"More and more individual investors are turning to futures to help manage that uncertainty and volatility," he added.
The growing demand from retail investors is, in part, being spurred by the increasingly sophisticated educational and trading resources now available to them. The big online brokerages, such as Schwab, TD Ameritrade and E*Trade, have all invested in derivatives platforms that include futures trading, and new firms like Quantcha and Quantopian are enabling small investors to write their own trading algorithms.
"There's been an explosion in the number of advanced automated trading tools available to retail investors," said Will Acworth, senior vice president of data and research at the Futures Industry Association.
That doesn't mean that you should use them and dive into the futures markets. Futures contracts are highly leveraged and typically require a margin of between 5 percent and 10 percent up front to open a position. The market is settled on a daily basis, meaning if the market moves against an investor, they will have to top up their margins to maintain the position. The losses can accumulate quickly.
"Futures are probably better for more sophisticated investors," said Kevin Fischer, an options trader with Interactive Brokers, one of the largest derivatives brokerages in the country. "We get calls all the time from people with open positions asking for information they should have known before taking the position."