How do trading prop firms make money

In the financial industry, proprietary trading firms, commonly known as prop firms, offer individuals the opportunity to trade financial products using the firm’s capital. These firms operate across various markets, including bonds, stocks, commodities, and currencies.

Unlike traditional firms that trade on behalf of clients, prop trading firm use their own funds to execute transactions. This often leads people to wonder how prop firms generate revenue. Much like any other business, their primary goal is profit generation. They achieve this through a combination of profit-sharing plans, membership fees, and challenge fees.

To join a prop firm, traders must pass an evaluation and pay fees for the privilege of using the firm’s capital for trading. Profitable traders then share their earnings with the firm. Additionally, prop firms benefit from the challenge fees paid by traders who do not pass the evaluation.

How Do Prop Firms Make Money?

Like any other business, prop firms aim to generate profits. They employ various methods to achieve this goal, which are outlined below:

The Challenge Model

Prop firms that employ a challenge model generate revenue primarily through the fees charged for participating in the challenge. These fees can vary significantly, typically ranging from a few hundred dollars upwards. In a standard challenge model, the firm provides the trader with a certain amount of virtual capital to trade.

To pass the challenge, the trader must meet specified profit targets. Success in the challenge grants the trader a funded account to trade with real money. This model allows the best prop trading firms to profit while offering traders the opportunity to prove their skills and earn funded accounts.

Prop firms benefit financially when traders fail the challenge, as they do not refund fees paid by unsuccessful traders. While this may seem unusual compared to other industries, it is a common practice among prop firms. Some firms, aware that 90% of traders struggle to adhere to strict rules, may create excessively challenging trading conditions to maximize profits from those who fail.

Profit Sharing Plans

Traders who successfully pass the evaluation phase enter into profit-sharing agreements with the prop firms. The specifics of these agreements vary by program and firm, particularly in how profits are split. Initially, the firm often takes a substantial share of the profits, sometimes up to 70% or more.


However, leading prop trading companies may offer more favorable profit splits, such as 80% or 90%, although these schemes might require higher upfront costs. As traders meet targets and adhere to risk management procedures, they can negotiate for a larger share of the profits.

Membership Fees

Membership fees provide proprietary trading firms with consistent revenue streams independent of trader performance. This steady income is crucial for covering operational costs such as rent, utilities, salaries, and other expenses. Moreover, it enables firms to reinvest in their business, whether by developing new trading platforms or enhancing research and development capabilities. Membership fees also fund trader support services, including educational resources and customer service, thereby contributing to the firm’s overall profitability.

Traders are typically required to pay these fees monthly or annually to maintain their membership.

Educational Fees

Educational fees represent another significant revenue source for many proprietary trading firms. These fees are charged for access to online courses, webinars, mentorship programs, and other educational resources designed to enhance trading skills.

While some resources are available for free, many firms offer premium content that requires payment. This content ranges from basic trading strategies to advanced topics like market analysis and risk management. By monetizing educational resources, prop firms generate income while providing valuable services to their traders.


Most proprietary firms generate revenue through commissions, which are fees charged for each executed trade. These commissions are typically paid to the broker handling the trade, with a portion subsequently passed on to the prop firm. The commission amount varies based on the trade type, trade size, and the specific broker used.

For instance, a prop firm might charge $1 per contract for stock options, whereas futures contracts might have a commission of $3 per contract. While these commissions may seem minor individually, they accumulate over time and contribute significantly to the firm’s income.