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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – February 14, 2014

On this Valentine’s Day edition of the discount brokerage weekly roundup, romance is definitely the air for many folks.  Yes, it appears more bank-owned discount brokerages are lining up to show just how much they love their self-directed investor clients by offering lower commissions.   Courting self-directed investors, however, is going to take more than just price cuts.  As one low-cost brokerage showed this past week, getting fancier bells & whistles may be part of what’s needed to woo investors their way. In addition to ‘stuff’, another brokerage took to winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of investors by timing an Olympic themed promo.  Finally, this week’s review rounds out with some interesting education events being offered and a great forum thread on RESPs.

The Three Bank Bobsled Team

This past week, BMO InvestorLine became the third Canadian online brokerage to lower their standard commission fee down to $9.95 (click here to read the press release).  While not quite a race to the bottom, it seems that the banks are willing to match one another on their standard pricing. For self-directed investors this is definitely welcome news as the pressure will certainly be mounting on those remaining online brokerages with high (and complicated) standard fees to drop them. On a related note, there was an interesting article in the Globe and Mail regarding the move by bank-owned online brokerages to lower their fees as a strategic move to bring in revenues from sources other than the banking services.

Getting the Power

Not content to sit idly by as the bank-owned online brokerages drift into their pricing territory, this past week Virtual Brokers took aim at the platform and data category by rolling out their PowerTrader Pro platform in a bundle with free streaming data (with a catch of course).  For those brokerages that’ve been chasing the lucrative active trader segment, platforms and data fees (in addition to commissions) have always been a sore point.   The PowerTrader Pro platform, however, is built on the Sterling Trader Pro platform so it has definite appeal to active traders.  To that end, Virtual Brokers is offering free streaming data with the platform for those making complex options trades.  This package and platform take aim at TD Direct Investing’s US Trading Platform (aka ThinkorSwim), Interactive Brokers’ Trader Workstation and Questrade’s IQ platforms as well as those web based or desktop based platforms that don’t have the fancy scanners, charts and trade planning.

Metals for Medals

An interesting Olympic-themed promotion is being offered by Questrade.  Until February 24th, Questrade is offering 50% off precious metal commissions.  To boot, they are also offering a special promo every time Canada wins either a gold or silver medal.   For the physical precious metals bugs, it is but one more reason to cheer on the stellar performance of this year’s Canadian Olympic effort.

Investor Education Events

With all the talk of athletes and fitness, the couch potatoes out there also have something to cheer about.  Credential Direct announced this past week that they are holding a webinar with Dan Bortolotti aka the Canadian Couch Potato.  This webinar will be about building the “perfect” ETF portfolio and yes, attendees can join this webinar from the comfort of their couches.

Continuing on in the investor education theme, Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) is holding a week-long series of education sessions Montréal & Québec City.  The events are free and topics cover a number of themes for self-directed investors.  Of note is that there are a couple of interesting sessions on taxation for investors/traders.  Check out our investor education calendar for more information.

From the Forums

Given the time of year, there is an increase in the number of questions about registered accounts of all kinds (RRSPs, RESPs and TFSAs).  One thread in the RedFlagDeals forum in particular stood out as being an interesting look at RESPs at discount brokerages – specifically on the point of joint subscribers.  Click on the post below to learn more about what folks had to say about RESPs at Canadian discount brokerages.

RESPs at Discount Brokerages


That does it for this week’s roundup.  Hope everyone has a great weekend and just as a reminder, Canadian and US stock markets will be closed on Monday – perfect timing given the release of the new House of Cards!

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