For Canadian discount brokerages, 2014 has already been an eventful year. It has now been just over a month since RBC Direct Investing announced the lowering of their standard trading commissions and in that time, the predicted response from several other bank-owned online brokerages has materialized. Since the RBC announcement, BMO InvestorLine, TD Direct Investing and National Bank Direct Brokerage have all lowered their standard equity commission pricing with more bank-owned brokerages expected to follow suit.
Going forward, there are two important reasons why do-it-yourself investors will have to pay extra attention to the online trading account plans being pitched to them. First, in the short term, expect pricing to continue to change as more brokerages adjust to the new ‘standard’ fee at below $10 per trade. Second, discount brokerages will be marketing even harder to communicate what makes one brand better than another. For consumers, the upside is that they can likely expect more promotions, however the downside is that they will likely have to untangle a lot of clever marketing and read the fine print much more closely on any offers presented by Canadian discount brokerages.
In this two part series, we take a look at the bank-owned discount brokerages and the recent shift in standard commission pricing to uncover what this means for self-directed investors and for the discount brokerage industry in Canada.
Catch a Falling Star*
The priority self-directed investors place on commission pricing is an open secret amongst discount brokerages big and small. As a case in point, several of the discount brokerage rankings that use cost as part of their measurement framework typically weight cost among their top categories. Considering the competitive dynamics of the industry, however, it is understandable why price is a popular battleground between competing firms. While having a major bank-owned brokerage such as RBC Direct Investing lower its pricing, there may have been other forces at play too. The presence of deep-discount brokerages such as Questrade and Virtual Brokers may have also helped to accelerate the pricing cuts. Whatever the case, it is clear that consumers were growing impatient with prices and other providers were able to gain traction with that dissatisfaction.
Judging by the consumer reactions online to the commission price cut as well as the speed with which other major bank-owned online brokerages have followed RBC’s move, two things are clear: competition amongst discount brokerages remains high and pricing matters to consumers.