Posted on Leave a comment

Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 31, 2014

When people think Halloween, they think of costumes and candy. But, when Halloween falls on a Friday, all the DIY investor ghouls and gals get an extra bonus – a discount brokerage weekly roundup chalked full of treats. In this week’s roundup, we tear a page from Dr. Frankenstein’s notebook to shout ‘it’s alive!’ as a new community platform rolls into service. Not to be outdone by capes and tights, a major Canadian bank-owned brokerage decided to dress up its platform with some very interesting account performance tools.  Getting in on the novelty game, an independent brokerage looks to be bobbing for Apples by rolling out a new iPhone/iPad mobile trading platform.  We also feature a good old-fashioned trick-wrapped-in-a-treat, with one brokerage dropping hints of a spooktacular feature release.   To end our Halloween roundup, we collected a monster mashup of investor conversations and reactions to the week that was.

A New Space for the Online Investing Community

After lots of caffeine, coding, and (a bit of) cursing the time has finally come for cheering! As mentioned in last week’s roundup, officially rolled out our new online investor community platform (nicknamed AXIS) this week.


We’re really excited to have put together a community space that enables those seeking information about Canadian online brokerages and those who want to share their opinions and experiences all in the same space.  As an added benefit, we’ve tried to learn from the other great online resources and communities to do something a little differently and providing a structured approach to the online brokerage conversations. The community is going live in beta and we’ll be testing, learning and debugging. We encourage readers to check it out and give us your feedback (constructive of course). It is our hope that it becomes a vibrant space to help online investors get and give a better idea of what it means to be online investor and to deal with Canada’s online brokerages big and small.

Measured Progress

Although the phrase ‘past performance doesn’t predict future results’ is one that DIY investors encounter quite often. Ironically, one of the biggest selling features of many mutual funds or investment strategies is just that – the past performance. This past week, forums were abuzz that TD Direct Investing has launched a new feature that will help users track their past performance and much more.  Unfortunately for certain forum users, there were apparently technical glitches that kept them from getting to use the feature properly. Nonetheless, below is a screenshot from the feature explanation document that illustrates the new features.  WebBroker users will be able to see trends in balances as well as compare their holdings against benchmark indices of their choosing.

Qtrade Making Moves on Mobile

At the tail end of last week, Qtrade Financial officially released their new mobile trading platform apps from iPhone and iPad users.  Even though they do have a relatively functional mobile trading website (which we’ve taken a test drive of here), this latest release takes the look and feel up a notch.  Early downloads of the app have fetched some positive praise and, as one other online investor noted in a comment this past week, it appears that mobile trading is something that online brokerages are going to have to get right in a hurry.

Screenshot of Qtrade mobile app homepage

Questrade CEO Picks Up Award, Drops Hint on Wealth Management Features

This past week, Questrade announced that their CEO, Edward Kholodenko, had been awarded the EY Entrepreneur of the Year in the category of services for Ontario.  While the achievement adds to the list of awards that Questrade has received this year, it was a quote from Kholodenko at the end of the press release that stole the spotlight away from the award. According to Kholodenko: I am pleased to say that in a few short weeks, Questrade will be rolling out a major new initiative. This new service will restore fairness for Canadian investors and demonstrate that wealth management is not just for the wealthy anymore.” While it is just speculation at this point, there have been a wave of product releases that fall under the super-hot category of ‘robo-advisor’ style tools aimed at newer investors – one of Questrade’s key demographics. Whatever the service happens to be, ancillary services in addition to ‘direct brokerage’ is a model that US online brokerages have demonstrated can attract clients and can add additional fee revenues into the firm.  Of course, they prefer dealing with ‘wealthy clients’ to attract assets so wealth management for the not-so-wealthy should provide an interesting twist.

From the Forums

In addition to the community platform this week, there was also a launch of a new Canadian-focused investor subreddit: /r/CanadianInvestor.  Below is snapshot of the post explaining a bit more about it:

Screenshot of /r/CanadianInvestor introduction post

Finding their Footing

The beauty of forums such as the PersonalFinanceCanada subreddit is that readers get a sense of how other DIY investors, whether they are beginners or pro’s, approach the journey that is online investing.  In a thread from PFC, a reddit user poses the question of whether ‘now is the right time to invest’.  Check out what the users had to say here.

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. Be sure to check out some of the more interesting discussion threads out there during game time intermissions!

Posted on Leave a comment

Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 24, 2014

Makeovers seem to be making the headlines this past week. Markets this past week gave investor’s a bit of a portfolio makeover, actress Renee Zellweger got a bit of an extreme makeover and set the internet ablaze and even the Canadian discount brokerage landscape saw (and is about to get) a bit of work done.

In this week’s roundup we take our cues from a Zellweger movie-inspired theme to lead us through the makeover from a major bank-owned online brokerage pricing adjustment. Next we look at earnings from a pair of US brokerages to see what their operation looks like without the makeup on. Finally we’re proud to announce a new community feature from that we think will help change the landscape for the better for all DIY investors. Of course, our roundup will be completed by some insightful banter from the Canadian investor forums.

You Didn’t Quite Have Me at Hello

This past week saw an interesting announcement come from BMO InvestorLine regarding their flagship AdviceDirect platform. Specifically, BMO InvestorLine is changing the fee structure and lowering the threshold to participate from $100,000 down to $50,000.

While BMO InvestorLine has tactfully positioned this move as improving ‘accessibility’ the timing and nature of the changes demonstrate that evolutionary axiom: adapt or die.

It has been just over two years since BMO InvestorLine bet big that their unique AdviceDirect platform would meet a need for the “in-between” DIY investors who embrace the lone wolf approach, but still need the “pack” to provide counsel and confidence.

In the wealth management industry of today, however, two years is a long time to go status-quo. The “phone a friend” and flat fee approach of AdviceDirect has faced headwinds of ultra-low MER ETFs and the robo-advisor phenomenon. In fact, the same day BMO InvestorLine announced their changes to AdviceDirect, National Bank Direct Brokerage formally announced their launch of InvestCube service, an automated ETF management solution for DIY investors.

With new tiered pricing, fixed dollar charges and lower thresholds to participate, the new face of AdviceDirect may be more accessible to DIY investors. The challenge in front of BMO InvestorLine, however, is getting Canadian investors to pay attention in an even more crowded marketplace.

Show Me the Money

It’s earnings season for some major US online brokerages and with it comes a chance to ask or answer “how’s business?” Quarterly earnings for E*Trade Financial and Interactive Brokers seem to suggest the answer depends on who you talk to.

On the one hand, there is a ‘good news’ story. Bolstered by higher trade volume, E*Trade saw its third quarter earnings jump more than 31% as well as impressive performance on key metrics such as the number of trades and net new accounts. Interestingly the average commission per trade came in at $11.05 per trade, a number that seems incredibly high relative to Interactive Brokers’ average of $4.21 per trade. Nonetheless, after many years of grinding away at deleveraging their business, the results and market conditions are lining up in their favour. These latest results this represent a third successive earnings win for the US brokerage.

Interactive Brokers, on the other hand, probably provoked a wave of face palms from analysts and shareholders alike. The Q3 EPS tallied in at $0.05 – a far cry from the consensus estimates of $0.23. Among the reasons cited for the miss were some rather hefty losses (~$70M) by their market making segment demonstrating that markets can humble traders of all sizes. On a slightly more positive note for Interactive Brokers, they continued to see growth in the number of accounts (18% y/y) and total daily average revenue trades (DARTs) up 14% over the same period last year.

Help Me Help You

Many Canadians understand that being a DIY investor isn’t simple, but even so, we believe it certainly shouldn’t be prohibitively hard either. What we’ve observed over the few years we’ve been around is that one of the biggest sources of support for investors is actually other investors.

It’s both inspiring and awesome to know that there are lots of great online communities that investors of all experience levels can access to get support, encouragement and perspective on their investing journey.

So, after much research, discussion, caffeine and coding, we’re happy to announce first to the loyal weekly roundup readers that we’re launching a space on for the community of online brokerage users. We’ll have the official beta launch link on our Twitter feed so be sure to check our feed over the upcoming week to get the first look.

Ultimately we believe that by making finding and navigating information more efficient, we can improve the experience of being a DIY investor. We hope it will be a platform that will attract like-minded folks to help, support and learn from one another as well as a place to get reliable answers to questions relevant to their online brokerage experience.

Event Horizon

Attention all self-directed investor education and event enthusiasts, learning opportunities are abound. This week’s event horizon features a veritable potpourri of offerings. Sample and enjoy.

Oct. 25 (Sat)

  1. TD Direct Investing – Workshop: Getting Started with Options

Oct. 28 (Tues)

  1. NBDB – Introduction to Call Options
  2. TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fundamental Analysis
  3. Scotia iTrade – Cash Management Using ETFs
  4. Desjardins Online Brokerage – Maximizing Your Trading Experience

Oct. 29 (Wed)

  1. TD Direct Investing – Understanding Margin & Short Selling
  2. Desjardins Online Brokerage – Portfolio construction using ETFs

Oct. 30 (Thur)

  1. TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fixed Income
  2. NBDB – Introduction to Put Options

 From the Forums

Just when you thought you were out…

Is too much of a good thing no longer a good thing? In this forum post from Canadian Money Forum, a client of Scotia iTrade is testing the waters for what other investors might suggest as a good alternative. Check out the long list of pros and cons given to the author of the post from a handful of level headed voices.

Clear and present pricing

The impact of regulatory changes to the way brokerages report their fees shines through in this post from the Financial Wisdom Forum. In the post a BMO InvestorLine user details a breakdown of a potential bond transaction and shows that when brokerages are more transparent with pricing, good things can happen.


That does it for this week’s roundup. It has been a tough week for Canada. Going into the weekend, the team salutes and says thank-you to the brave men and women who, because of their courage and sacrifice, make this country the great nation that it is.


Credit: Nathan Denette/CP
Posted on Leave a comment

Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 17, 2014

[updated Oct.18] If you’re like the markets this past week, you’ve ‘bear’ly made it to Friday.  For many investors and traders, a higher than usual dose of uncertainty made it a harrowing week.  Of course, Canada’s discount brokerages know all too well about the specter of uncertainty as they are now trying to navigate a brave new world of low-commission pricing.

In this week’s discount brokerage round up, we take a look at the different directions brokerages are taking in this new landscape. First, we look at a pair of direct competitors adding features into their product mix. Next we scope out an emerging battle for investor attention as brokerages are going to new channels to capture attention.  We then roll-out a new feature of the roundup – our “event horizon” which highlights upcoming investor education webinars and seminars. Finally, we cap off the week with some very instructive investor comments on the harsh realities of online trading.

Support and Resistance are Futile

The infamous mantra of Star Trek’s Borg came one step closer to becoming reality as the “robo-advisor” trend continues to gain momentum here in Canada.

National Bank Direct Brokerage recently launched their new “InvestCube” service and in doing so, they’ve taken direct aim at that large segment of investors who want intelligently diversified, low-fee ETF portfolios without the ongoing maintenance work of constant rebalancing.

While NBDB are not alone in this regard, they are casting their nets at a time when marketplace excitement over these kinds of services is heating up.

Briefly, InvestCube is being touted as a way to simplify DIY investing by combining expertly curated exchange-traded fund (ETF) portfolios with smart automatic rebalancing synched to allocation thresholds.  Investors can choose from the following five portfolio categories:

  1. Conservative
  2. Moderate
  3. Balanced
  4. Growth
  5. Equity

With a catchy name and polished pitch, National Bank Direct Brokerage is hoping InvestCube has the curb appeal and sticker price to win over long-term investors who want to go it alone, but don’t necessarily have the time, or the desire, to analyse data.

Fees for the service range from 0.99% to 1.04%, depending on the portfolio selected, with no per trade commission costs. The minimum buy-in for this service is also $25,000, which means there is a clear segment of this ‘robo-advisor seeking’ group NBDB is looking to go after.

NBDB says InvestCube is currently available for all account types; including RRSP, TFSA, RESP, LIRA / LRSP, RRIF account cash margin account and InvestCube is available in all Canadian dollar denominated account types.

Party in the TFSA (…and RSP)

Desjardins Online Brokerage was also on our radar as they’ve recently added US dollar registered accounts (RRSP and TFSA) to their feature offering.  Although this feature release has been in the works for some time, it comes on the heels of a recent announcement from TD Direct Investing highlighting the long awaited launch of USD registered accounts.

Foreign exchange fees have (and continue to be) a generous revenue generating function for brokerages but with several other brokerages already offering USD registered accounts (RRSP, TFSA and LIRA), Desjardins Online Brokerage is wisely closing the gap between themselves and their competitors on a long-sought after feature.

For Desjardins Online Brokerage’s competitors, things are less rosy. The impact of this latest feature release means that smaller players, who were among the first and most vocal champions of this account type (and the ones who rely on it the most to differentiate themselves from larger brokerages), will have to dig deep to come up with something that makes them seem to be truly ahead of the curve. Also, competitors (big and small) that don’t offer this particular feature have a very tough time convincing clients to continue to park all of their assets in one place.

May I Have Your Attention, Please?

While pricing and features are one way to get attention from investors, another way is to try and be more ‘interesting’. In today’s world, one way to do that is to turn to video.

Qtrade recently rolled out a platform product video demonstration, that we spotted on their website. While popcorn and soda won’t be required for this screening, the video features a palatable 210-second run through the platform. And Qtrade is not alone.

National Bank Direct Brokerage is also in the mix with some branding video content, all geared towards capturing the attention of Canadian self-directed investors. Other brokerages such as TD Direct Investing have gone even further into the “video” field by pushing and sponsoring their own content channel.

As today’s online investor is smarter, more knowledgeable and spends more time online, Canadian online brokerages are going to have to go beyond price in order to compete for and win their attention. If they don’t like what’s being said, today’s investors will simply change the channel or worse swipe left.

Event Horizon [New!]

Introducing the newest feature of the round up: the event horizon. This section highlights the self-directed investor education events and opportunities for the upcoming week.  While many of the events are held by discount brokerages, there are other events included too. [note: TD Direct Investing holds many events however because of space limitations, we’ve selected a few we thought might be interesting to include. Also, events may reach capacity at which point registration may not be possible. Please ensure to check if space is available if you’re interested in attending.]

Oct. 21 (Tues)

  1. National Bank Direct Brokerage: Stop Orders: A Winning Solution Worth Knowing
  2. Scotia iTrade:  Index Iron Condors – A Friend When There Is No Trend with Pro Market Advisors
  3. TD Direct Investing: Smart Money: Investing Like a Pension Fund
  4. TD Direct Investing – Options as an Income Strategy

Oct. 22 (Wed)

  1. Scotia iTrade: Options Trading and Volatility with Montreal Exchange
  2. TD Direct Investing – Portfolio Strategies

Oct. 23 (Thur)

  1. TD Direct Investing: Options Trading using Technical Analysis
  2. TD Direct Investing:  Financial Repression – Where are interest rates heading? [Fr]

Oct. 24 (Fri)

  1. TD Direct Investing:  Advanced Options

Oct. 25 (Sat)

  1. TD Direct Investing: Workshop – Getting Started with Options

From the Forums

Hello, is it cash you’re looking for?

With the exception of Lionel Ritchie, there’s probably nobody else that could charm their way out of a margin call from their broker – and even then those are slim odds.  As one online investor found out from this comment on Questrade’s profile page, that when it comes to risk-management, it’s every trader (and brokerage) for him or herself.


For every shining star there has to be a lot of surrounding darkness. In the stock market, there are many companies that don’t make headlines for the good reasons and there are many more that fade into the darkness of being delisted.  This post on the reddit personal finance Canada highlights some important points about which stocks can and can’t get past the velvet rope of TFSA eligibility.

That does it for another edition of the roundup.  Wherever your adventures happen to boldly take you this weekend, hopefully fun follows at warp speed!


Posted on Leave a comment

Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 10, 2014

Whether you’re rolling into the end of the week like a new Tesla or like a slightly battered blue chip, congrats on making it to the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Even Canadian discount brokerages are getting into the spirit by dishing out a generous helping of interesting stories for DIY investors to tuck into this weekend.

In this week’s roundup, we’ll start with an exciting dish: a deal announced from one of Canada’s largest discount brokerages. You’ll want to sample the sides as well; Dalbar Canada served up a ranking award to a popular Canadian online brokerage. And speaking of rankings, we’ve dished out a big scoop of our special series on J.D. Power & Associates’ 2014 Canadian discount brokerage rankings. Finally, we’ll send you home with a few parting gifts from the forums, if you can make it out the door.

Pass the Greens

It’s official, discount brokerage deal season is here. Just ahead of the long weekend, TD Direct Investing served up a holiday platter of its own. The skinny: it’s a commission free trade offer for those with $50,000 or more. The dish includes a hearty number of commission-free trades, up to 200 (which could be worth up to $2,000 in maximum savings). For extra helpings on the details, check out our discount brokerage deals page.

Let’s Get this Party Started

TD Direct Investing’s latest offering arrives on the heels of the recent move by CIBC Investor’s Edge, who officially slashed their standard trading commission rates to $6.95. TD’s response mirrors one  from earlier this year when they lowered standard pricing to $9.99 per trade in response to RBC Direct Investing’s radical price drop.

The price war between Canadian discount brokerages is on and collateral damage is likely intended. While self-directed investors are reaping the rewards,  discount brokerages without a big deal or low standard fees are on the clock and will need more than Pepto-Bismol to deal with the “agita”.

Undo that Belt Buckle, It’s Dessert Time

We’re rolling out the roundup sweet table with a piece of our special series pie. This week’s confection features our first installment of the review of the 2014 J.D. Power & Associates’ Canadian discount brokerage rankings.

The article explored how investor satisfaction is measured and why that matters for those who use the rankings when evaluating potential brokerages. Also baked into our special series are some fascinating investor satisfaction insights into price and perception. Don’t forget to save room for part 2 which is coming around the corner.

Making a Statement

This past week saw Questrade take the top spot amongst several Canadian discount brokerages for the quality of their investor statements as evaluated by Dalbar Canada.

The evolution of the Canadian financial regulatory landscape has meant that brokerage firms are increasingly being required to disclose critical information about fees and charges for the services they provide.When it comes to statements, however, there is a unique opportunity to provide clients with additional information that may be of value.

It was in this light that Questrade’s investor statements stood out amongst their peers earning  a “very good” designation for their efforts  – the only Canadian discount brokerage of those evaluated to do so.   The discount brokerages that had their statements evaluated as part of this year’s study included:

  1. BMO Investorline
  2. CIBC Investor’s Edge
  3. HSBC InvestDirect
  4. Questrade
  5. TD Direct Investing
  6. RBC Direct Investing
  7. Scotia iTrade

As online brokerages continue to navigate their way through the new low-commission price environment, they will inevitably turn their attention to details big and small to improve customer experience. And, the attention they pay to great client experiences might just be the statement that speaks the loudest to consumers.

From the Forums

Fee Fight Fo Funds

Discount brokerages aren’t the only financial players locked in a heated price war.  ETF providers north and south of the border are also battling one another on fees much to the delight of DIY investor portfolios everywhere.  This past week one of the big stories for do-it-yourselfers was ETF provider Vanguard lowering their fees on many of their already low commission ETFs.   Forums were abuzz and we’ve compiled the threads here for easy reading:

  1. Canadian Money Forum – “Vanguard Canada lowers fees on 11 ETFs
  2. Financial Wisdom Forum – “Vanguard Canada Cutting Fees
  3. Reddit Canadian Personal Finance – “Vanguard Canada cuts ETF fees across the board
  4. RedFlagDeals’ Investing Forum – “Vanguard drops fees on 11 of its Canadian ETFs

Extra Stuffing

Who doesn’t like a great deal? Although this thread didn’t get much attention, it did contain an interesting comparison between the promotions currently underway at CIBC Investor’s Edge and Scotia iTrade. Readers get an extra nugget of information about forex conversions that is likely to get some folks grinning wider.

That does it for this week’s roundup.  Don’t “fur”get that Canadian markets will be closed on Monday for the holiday weekend. Hopefully the only trading this weekend will be great stories, fantasy sports picks and great recipes.  Have a safe and enjoyable weekend!



Posted on

Special Series: An In-Depth Look at the 2014 J.D. Power Canadian Discount Brokerage Rankings – Part 1

This year’s J.D. Power & Associates’ Canadian discount brokerage rankings were recently announced. As with years past, the rankings and the underlying survey they’re based on, provided a unique window into the collective voice of Canadian self-directed investors and their perceptions of Canada’s online discount brokerages.

In the first of our multi-part special series on this year’s discount brokerage rankings, we take a look at the survey that produces the rankings, including how it measures investor satisfaction as well as some of the unique features of this year’s survey and results.

The next part of our series will drill down into the actual performance of Canada’s brokerages on this year’s ranking and what these results mean for the online brokerages as a whole as well as self-directed investors.

A Quick Recap of the 2014 Canadian Discount Brokerage Rankings

When it comes to the various Canadian discount brokerage rankings, the J.D. Power & Associates evaluation occupies a special niche. Unlike other rankings that focus on direct evaluation of features, the J.D. Power ranking of Canadian brokerages is unique because its is the based on the systematic organization of opinions, experiences and perceptions of discount brokerage clients – what they call the “voice of the customer”.

Between mid-May and mid-June of this year, the Investor Satisfaction Survey polled just over 2500 clients from a number of Canadian discount brokerages to find out just how satisfied (or dissatisfied) these investors were with their current online brokerage. In total, 7 Canadian discount brokerages ended up having sufficient data to participate in the rankings (compared to 11 last year), with an average investor satisfaction score of 736 (compared to an average of 724 last year).

The firms covered in this year’s ranking (along with their overall investor satisfaction score) are shown in the chart below.

J.D. Power & Associates Canadian Discount Brokerage Rankings 2014
While numbers help to make the assessment and ranking easier, the process behind how these numbers are generated is actually fairly complex.   (For those who want a more detailed explanation of the survey and scoring system, click to read our overview on the J.D. Power Investor Satisfaction Survey here)

It is useful, however, to get a quick sense of how these numbers are derived to better understand what they mean.

Posted on Leave a comment

Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 3, 2014

Leaves and temperatures aren’t the only things falling this time of year.  Apparently markets and commissions at Canada’s discount brokerages are dropping too.  Even though we’re barely into the fall and have just crossed into October, the battle for discount brokerage supremacy is back in full swing after a late summer lull.

For this week’s roundup we’ve raked in some of the most colourful stories starting with a big price drop from a bank-owned brokerage, a long awaited feature launch, a selection of hearty DIY investor-themed stories and interesting stats on retail investor trading activity from a US brokerage.  To close-out the roundup we’ll take a look at what investors were saying in the Canadian financial forums.

If a Commission Price Falls in the Woods…

It most certainly does make a sound.  This past week we reported that one of Canada’s bank-owned online brokerages, CIBC Investor’s Edge, may be lowering their standard commission rate to $6.95 for all clients regardless of trading volume or account size.  While the timing of the move is likely to come in the near future, internal sources suggest it could be announced as early as Monday.

Despite a price drop by RBC Direct Investing to kick-off the year, the latest price drop by CIBC Investor’s Edge takes the competition among discount brokerages to a whole new level.  By substantially beating the current standard commission prices (which are now just under $10 per trade) at most of their bank-owned peers (and some independent brokerages), Investor’s Edge is pushing the other brokerages to go all in on the pricing or step up substantially on service and platforms to justify the cost differential.

Coming this Fall

Even though there have been many dates thrown around for the launch of the long awaited US dollar registered accounts to be implemented at online brokerage giant TD Direct Investing, it appears that the date has finally been narrowed down to several weeks from now (possibly by the end of November).

Early reaction from DIY investors is a mixture of excitement and skepticism. Should it turn out to be “different this time” brokerages that have heavily advertised the USD registered accounts as a selling point (such as Questrade and Virtual Brokers) will have to go back to the drawing board to sway investors from the allure of bank-affiliated convenience and now lower fees.


This past week also saw several articles of interest to the DIY investor crowd come from the Globe and Mail.  The first was an excellent article by Rob Carrick on the tenuous connection between providing financial advice and the selling of financial products.  Carrick does a great job of articulating the challenges of navigating the financial advice landscape and how investors need to be both cautious and skeptical when seeking out financial counsel from an “advisor”.

In keeping with the advice theme, another article from the Globe and Mail on the use of social media, Facebook specifically, for investment advice could be risky for consumers as well as for providers.  We’ve taken a look at social media and investing information previously, however the conclusion is always largely the same: always be careful when taking investment advice from the internet.

Finally, the price war between brokerages also got a bit coverage on the heels of the Qtrade price drop last week.  In this article (available to Globe subscribers only), Qtrade’s CEO Scott Gibner provides a bit of context behind their latest move to try and get ahead of the big banks. Of course as CIBC Investor’s Edge may soon show, Qtrade’s wager may need some recalibration.

The Starter Menu

Starting a new month means that we reset the game clock on the deals activity across the Canadian discount brokerage landscape.  Coming into October the deals and promotions were relatively stable with Questrade shuffling a few deals out the door and bringing other in their place. One notable new entrant into the deals section was Credential Direct who is bringing back their ‘risk-free trial’ offer where they’ll cover the transfer fees (up to $150) for clients who want to switch over.  After 90 days if clients are not satisfied with the move, Credential Direct will waive their exit fee ($125).   Given their recent pricing drop, and that of their regional neighbour Qtrade, it should be interesting to see what other promotions start to emerge as Canada’s online brokerages try to get creative in attracting in new clientele.

Cashing In

Once again Interactive Brokers’ trading figures have been released and they show they’re grinding higher across a number of performance metrics.  Notably, they saw a substantial increase in the number of Daily Average Revenue Trades (DARTs) of 21% (year over year) and 17% (month over month). Trading tends to pick up with market volatility so the spike may be reflective of greater uncertainty with stocks.

Also of interest, the average commission per equity trade of $2.27 and order size of just under 2000 shares.  While not a straight apples-to-apples comparison, looking at the fact that earnings and account growth are positive at Interactive Brokers while commission pricing is very low makes a case for commission pricing continuing to fall here in Canada.

From the Forums

There was quite a bit of discount brokerage related commentary this past week across the Canadian investor forums.  Here is a sampler of some of the interesting posts that we saw pop up in several spots covering the same/similar topics.

TD Direct Investing Launching US Dollar Registered Accounts

This was definitely a big story given the size of TD’s market share of the discount brokerage market.  Here’s a list of several forum threads and the buzz already forming:

CIBC Investor’s Edge Lowering Commission Pricing

Reactions on the Canadian personal finance reddit page as well as the investing thread of Red Flag Deals were generally positive (who doesn’t like to save money?) to the news of a lowered standard commission fee.

Qtrade Lowering Standard Commission Fees

There were a couple of forums that this announcement stirred up.  A particularly insightful thread on the financial wisdom forum is worth a look to see how seasoned investors’ view the latest move by this brokerage.  (There was also a reddit post here)

Phew. That does it for this week’s roundup.  While the week ended on a less flashy note than a George Clooney wedding, a busy week and a weekend always make for a perfect couple – too bad that romance doesn’t last longer. Fantasy sports fans good luck in your hockey drafts, and for non-fantasy sports players, find a way to make this a stunning weekend!

Posted on

Discount Brokerage Deals and Promotions – October 2014

*Updated October 9, 2014*

Savvy traders understand that there’s always a bull market somewhere.  Even though the recent pull back in the major stock markets and indices suggests investors may be cooling off, Canadian discount brokerages have a different idea, especially when it comes to promotions.

We began last month with a brief lull in the number of offers pitching 50 or more free trades.  Halfway through September, however, that changed dramatically when Scotia iTrade launched one of its largest offers to date: 500 commission-free trades (or $500 cash back) for deposits of $500,000 or more.   This was a unique offer (which we detailed in an article here), because it signaled a decisive shift by Scotia iTrade to get the attention and assets of investors with substantial portfolios.

The deals on the calendar at the start of the month arrived in late September and look to be around until at least the end of the current month if not longer.  A noteworthy transfer deal also showed up from Credential Direct, a sign that they too may be stepping up their efforts at competing with other Canadian brokerages.

Expired Deals

The end of September saw 2 deals from Questrade expire: their Cash Back Promo and RESP Offer.

Extended Deals

The deal that got extended this past month was Questrade’s 100 free trade offer with a new deadline of October 30th.

New Deals

*Update Oct. 9, 2014: The deals are heating and this time one of Canada’s largest discount brokerages, TD Direct Investing, has been spotted promoting a commission-free trade offer. For individuals depositing at least $50,000, the full offer includes up to 200 commission-free trades (maximum rebate of $2,000),  a rebate for their advanced dashboard premium streaming package (maximum rebate of $87) and for those who transfer funds in, coverage for up to $150 of transfer fees. The trades must be placed within 60 days of the account opening in order to be considered eligible for the rebate.  Also, global equity trades are not eligible as part of this offer.

*Update Oct. 6, 2014: As part of their big price drop announcement, CIBC Investor’s Edge has also dropped a major deal into play with their newest offer that combines free trades AND a cash back component too.  Unlike many of the deals we’ve seen before, this is a fairly aggressive offering which certainly got our attention and will likely do the same for consumers and other brokerages.  For starters, a deposit of $25,000 in assets qualifies an individual for $100 cash back and 25 free trades; a deposit of $50,000 – $99,999 qualifies for $200 cash back and 50 free trades; and deposits of $100,000+ qualify for $300 cash back and 100 free trades. Given the different tiers for this offer, CIBC Investor’s Edge is coming out swinging at the other discount brokerages big and small and so we expect some kind of interesting responses to come up in short order.

As was the case last month, this month isn’t starting with any new deals announced as of the beginning of the month.  Midway through September, however, a number of deals did appear.  One of the deals we’ve mentioned already was the Scotia iTrade ‘500 commission-free trade’ offer, however there was also the infamous iPad Mini offer from Questrade which is back again and a transfer fee offer from Credential Direct that showed up.  Specifically, Credential Direct is offering a transfer fee promo where individuals can have the transfer fee rebated if they switch to Credential Direct from another broker (with at least $15,000) and Credential Direct will waive the fee in case that clients wants to ‘switch out’. This offer is something we’ve seen before from Credential Direct however coupled with their recent commission price drop, there is a good possibility that we may see more from them in terms of promotions this upcoming year.

As always we appreciate hearing about and sharing deals that we may have missed.  As a general guideline, deals that we can include directly on our listing have to be open to all potential clients but users may post links to offers in the comments section that might apply to certain readers

Discount Brokerage Deals

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Commission/Cash Offer Type Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Details Link Deadline
Jitney Trade A Sparx Trading exclusive offer! Use the promo code “Sparx Trading” when signing up for a new account with Jitney and receive access to their preferred pricing package and a massive 45% discount on the Real Tick trading platform. n/a Discounted Commission Rates none For more details click here none
BMO InvestorLine For individuals between 18 and 35 who open a new qualifying account with BMO Investorline, they may be eligible to receive 35 commission-free trades, an eBook on investing and potentially waived account minimum fees. Use promo code “New” when signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. n/a 35 commission-free trades 90 days Youth Promotion October 31, 2014
Open a new account (TFSA, Margin or RRSP) and receive $50 commission credit . Use promo code: kdkfnbbc $1,000 $50 commission credit none none none
Refer a friend to Questrade and when they open an account you receive $100 and they receive $50. To receive this deal you must be an existing client with an equity account and refer a person that does not reside with you and who has not previously opened a Questrade account. $1,000 $50 commission credit (friend) $100 commission credit (referrer bonus) 60 days Refer a friend none
Open a new account (TFSA, Margin or RRSP) by October 30 2014 A) $1000 or B) $10,000 to receive either A) 10 commission-free trades or B)100 commission-free trades. The promo code 100LOWCOM14F must be used at time of account opening. There are many conditions attached to this offer so be sure to read the details link for more information. A)$1,000 B)$10,000 A)10 free trades B)100 free trades 60 days 100 commission-free trades October 30, 2014
Scotia iTrade If you refer a friend/family member who is not already a Scotia iTrade account holder to them, both you and your friend get a bonus of either cash or free trades. You have to use the referral form to pass along your info as well as your friend/family members’ contact info in order to qualify. There are lots of details/conditions to this deal so be sure to read the details link. A)$10,000 B)$50,000+ A) You(referrer): $50 or 10 free trades; Your “Friend”: $50 or 10 free trades (max total value:$99.90) B) You(referrer): $100 cash or 50 free trades; Your “Friend”: $100 cash or 50 free trades (max total value: $499.50) 60 days Refer A Friend to Scotia iTrade October 31, 2014
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new Scotia iTRADE account with at least $15,000 before June 30, 2014 and the commissions associated with your first 100 trades placed within 60 days of the date the account is activated and funded are free. Also, the new FlightDesk platform is being offered for free for 60 days. Use promo code HUN-SP. See details link for further terms and conditions. $15,000 100 commission-free trades ($999 value @ $9.99 commission rate) 60 days Scotia iTrade 100 free trades + FlightDesk December 31, 2014
Scotia iTrade Open a new account with Scotia iTrade with either A) $15,000 – $99,999 B) $100,000 – $499,999 or C) $500,000+ and you may be eligible to receive either A)100 free trades or $50 cash B)250 free trades or $250 or C)500 free trades or $500 cash. Accounts must be opened prior to December 31st, 2014. New clients use code: FATD14E for free trades and code: MONF14 for cash back. Existing clients must call client service (1-888-769-3723) to qualify. Be sure to read terms and conditions regarding minimum balance requirements and other details. A)$15,000 – $99,999 B)$100,000 – $499,999 C)$500,000+ A) 100 commission-free trades or $50 cash B) 250 commission-free trades or $250 cash C) 500 commission-free trades or $500 cash For commission-free trades: 180 day limit For cash back: payout occurs by August 31, 2015 Cash back + Free trade offer December 31, 2014
Open a new account or fund an existing account at CIBC Investor’s Edge with at least A)$25,000-$49,999 B)$50,000 – $99,999 or C)$100,000+ and you may be eligible to receive A)$100 cash back and 25 free trades; B)$200 cash back and 50 trades or C)$300 cash back and 100 free trades. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for full details on this offer. A) $25,000 – $49,999 B) $50,000 – $99,999 C) $100,00+ A) $100 cash back + 25 commission-free trades B) $200 cash back + 50 commission-free trades C) $300 cash back + 100 commission-free trades Cash back payout occurs within 30 days of account funding; Time limit to use commission free trades is 60 days Investors Edge Cash Back and Free Equity Trades Offer February 28, 2015
Open and fund a new account with at least $50,000 at TD Direct Investing and you may be eligible to receive up to 200 commission-free trades plus 60 days of free use of the premium data for the advanced dashboard. Trades must be completed within 60 days. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for full details on this offer. $50,000 200 commission-free trades (or $2,000 of commission rebates – whichever comes first); Advanced dashboard premium data rebate ($87) 60 days to use trades (rebate may be paid by May 30, 2015) Commission-free Trade Offer November 21, 2014
Disnat Disnat is offering new & existing clients $300 in commission credits which can be used for up to 6 months. To be eligible, new/existing clients need to deposit $50,000 into a Disnat account. You’ll have to call 1 800 268-8471 and mention promo code Disnat300. See details link for more info. $50,000 $300 commission credit 6 months Disnat $300 Commission Credit Promo December 31, 2014
BMO InvestorLine If you refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with a)$50,000 – $249,999 or b)$250,000+ the referrer and the referee will both receive cash. The new account must be opened with the referral code specific to the referrer. A) $50,000 – $249,000 B) $250,000+ A) You(referrer): $200; Your Friend(referee): $50 B) You(referrer): $300; Your Friend: $100 Payout occurs after 60 days (subject to conditions). Refer A Friend Terms & Conditions October 31, 2014
Open and fund a new account with at least $100,000 at Questrade and execute at least one commissionable trade and you may be eligible to receive an iPad Mini. Use promo code IPADMINI14F. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. $100,000 iPad mini (Wi-Fi only, 16 GB) iPad mini will be ordered within 30 days of eligibility criteria being met. Questrade iPad Mini Promo November 30, 2014
BMO InvestorLine Open and fund a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with at least $100,000 in net new assets and you may be eligible to receive $250 cash back and a rebate of commissions on up to 25 trades made within 50 days of opening the account. Use the promo code SMILE when signing up for the account. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for eligibility and further details. $100,000 $250 cash back + 50 commission-free trades (rebated) 50 days (payout for cash back and commission rebate occurs after 6 months) Smile Promotion November 2, 2014

Transfer Fee Deals

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Transfer $15,000 or more to Credential Direct and they will pay the transfer-out fees up to $150. If you wish to switch out of Credential Direct after 90 days they will waive their transfer out fee. See link for more details. $150 $15,000 Transfer Free Promo December 15, 2014
Transfer $15,000 or more to RBC Direct Investing and they will pay up to $135 in transfer fees $135 $15,000 Transfer Fee Rebate Details none
Move your brokerage account to Questrade and they’ll cover the transfer-out fee up to $150. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee Promo none
Transfer $25,000 or more to a National Bank Direct Brokerage account and they will pay up to $135 plus taxes in transfer fees $135 $25,000 Transfer Fee Rebate none
Qtrade Investor Qtrade Investor will reimburse your transfer fee up to $125 when transferring a balance of $25,000 or more. For reimbursement, please mail or fax a copy of your statement from the transferring institution that shows the transfer charge to Qtrade Investor at 604.484.2627 and indicate your Qtrade Investor account number. $125 $25,000 Transfer Fee Promo none
Disnat Disnat is offering up to $150 to cover the cost of transfer fees from another institution. To be eligible, new/existing clients need to deposit $50,000 into a Disnat account. You’ll have to call 1 800 268-8471 and mention promo code Disnat300. See details link for more info. $150 $50,000 Disnat $300 Commission Credit Promo December 31, 2014
Transfer $50,000 or more to TD Direct Investing from another brokerage and you may be eligible to receive up to $150 in transfer fee rebates. $150 $50,000 Commission-free Trade Offer November 21, 2014
Posted on Leave a comment

Breaking News: CIBC Investor’s Edge poised to rock the market with $6.95 standard commissions

The online brokerage battle is boldly going where many thought it might – into a full-on price war. has learned from sources within CIBC Investor’s Edge that they’re planning to slash their trading commission rate to $6.95 for all clients. The pricing change could be officially announced as early as Monday.

What we’ve learned so far is their best commission rate of $6.95, which is currently only available to clients with $100,000 or more in assets, will soon be made available to everyone, regardless of account balance or trading frequency.  We don’t yet have details on how other fees may change as a result.

This latest move by a Canadian online brokerage comes on the heels of Qtrade’s announcement last week that they are lowering their standard commission price to $8.95 and more than 9 months since RBC Direct Investing made waves by lowering their standard trading commission price to $9.95.

CIBC Investor’s Edge, along with Scotia iTrade, have been the last of Canada’s big bank-owned brokerages to go sub-$10 on their standard commission prices.

Set Pricing to Stun

At the sub-$7 price point CIBC Investor’s Edge is muscling in on the prized territories of Canadian online brokerages big and small.

For the big bank-owned brokerages, commissions of $7 or thereabouts are only typically offered to only to their most valuable trading clients (those who typically trade 30-150+ times per quarter or who have larger portfolio sizes).

Independent discount brokerages, such as Questrade and Virtual Brokers also seem to have their work cut out for them. At $6.95 flat per trade, CIBC Investor’s Edge commission rates now rival, if not beat, certain rates offered by these ‘lower commission’ providers, especially when ECN fees are factored in.

While CIBC Investor’s Edge still has a lot of ground to make up with respect to its website and platform, the giant has certainly been stirred. Whatever they were planning to do to get back into the online brokerage race had to be big and had to be bold. Lowering their standard commission pricing to $6.95 definitely qualifies.

Well Played, Investor’s Edge

In addition to the waves they’re bound to make with pricing, the timing of this move is also significant.

On the eve of the Globe and Mail online brokerage rankings, this latest pricing drop may just be big enough to steal some of the spotlight away from whichever brokerage (bank-owned or independent) wins the coveted title of ‘best online brokerage’. This pricing move signals to the other Canadian online brokerages that they’re going to have a much tougher time living long or prospering, so long as CIBC Investor’s Edge is in the race.