissquote is an expensive Europe-based alternative.
The Laos stock exchange currently has two listed companies. It also has two stock brokers, one of which is a subsidiary of one of the listed companies. These are BCEL-KT and Lanexang Securities. Cambodia’s stock exchange is now operational, but no companies have listed so far. Banking group Acleda and Sonatra Securities are two firms that have already been licenced as brokerages.
Until recently, the only foreign individuals who can trade shares listed in India were those of recent Indian ancestry. Most major Indian financial services group offer brokerage services to those who qualify, as does Interactive Brokers. The rules were relaxed in early 2012, but remain bureaucratic and no brokerage yet appears to promoting its services to foreign individuals. This guide will be updated when the situation changes.
Eastern Europe remains surprisingly awkward to trade. That reflects the fact that many of these markets have a very small number of listed companies and attract little interest from foreign retail investors. Few Western European international stock brokers offer anything further east than Austria on a low-cost basis for online trading. A few of the UK private client stock brokers may be able to offer some Eastern European countries, although minimum commissions will often be relatively high – try Charles Stanley and Daniel Stewart.
However, Saxo Bank has recently added Poland to its line-up, so the largest Eastern European market is finally available through a major international stock broker with low-cost online platform; it also offers the Czech Republic. For other markets, a good place to start is Brokerjet, operated by Austria’s Erste Bank. It offers online stock trading for Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia, as well as major Europe exchanges – including all the German regional markets – and the US.
Note that the Czech Republic has two trading venues, the Prague Stock Exchange and the over-the-counter RM-SYSTEM Czech Stock Exchange. The latter does not seem to be available through any foreign brokers. Instead, investors interested in stocks that trade only on this will need to look at opening an account with Fio banka which owns RM-SYSTEM – it has services in English and also offers trading on the Prague exchange, as well as Poland and Hungary.
Three Lithuanian firms may also be of interest. Orion Securities offers online stock trading for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. It says it can also offer broker-assisted trading for a wide range of countries, including Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Greece, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Turkey, and Ukraine (as well as many more easily accessed ones). These are carried out through intermediaries and hence rates will not be cheap, but may be useful for investors looking to access these countries for occasional investments without needing to open an account in each.
Finasta also offers a wide range of countries for online trading, although again through intermediaries with some trades being manually executed by brokers. Hard-to-access markets available include Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine.
Lastly, Finvesta provides limited information about its services and is probably geared towards wealthier clients and institutions. However, it says that it specialises in Belarus, Estonia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia and Ukraine, making it potentially worth investigating for investors looking for a English-speaking stock broker for a couple of the very specialised markets among that line-up.
Swissquote also offers a number of Eastern European markets, albeit at relatively high minimum commissions.
For local accounts in specific Emerging European countries, an option for Poland might be CDM Pekao, which has English-speaking staff and offers online trading for Warsaw as well as selected other major markets in Europe and North America. Dom Maklerski BZ WBK is another Polish firm with a similar service. In Hungary, CIB Bank operates an online brokerage and has banking services for expats in English. Romania’s Tradeville has English language support and also offers Bulgaria.
Turkey is the market most likely to interest foreign investors in this region. Multimarket international stock brokers known to offer it are Charles Schwab, Daniel Stewart, Finasta, Orion Securities and Swissquote. Locally, many Turkish banks offer online stock trading as part of their internet banking service. Garanti Bank is usually recommended as the only Turkish bank that makes a real effort to cater to English speaking expats. Non-residents have confirmed that they have been able to open accounts by visiting a branch in person, speaking only English – although success may depend on which branch and bank officer you try.
Egypt should be available through UK private client stock broker Daniel Stewart. Otherwise, leading Egyptian bank EFG Hermes is an obvious choice – it has an online trading service that covers Egypt and the UAE (and also Saudi Arabia, but only GCC citizens are allowed to invest there).
The firm also has brokerage operations in Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar and Syria and partners in Bahrain, Morocco and Palestine. It wasn’t made completely clear when I inquired whether all these markets would be available to trade by phone as well, or whether there might be minimum account or trade sizes or other restrictions.
Another alternative is Bahrain-based Mubasher Financial Services, owned by Saudi Arabian conglomerate National Technology Group. It has a online platform called DUTrade that offers Bahrain, Egypt, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, the UAE, the UK and the USA, as well as telephone dealing in Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia.
When looking for accounts in North Africa, those who can speak French may have more options. Firms that apparently offer English language services include MAC and Tunisie Valeurs in Tunisia; Tunisie Valeurs also has an affiliate in Morocco called Integra Bourse. For Israel, Clal Finance and Israel Brokerage and Investments have online trading services and apparently accept foreign clients.
It is technically possible for foreign investors to buy shares in Iran, although doing so may be illegal in your home country (it certainly will be for citizens and residents of the US). You need to obtain a trading permit from the Securities and Exchange Organisation before you can open a bank and brokerage account.
I have no idea what the minimum account size for a foreigner would be, but given the bureaucracy involved, I imagine it might need to be relatively large. Khobregan Saham seems to be the stock broker with the most English language content on its website, so would probably be a good firm to approach for more information.
There are no stock brokers that I know of within Africa, or in major foreign financial centres, that offer a range of African markets and will deal with retail clients. If you’re looking to invest directly in most of these countries, you will probably need to open an account with a local stock broker on a country-by-country basis.
South Africa is available through some international stock brokers, although surprising few. Saxo Bank is probably the best option for most investors, although it won’t accept US residents; EverTrade or Fidelity are possible alternatives. Locally, commissions are remarkably high and Saxo Bank at least will probably work out cheaper. For those looking for an account within the country, three possibilities are Absa Share Trading, Standard Securities and Investec Securities Online (all divisions of major banks).
The stock broking industry in Kenya is undergoing a major shake-up, with many older independent stock brokers being taken over by larger firms, including banks. Investors interested in Africa may want to keep an eye on developments here, since Nairobi’s relative success as a financial centre suggest that this is the most likely place where regional stock brokers that will let you access multiple countries in East Africa might emerge in the next few years.
There are a reasonable number of established local brokers. CFC Stanbic recently launched the country’s first true online stock trading platform. NIC Bank has suggested that it’s willing to accept foreign clients for both broking and bank accounts.
Nigeria has an enormous number of stock brokers. Unfortunately, most of them have a reputation for dire customer service, including very slow trade execution. Those that are well regarded usually have minimum account sizes of US$15,000-30,000 – very high for a frontier market (although this may be negotiable in some cases). Vetiva gets excellent feedback, while Zenith Securities, Stanbic IBTC Stockbrokers, FSDH Securities, BGL Group, and Afrinvest are also apparently worth trying.
For other countries, I have received few recommendations, although an active private investor in Africa has suggested trying Stockbrokers Botswana and Stockbrokers Zambia for their respective countries. In Zimbabwe, EFE Securities, IH Securities and Lynton-Edwards Stockbrokers have been mentioned, while firms in Ghana include CAL Brokers, which runs the country’s first online trading service, i-Broker Ghana.
South America is far simpler if you speak Spanish – or Portuguese in the case of Brazil, just to make things harder. Unlike many parts of the world, stock brokers and other firms do not typically advertise services in English, although they may have English speaking staff. Learning to read the relevant language well enough to navigate a web site and use an online trading platform will make life much easier.
The region also suffers from excessive bureaucracy and restrictions on foreign investors. Again, Brazil is especially awkward here, because the final beneficial owner of every transaction needs to be identified. In many countries, international stock brokers can use an anonymous omnibus account to hold all its clients’ assets – but in Brazil, all clients much be individually registered (more details are on the stock exchange website).
This seems to mean that local stock brokers aren’t especially enthusiastic about accepting foreign clients. But if you want to go direct, to cut costs or for other reasons, Agora will reportedly consider foreigners, although you may need to be able to speak Portuguese to use its services. Alpes provides some information in English geared towards individuals.
According to one representative at HSBC Brasil, the firm will open accounts for English-speaking foreigners and allow them to trade stocks by phone (and possibly online, although the service is only in Portuguese). But she went on to warn that the bureaucracy involved is so great that few foreigners bother.
The same bureaucracy means that virtually no international stock brokers offer this market, despite growing investor interest. UK private client stock broker Daniel Stewart can trade local stocks, although it will require £5,000-10,000 trade sizes to be cost effective. European firm Swissquote is another possibility.
Daniel Stewart also offers Chile, again with the same requirements for sizeable trades. In terms of local brokers, I’ve been told of English-speaking non-residents successfully opening bank and stock brokerage accounts with EuroAmerica, at least in person.
Peru reportedly presents relatively few difficulties. The firm that both offers online trading and provides the most extensive online information about its services in English currently seems to be Kallpa Securities, so it’s probably a good place to begin.
Colombia is said to be difficult for non-resident individuals to open accounts. Interbolsa was reported to have English-speaking brokers who would try to help, but the firm went into liquidation in November 2012 due to funding problems; no alternative has yet been suggested.
Despite being a major economy, Argentina’s stock market is languishing, with little interest from foreigners due to the country’s economic mismanagement. If you’re one of the exceptions, a number of Argentine companies have US-listed American depository receipts and this is the simplest way to access the market – direct local access is awkward, not least due to capital controls on the peso.
Charles Schwab formerly offered a high-cost solution from outside the country, but seems to have suspended that due to the currency exchange issues. It’s the only one of the international stock brokers in the directory that even indicates Argentina as a possibility. Locally, two firms to look at may be Bull Market Brokers and Rava. Be aware that getting money into the country may be easier than getting it out again if the government tightens capital controls further.
Finding a stock broker in a country you don’t know can be a struggle at first. The local stock exchange will usually have information that includes a list of authorised stock brokers – this will typically be available on its website. Contacting each of these to ask if they accept foreign clients and can service an account in English will often be the most useful solution.
It’s also worth looking for online forums for expats living in the country, as well as those geared towards expats from the country and its wider diaspora. Many of these will include discussions about investing, including stock broker recommendations.
If you decide to open an account in a far-flung market, be prudent. Do your research, check the firm’s reputation and investigate investor protection laws in the country. In many markets, there is a real risk that a rogue broker could steal your money or shares and you would have little or no prospect of recovering your losses.
There is an enormous difference between opening an overseas account with a reputable financial institution in a well-regulated financial centre and wiring money to a brokerage in a frontier market. In my view, the former is a reasonable thing for a moderately experienced investor interested in international investing to consider. The latter is for very experienced emerging market investors with a willingness to take high risks only.