I opened a trading account through a Ghanaian stockbroker about five years ago. While the broker has executed all trades that I've asked them to complete, I have reservations about referring them to my clients here. Their service has been adequate, but far from outstanding.
So I compiled a list of stockbrokers who trade on the Ghana Stock Exchange and emailed each of them. I asked them if they catered to foreign investors and, if so, how much they required in order to open an account. Of the 20 brokers that I contacted, I found the following four brokers to be especially helpful and responsive.
- African Alliance Securities Ghana African Alliance owns brokerage houses on most African exchanges. They produce top-notch research, and I can testify to the professionalism and expertise of their staff.
- CAL Brokers A subsidiary of CAL Bank, CAL Brokers prides itself on innovation. It is the only Ghanaian broker to offer an online trading platform iBrokerGhana.
- FirstBanc Brokerage Services A home-grown investment bank, FirstBanc offers a wide range of investment advisory and asset management services. Their Platinum Account is an actively-managed mutual fund that invests in local equities.
- Stanbic Bank Ghana Brokerage This division of the massive Standard Bank Group offers extremely professional customer service, but they do not allow dividends to be deposited into trading accounts. Foreign investors must open a local bank account if they would like to cash their dividend checks.
None of the brokers above require a minimum beginning balance to open an account. You must, however, fund your account before executing any trades.
Commissions and fees will run you 2.5% of the total transaction value for most Ghanaian brokers. Stanbic Bank Ghana did, however, note that it charges according to a sliding scale. They charge investors a 2.1% commission for transactions between GHS5,000-10,000 (roughly $3,000-$6,000). And the rate drops for higher amounts.
Opening a Ghanaian Brokerage Account
Now let's walk through the process of opening an account and buying your first shares.
Step 1: Complete and Return the Account Opening Form
The account opening form (aka the "Know Your Client" or KYC Form) typically requires disclosure of your passport number or other ID number, your address, and banking details. Here's a sample from CAL Brokers Ghana.
Step 2: Complete and Return the GSE Securities Depository Account Registration Form
In late 2008, the Ghana Stock Exchange set up a central securities depository, which records the ownership of securities in electronic accounts, thus eliminating the need for share certificates. This dramatically improved trading efficiency but created one more form for new investors to fill out. This is the form you will need to complete and return to your broker. You will then be assigned a Ghana Securities Depository (GSD) account number. This number will accompany every trade order you place, allowing the GSD to keep record of all your Ghanaian holdings.
Step 3: Provide a Certified Copy of Your Passport and an Additional Passport-sized Photo.
These must be mailed to the stock broker. Note that, for some brokers, a certified copy of your driver's license will suffice.
Step 4. Provide a Canceled Check or Copy of a Recent Bank Statement
This is used to verify that you are indeed the owner of the account that will be used to send and receive funds.
Step 5. Wire Funds to Your Brokerage Account
After opening your trading account, your broker will provide you with its bank details so that you can fund your account. The most efficient way to do this is via wire transfer. If you haven't sent an international wire before, I suggest that you take your broker's bank details to your local bank branch and ask them to walk you through the process. They'll make sure that your funds arrive securely. Note that most US banks charge about $25 for outgoing international wires.
Step 6. Submit a Trade Order
You've done your research and found a stock that you'd like to buy. What now?
While some brokers will request a signed trade mandate form, for most brokers, all you need to do is send an email to your broker with your trade instructions. Keep in mind that some Ghanaian shares are rather illiquid, so I advise specifying a limit price for all of your orders. This will help you avoid paying significantly more for your shares than you had intended to pay.
Your broker will then execute your trade and send you a contract note that specifies the buy or sell price, commissions, and fees. Settlement of share trades takes three days in Ghana, so if you've sold shares, don't expect to receive the proceeds of a sale before then unless you're willing to incur a penalty to settle the trade more quickly.
That's it! Follow these steps and you're a Ghana investor.
The process of opening a foreign brokerage account can be confusing. If you found this walk-thru to be clear as mud, please don't be shy. Post your questions in the comments, and I'll do my best to get answers for them.
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