Due the growing popularity of binary options, the question must be asked, is this form of trading currently legal in South Africa and how has this market developed in South Africa over the past few years.
Lets first look at what the definition is of a Binary Option is. A Binary Option can be defined as the investors right to receive a payout at some specific or agreed event (usually time) that takes place in the future. Please note, the investor is not under any obligation to trade or purchase the option, they are purely given the right to do so. Binary trading is still a pretty new form or trading, while compared to a general option, its usually determined by the outcome of an event.
How does this apply to South African traders?
A Binary option is interpreted as a “derivative instrument” which according to the Securities Services Act of 2004 (SSA), is included under its own definition of a “security”. In early 2007, The Bond Exchange of South Africa (BESA), partnered with a well known company in SA with a plan to develop a new platform capable of allowing investors to trade securities and assets on the JSE using the Binary Option principles discussed above. This platform came into effect in December of 2007 after it was given approval by the registrar of security services. It is only recently that the popularity of Binary Options in South Africa have started growing. The main reason being is that it gives investors a relatively short view of a specific trade, a fixed risk exposure i.e. an investor knows their risk and can never lose more then what they invest.
In some cases trading Binary options is often compared to gambling, or specifically Roulette as there are only two possible outcomes. A trader can only predict whether a specific asset will move UP or DOWN, similar to BLACK or RED when playing roulette. The type of investors this product attracts are usually the goal focused individuals (General traders, bankers and economists) and only recently in South Africa this is now available for the general retail market. This type of trading also attracts risk adverse investors who may want to hedge their positions on their other trades.
According to an article from the South African Financial Markets Journal (SAFMJ), “this market, in its current form, is not regulated by the Securities Services Act, is not currently regulated by the Financial Services Board and is certainly not regulated in any form or function by the JSE. It is a market that offers little, if any, investor protection”. “Why then do Binary Options exist? The answer is simple, a benign regulatory environment and a profitable business model for the issuers – usually at the expense of the investor.”
According to an article written by The Bond Exchange of South Africa (BESA), A binary option is defined as the right, but not the obligation, to receive a fixed pay-out at some agreed future time at a pre-specified price of the underlying instrument. It is a relatively new form of market in which event driven futures are traded where the instruments traded are determined by the outcome of a future event. These instruments can be interpreted
as “derivative instruments” which are included under the definition of “securities” in the Securities Services
Act, 2004 (SSA).