Over the Counter (OTC)

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Trade carried out via an informal or regulated exchange is referred to as over-the-counter trading or OTC trading. Over-the-counter trade occurs between two parties. These trades are done by a dealer or broker network in the absence of an exchange regulator. This means that OTC trading is not regulated the way exchange-based trading is.

To trade over the counter means to do so via a decentralized dealer network. This decentralized market is not confined to a single location and makes use of several technical devices. Over-the-counter trading does not necessitate the trading of solely standardized objects, much unlike trading on a formal exchange.

In addition, costs are not usually made public. OTC contracts are bilateral, and each party may be concerned about their counterparty’s credit risk.

An OTC market is defined as a collection of organizations that act as market makers for several low-cost, low-traded stocks. An example of an over-the-counter market is the foreign exchange market, which involves buying and selling currencies through a network of banks rather than on exchanges.

Over the Counter Securities

OTC securities are a diverse group of financial instruments and commodities that are traded over the counter. Stocks, derivatives, and debt securities are among the financial instruments traded over the counter.

Over-the-counter stocks are held by small enterprises that lack the financial ability to qualify them to be listed on a regulated exchange. Even large corporations exchange equities over the counter from time to time.

This kind of trading relies heavily on derivatives, which is especially important when hedging risks with derivatives. Because there are no restrictions on the amount or quality of traded products, the parties involved in the transaction can adjust the contract parameters to their risk exposure.

Bonds, for example, are not traded on a formal exchange because banks issue them and offer them through broker-dealer networks. These are also known as over-the-counter (OTC) securities.

Over the Counter Networks

In the United States, over-the-counter stock trades happen through market maker networks. The Finacial Industry Regulatory Authority or FINRA, and OTC Markets Group oversee the two well-known networks. These networks offer quotation or estimate services to market dealers. Dealers can perform trades either online or telephonically.

Even though OTC networks are unofficial exchanges, they do have eligibility criteria.

The Benefits of OTC Trading

OTC Trading Can Occur 24 Hours a Day

Unlike typical exchanges that have opening and closing times, over-the-counter trading can take place at any time of the day or night.

Accommodates Smaller Businesses

OTC markets serve as trading platforms for smaller, less liquid companies. These companies, that do not qualify for a normal exchange listing, may obtain assistance to promote their financial growth.

OTC shares typically cost less than those listed on a more centralized market. As a result, you may purchase many shares for a smaller amount of money.


OTC trading is a cost-effective approach for corporations. This is because the cost of new issues is cheaper, and the cost of servicing investors is lower.

Greater Freedom of Choice

OTC trading allows investors more freedom to choose equities for market-making by dealers in both primary and additional markets.

Flow of Information

Because there is direct contact between parties, the flow of information is free, and more transparent.

Greater Flexibility

When opposed to their more regulated and standardized exchange-based competitors, OTC trades offer more flexibility. You can make agreements tailored to your specific trading objectives.

The Disadvantages of Trading Over the Counter

It is Risky

Because these trades are not regulated, there is a greater chance that a party may decide not to go ahead with a trade. Companies can also claim to be progressive and profitable when they are not.

Less Trade Liquidity

Due to limited volume, OTC stocks have reduced transaction liquidity, resulting in delays in completing trades, and huge bid-ask gaps.


The reduced availability of public information over these markets results in a higher risk of falling victim to fraudulent activities.


On the release of the market and economic data, over-the-counter stocks are prone to making significant changes. This makes the market volatile.

Are Over the Counter Stocks Different from Regular Stocks?

Because over-the-counter stocks typically trade for less than one dollar per share, they are often referred to as penny stocks, and sold by companies with a market capitalization of $50 million or less.

Penny stocks have long attracted investors who enjoy purchasing a high number of shares for a small amount of money. If the business succeeds, the investor can profit handsomely.

Most common stocks with actual potential are listed on the formal exchange platforms and cost more than $15 per share. Stocks that trade over the counter for less than a dollar may have shakier financial prospects and are often speculative and risky.

How to Purchase Over the Counter Stocks?

Before you may begin purchasing an over-the-counter stock, you first need to sign up for an account with a brokerage firm. Online brokers are another option but be sure to check whether the brokers you choose do perform OTC trades.

You can purchase and sell stocks over the counter if you use a full-service brokerage. Regarding the stock you want to purchase or sell, the broker places an order with the market maker.

Final Thoughts

The dealing of securities between two counterparties outside of conventional exchanges, and without the oversight of an exchange supervisor is known as over the counter (OTC). OTC trading takes place through dealer networks in over-the-counter markets (a decentralized site with no physical address).

While over-the-counter trading may have several advantages, such as creating opportunities for smaller businesses that would not qualify on formal exchanges, they do come with a great deal of risk.

There is an opportunity for fraudulent activity to take place over these exchange networks, as there is a lack of public information available over these forums. If you wish to trade over the counter, you should do so cautiously, keeping in mind the information provided here.

Risk Disclaimer

WeInvests is a financial portal-based research agency. We do our utmost best to offer reliable and unbiased information about crypto, finance, trading and stocks. However, we do not offer financial advice and users should always carry out their own research.

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