Your Broker's Options

Your Broker Has Options for Executing Your Trade

Just as you have a choice of brokers, your broker generally has a choice of markets to execute your trade:
  • For a stock that is listed on an exchange, such as the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE), your broker may direct the order to that exchange, to another exchange (such as a regional exchange), or to a firm called a "third market maker." A "third market maker" is a firm that stands ready to buy or sell a stock listed on an exchange at publicly quoted prices. As a way to attract orders from brokers, some regional exchanges or third market makers will pay your broker for routing your order to that exchange or market maker—perhaps a penny or more per share for your order. This is called "payment for order flow."
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  • For a stock that trades in an over-the-counter (OTC) market, such as the Nasdaq, your broker may send the order to a "Nasdaq market maker" in the stock. Many Nasdaq market makers also pay brokers for order flow.
  • Your broker may route your order – especially a "limit order" – to an electronic communications network (ECN) that automatically matches buy and sell orders at specified prices. A "limit order" is an order to buy or sell a stock at a specific price.
  • Your broker may decide to send your order to another division of your broker's firm to be filled out of the firm's own inventory. This is called "internalization." In this way, your broker's firm may make money on the "spread" – which is the difference between the purchase price and the sale price.