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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 28, 2014

Whether it was landing a great Black Friday deal, or a managing to catch a seemingly impossible pass, this past week has been book-ended by really interesting catches and stuffed with goodies. Discount brokerages this week kept pace with the great catch theme as they hauled in awards and recognition as part of online brokerage ratings season.

In this week’s roundup, we go deep on the rankings and ratings that crossed the tape for DIY investors. Specifically we look at the results from the Globe and Mail’s Online Brokerage Ranking as well as the award for best online brokerage from Morningstar. While ratings were definitely a dominant story, there was also an announcement made by an independent Canadian online brokerage that can help a select few rest a little easier at night. Given the focus of the roundup on ratings and rankings, we’ve elected to add in commentary on the brokerage rankings from the forums and Twitter.

Qtrade Back on Top of Globe’s Online Brokerage Rankings

As one of the most highly anticipated rankings of the year, the Globe and Mail’s 2014 Canadian Online Brokerage Rankings did not disappoint. This year’s results contained a bit of drama, a lot of data and even some interesting decisions.

Of course, when it comes to the discount brokerage rankings the burning question that everyone asks is: “who is Canada’s best online brokerage?”

According to Rob Carrick’s analysis, the best of the bunch is a long time podium finisher and previously dominant name in this ranking: Qtrade Financial.

The drama (or at least what may count as drama in the discount brokerage world) was the close finish between the winner for the previous two years, Virtual Brokers, and first place winner Qtrade as the margin separating the two was quite small. Rounding out the top three was BMO InvestorLine.

As with year’s past, cost was a significant contributor to the scoring of the brokerages covered, however it seems that given the widespread cutting of standard commissions, additional costs are being considered as well as broader features related to opening and owning an online brokerage account.

There was lots to chew on in this year’s rankings (which we cover in an upcoming in-depth look at the rankings) however there were a number of interesting observations we had of this year’s online brokerage rankings.

First, there was lots of data this year that hasn’t previously been available or has been put into the brokerage rankings. There were many more tables (which we’re big fans of) that explained other items like forex costs and margin interest rates. In addition, Rob Carrick also released the completed surveys by each brokerage for users of GlobeInvestor to examine. Finally, there was a ‘decision path’ that was created to help users navigate the maze of questions and features that can help determine a provider.

It was encouraging to see the ratings and rankings to go beyond just the report card style grading of discount brokerages and to enable users to sort by key category. There was clearly a lot of work and data that went into the grading decisions and the presentation this year.  In particular, the decision pathway that, while complex, may enable some users to navigate the evaluation process more efficiently.

That said, it is important to take the rankings with a grain of salt.

The online brokerage rankings and ratings were coming largely from a single (albeit) informed source and as such carry a very subjective element. Another item to keep in mind is that these rankings take a snapshot and grade based on a particular moment in time. The Canadian discount brokerage industry is rapidly evolving and features that might be missing today in a particular brokerage could get addressed between now and the next rankings. Finally, there will likely be a lot of related marketing emerging from the various brokerages based on the results, so it is important to understand how the Globe and Mail online brokerage rankings work. We’ve put together a primer from year’s past which is still largely applicable to this past year.

BMO InvestorLine wins Morningstar Investment Award

This past week there was another group that bestowed the title of “Best Online Brokerage” to a Canadian discount brokerage.

The annual Morningstar Investment Awards took place this past week in downtown Toronto which is where BMO InvestorLine was crowned Canada’s Best Online Brokerage.

As the award may not be as well known as some of the other online brokerage rankings/ratings, here is a quick primer.

In terms of process and selection, the best online brokerage award is designated as a “submission-based” award. What this means is that individual Canadian discount brokerages essentially self-select for participation/evaluation by paying a $1,000 submission fee and preparing answers to a list of questions about their firm. Proceeds from the submission fees collected go to MusicCounts, the charitable foundation partner of the Morningstar event.

For the online brokerage segment, the key questions were grouped under three main categories:

  1. The website
  2. Customer service
  3. Costs

As part of their submission, brokerages were asked to mention how their firm was different than other firms, what the firm has done over the past one to two years and to discuss any strategic area of focus.

A panel of jurors ( in the case this year there were three jurors) evaluates the submissions and establishes three finalists. They then discuss/deliberate the three finalists and ultimately choose a winner who then gets the award.

One of the reasons the process is key to understand is that, unlike other rankings or ratings, the evaluations are not scored or weighted using a point system. Instead the winner of the top online brokerage award comes down to the decision of the jurors. The jurors for ‘best discount brokerage’ this year included:

  • Glenn A. Lacoste, President, Surviscor
  • Jon Purther, President & COO, Corbin Partners Inc.
  • Paul K. Bates, CMA, FCMA, Assistant Professor of Leadership, McMaster Divinity College

Interesting Connections

While the Morningstar award may not be as well known on the rankings circuit as the other online brokerage rankings that are currently available, there is a connection between them and several other Canadian brokerage rankings. Specifically, one of the award judges was Glenn Lacoste, president of Surviscor, produces the Surviscor ‘best online brokerage’ rating as well as helps  Moneysense Magazine to power their online brokerage ratings. This, naturally spurred a bit of curiosity as to whether there would be a connection in the results of the awards from Surviscor and Morningstar.

When looking back at the results over the past 3 years in particular between the Surviscor winners for Best Online Brokerage and the winners for Best Discount/Online Brokerage on Morningstar, we noted that the winner of the Surviscor designation (or at least one of the winners depending on the quarter) had a strong tendency to win the Morningstar designation also.

Year Juror 1 Juror 2 Juror 3 Juror 4 Surviscor Best Online Brokerage Award Winner Morningstar Best Online Brokerage Award Winner
Source: #colspan# #colspan#

Given the similarity of focus between the criteria for the Surviscor award as well as for the Morningstar best online brokerage award, it is understandable that there would likely be some degree of concordance between the two in terms of outcomes. What is interesting, however, is that because the Morningstar awards are submission-based, not all brokerages may choose to participate. Morningstar does not publish or release the list of submissions so it is unclear as to how many brokerages actually submitted to participate this year.

The important takeaway for consumers with respect to the rankings and ratings or awards, is that it is important to put the method of evaluation into context. With both the Globe and Mail’s “best online brokerage” and Morningstar’s “best online brokerage” yielding differing results, things can get understandably confusing.

With several firms (including JD Power and Dalbar) also participating in the rankings and ratings of Canadian discount brokerages there will be no shortage of “bests” or “tops” still to come. The process and transparency by which these designations are awarded, however, will ultimately govern the extent to which DIY investors turn to these awards and more importantly, trust them.

Just in Case

Switching gears away from ratings, ravings, and rankings, there was a new feature addition that Virtual Brokers announced earlier this week. Specifically they have added additional coverage on portfolios over and above what the CIPF currently offers (which is $1 million) to the tune of $11 million. As such clients with portfolios up to $11 million can have supplemental insurance coverage of their accounts. The insurance is being provided by Lloyds of London.

From the Forums

Reactions to the rankings and ratings were minimal in the forums. We did find this post related to features referenced from TD Direct Investing as mentioned in the Globe and Mail brokerage ranking.

We’ve also included some reactions from Twitter that map onto the frenzy of ratings/rankings that have taken place over the last few days.

That’s a wrap for this week. For the deal hunters out there, keep your heads up and have a great cyber shopping weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 21, 2014

What do shows like Big Bang Theory, Dancing with the Stars and Sons of Anarchy have to do with Canadian Discount Brokerages? Well, if you guessed fall ratings then Bazinga!

Finding the right metric to judge the ‘best TV show’ is easier in some respects than finding the “best online brokerage”. As we move into the unofficial ratings season for the brokerages, however, prepare for all kinds of plot twists.

In this week’s roundup, we take a look some of those twists, first by reviewing the latest online brokerage rankings to be published. Next we take a look at the interesting news coming out of the wealth management space with a major move by one online brokerage stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire. Finally we take a quick tour through the investor education events being held in late November and close out with a couple of interesting brokerage-focused forum discussions.

Best Online Brokerage Rankings Kick-Off

For consumers, when evaluating who Canada’s best online brokerage is, it is essential to understand the ranking system used. As we’ve highlighted in the past, there are several rankings and ratings that each measure and define “best online brokerage” or some variation of “best” (like “top” or “#1”) in many different ways.

Surviscor 2014 Rankings of Canadian Online Brokerages

This past week, financial services ratings firm Surviscor released their latest edition of rankings of Canadian online brokerages. BMO InvestorLine ranked the highest according to the Surviscor criteria (earning a score of “90%”), followed by Scotia iTrade (“84%”) and then Credential Direct (77%). As we’ve done with other rankings and ratings of Canadian online brokerages, we drilled down into the the scores and stats for a better picture on what these results tell us.

One of the first things that jumped out was how everyone else did in the rankings. The average score of the group was 68% with the standard deviation coming in at just under 16%. What does all that math mean (no pun intended)?

The rankings for the whole field show there are many companies clustering around the average score. We interpret this to mean that most of these companies are pretty close to one another except for some very clear outliers (to the downside): Laurentian Bank’s discount brokerage and HSBC InvestDirect (which interestingly placed near the top in Dalbar’s rating for client service but near the bottom when evaluated by Surviscor).

When we dropped these two firms from the rankings, the distance between first and last narrowed substantially and the differences between the online brokerages became even less numerically significant. For example, the difference between 3rd place and 8th was a difference of 7%.

With a race this close, small changes in features, especially those that impact the heavily weighted categories within this evaluation could have an outsized effect. For example, account services, cost of services and getting started are collectively responsible for 60% of a firm’s result.

Also, with changes happening constantly taking a snapshot of who the “best” online brokerage is (or was) as of a certain point in time of the year doesn’t necessarily hold true several months down the road.

So, while BMO InvestorLine did score well in this analysis, their victory may be short lived. There are already changes within their own firm as well as with their competitors that could disrupt those results at any moment.

Handling Change

While they were alluding to something big last week via social media, this past week Questrade officially launched their new wealth management division and reconfigured their website in the process.

Questrade has officially added managed wealth into their service mix, and in doing so, has definitely got the attention of brokerages big and small.

There are many angles to this recent announcement that can’t be squeezed into the roundup – so stay tuned for more perspective on Questrade’s recent move. One that stands out is that Questrade has been incredibly busy pulling together information for this launch, which has seen them go on an all out social media blitz on YouTube, Twitter and Reddit.

So, even though the headline here is definitely the shift into a new service line, one of the more curious aspects is their marketing and communications.

Questrade has assembled a lot of videos and content related to their products and services, as well as positioned themselves across many online (and traditional) channels. The scale of this effort is something that even the larger bank-owned brokerages are having trouble contending with.

What this means for online brokerage consumers is that they will likely be seeing Questrade in more places than ever before. The challenge, however, is going to be establishing and communicating what Questrade should now be known for as the shift away from being known for DIY investing exclusively has pitted them against an even wider field of competitors.

Event Horizon

November closes with an flurry of educational events. Enjoy.

Nov 25. (Tue) NBDB – Introduction to technical analysis: Trends – [Fr]

Nov 25. (Tue) Scotia iTrade – Leveraged and Inverse ETFs with Horizons ETFs

Nov 25. (Tue) NBDB – Technical analysis – [Fr]

Nov. 26 (Wed) NBDB – Day Trading – [Fr]

Nov. 26 (Wed) Scotia iTrade – Introduction to Canadian ETFs and ETF Options with Montreal Exchange (online)

Nov. 26 (Wed) TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fundamental Analysis

Nov. 26 (Wed) Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Trading ETFs with Desjardins Online Brokerage

Nov. 26 (Wed) TD Direct Investing – Options as an Income Strategy

Nov. 26 (Wed) TD Direct Investing – Do-It-Yourself Investing for Women

Nov. 27 (Thur) NBDB – Introduction to technical analysis: Supports and resistances – [Fr]

From the Forums

 On Cue

Although this is not one of the most popular comparisons, it was worth mentioning for two reasons. First, it’s an example of brokerages being compared head to head but also of where one brokerage is prepared to venture into so that they can reach those interested in their brand.  Check out this post for an interesting comparison of Questrade vs Qtrade and the comments (and commentators) on each.

Calculated Move

So, it seems like everyone is talking about Robo-advisors.  And, as they start to make their presence felt here in Canada, this post from the reddit personal finance Canada thread showcases one attempt to start comparing them.  Again, it looks like Questrade is all over this Reddit section with their newly released portfolio IQ figures in hand.

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup.  It’s been an exciting week all around and for those who’ve made it this far, here’s a little treat from 30 Rock’s Tracy Jordan on how to handle this (and every) week ahead.  Have a great weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 14, 2014

This week has been one of milestones, or as we might say here in Canada, kilometer-stones. Perhaps the biggest stone of all with all of the kilometers or miles behind it was the first ever landing of a probe on a comet hundreds of millions of kilometers away.

Back here on Earth, investors this week apparently also had stars in their eyes. The big news from the US was markets touching new all-time highs, however even a Canadian marketplace, the Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) crossed the 2 billion shares traded mark within a year; the first time that securities exchange has done so.

Not to be outdone, Canadian discount brokerages also had some technical achievements to marvel and tweet over.

In this week’s roundup we take a look at a new trading platform being launched into the mix by a bank-owned brokerage. Next we look at a marathon effort on social media from another brokerage that has earned them a bit of distinction from their online peers. On the home stretch will be a quick highlight of an article focusing on the power of communal advice. Finally we’ll showcase upcoming investor education events and close out with some investor banter from the forums.

BMO InvestorLine’s New Trading Platform: BMO Market Pro

BMO InvestorLine quietly rolled out their newest platform offering this past week – BMO Market Pro. After months in development it was interesting to see the soft-launch take place for this platform.

So, why a fancy trading platform?  

In a bid to compete with their bank-owned direct brokerage peers, BMO InvestorLine is throwing a more sophisticated order entry interface into their mix to attract and appeal to clients who want the bells and whistles. More importantly, they don’t want their clients who want those features to be wandering elsewhere to get them.

While public details on the platform are few, here are some early details. BMO Market Pro will include real-time data and analysis and also streaming charts with technical analysis studies. For individuals trading 30 times or more in a quarter (i.e. spending about ~$100/month on average in commission costs) or who maintain a balance of at least $500,000 the data fees for this platform are waived.

The trading platform is a very interesting battleground that we mentioned this past summer and with BMO Market Pro, it enables BMO InvestorLine to better compete against a similarly featured Scotia iTrade platform as well as some of the smaller players who rely on platforms as a key selling feature.

If history is any precedent, however, we anticipate a much larger splash to be right around the corner. Hopefully, however, the team at BMO InvestorLine can take a cue from US online brokerage Tradestation’s commercials from a few years ago (see the end of this week’s roundup for the video).

One Small Tweet for Brokerage-Kind

#Props must be given to the social media team at Questrade. Unlike several of their peers on Twitter, Questrade has been quite persistent in their efforts to be visible and relevant on social media.

Although we don’t typically report it, it is something we monitor. And, the reason that we mention it here is that they’ve done something that is worth commenting on out loud. Images from Questrade’s twitter feed are showing a lead up to a ‘special announcement’ on Nov. 17th.

The lead up itself is noteworthy as it takes the combination of personality and medium in an interesting direction. Equally interesting is that this announcement could be in line with earlier hints from Questrade’s CEO and posts on the Questrade blog as well as a lot of hype about advisors (and robo-advisors) of late.

What does it all mean?

While just speculation at this point, the addition of a wealth management arm does imply that this could be another area that Questrade is hoping to capitalize on while the interest level in this space continues to heat up. And, they wouldn’t be the first discount brokerage to make such a move.

For some context, the largest brokerage in the US Charles Schwab just announced that they would no longer be reporting monthly trading stats (boo) but as far as optics and brand identity go, they are looking to shift the perception of their business away from discount brokerage and towards wealth management (and full service). They also recently rolled-out robo-advisors in a big way.

The fact that we’re talking about it may be proof enough, however the fact that Questrade has teamed up with a popular Twitter personality means that they may have a little social media comet dust of their own with this next announcement and business direction.

More Than Just Cat Videos

Reddit brands itself as the ‘front page of the internet’ however there is definitely a sense of being an information frontier.

In a special piece we published this past week, we take a look at the growing influence of a popular Reddit thread, Personal Finance Canada (PFC). We also had the opportunity to interview one of the forum’s moderators to get a unique perspective on what draws people into the community space and what motivates the people who run it to keep going. Click here to read the full article.

Event Horizon

There’s lots going on with investor education related events this week, including the Desjardins Online Brokerage Stockscores tour.  Ready, Set, Scroll.

Nov 15. (Mon) Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Coast to Coast Stockscores Tour – Edmonton

Nov 17. (Mon) Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Coast to Coast Stockscores Tour – Calgary

Nov 17. (Mon) Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Coast to Coast Stockscores Tour – Calgary

Nov 18. (Tue) Scotia iTrade – Day Trading with Pro Market Advisors

Nov 18. (Tue) TD Direct Investing – Minimum Volatility Investing

Nov 18. (Tue) TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Technical Analysis

Nov 18. (Tue) NBDB – Managing risk while investing in stock

Nov 18. (Tue) Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Coast to Coast Stockscores Tour – Calgary

Nov 19. (Wed) NBDB – Mastering Technical Analysis for Trading Success – [Fr]

Nov 19. (Wed) TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fundamental Analysis

Nov 19. (Wed) Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Coast to Coast Stockscores Tour – Burnaby

Nov 19. (Wed) NBDB – Find trading opportunities using technical analysis

Nov 19. (Wed) Scotia iTrade – Getting Started With ETFs with iShares

Nov 19. (Wed) TD Direct Investing – Investing in a context of rising interest rates – [Fr]

 Nov 19. (Wed) Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Coast to Coast Stockscores Tour – Burnaby

Nov 20. (Thur) NBDB – Take advantage of margin accounts – [Fr]

Nov 20. (Thur) TD Direct Investing – Unlocking the Value of your Locked-In RSP

Nov 20. (Thur) Scotia iTrade – Charts and Patterns 101 with AJ Monte

Nov 20. (Thur) Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Coast to Coast Stockscores Tour – Surrey

From the Forums


This past week in the investor forums was noticeably quieter. That said, here was one particular thread that points to an investor who is opening their first TFSA and decided to ask the community of investors on Reddit for some advice. Click to see what the readers offered up.

Anonymous  Advice

As an add-on to our special on the personal finance Canada thread on reddit, this post on the forum captured the reactions and conversation that surrounded the topic of taking the advice of strangers.  There’s also a cool link in there to a ‘Because Money’ episode.

And that’s a wrap for this week’s roundup.  Congrats for making it through this week and and this roundup! Here’s some fun discount brokerage marketing from the US which may or may not inspire some Canadian brokerages to become a whole lot more entertaining.  Have a great weekend!


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Behind the Screen: An Interview with Palestrina – Reddit Personal Finance Canada Moderator

For many who wade into the waters of DIY investing, those first few steps begin in shallow waters. With no lifeguard on duty and countless warnings of sharks and other dangers, those first steps can be nerve wracking. And yet, despite the nerves, and the warnings, the promise of fortunes and financial freedom continue to lure investors into the deep waters of DIY investing.

While safety is never an outright guarantee, there are pockets of helpful and well-intentioned investors online. Where these pockets are, at least for Canadian investors, is less of a mystery than who might be participating in them.

In this piece we take a look at an increasingly popular source of personal finance information – Reddit, and walk behind the curtain with the ‘subreddit’ moderator of the personal finance Canada subreddit.  (In reddit fashion, for those who wish to skip to the ‘TL;DR’ summary, click here)

Setting Sail

The online DIY investor journey often begins behind a keyboard with the first stop being a search engine. After typing in their best guess into the search box, the search engine tosses back it’s best guess of what that visitor wants to know about. For beginner investors, and for anyone really, it’s hard to know what you don’t know.  So, a back and forth game of search pong ensues and eventually (or hopefully) an investor finds something useful.

Catch of the Day

So, just what does a novice investor get back by casting their net with the term ‘online investing?’  The image below is pretty typical.

Online investing search results
Google search result for online investing

Lots of advertising. Lots of financial service providers and very little, if any, support.  There’s a reason why Google has generated more than $42.7 billion in advertising revenue year to date.

The Thrill of the Hunt

DIY’ers are a special breed, however.  They are a persistent lot. They endure trawling through questionable search results until they find something that can get them closer to answer.

Of course, being able to ask a question to someone (or many people) more knowledgeable would be a much more efficient search strategy.  And, for many who seek answers online, the place they can generally find them is in an online forum.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 7, 2014

November is Financial Literacy Month and with it has come a number of events geared towards helping Canadians better understanding and manage their personal finances. There’s also another growth-oriented spin to November – facial hair, as it also happens to be Movember. While we have yet to see too much in the way of wacky mustaches (it’s still early though), Discount brokerages appear to have hopped onto the investor education bandwagon in a big way.

In this week’s roundup, we take a moment to walk visitors and readers through one of our most exciting projects (and acronyms) of this year, AXIS. Next, being the beginning of a new month, we’ve got a quick recap of the latest offers and promotions being pitched by Canadian brokerages.  We’ve finally made it through the pile of education events being offered this month and provide an overview of interesting observations as well as bring back the Event Horizon from a week’s hiatus. Finally, we are excited to loop the SparxTrading community activity into the forum posts that caught our attention over the past week.

There is no Community Without U and I

One of the reasons marketplaces of all kinds are so exciting is because they bring together different, sometimes opposing, interests.  But, as any seasoned investor or trader knows, it takes two sides to make a market.

If you’ve ever stared at the strangely hypnotic stream of market data quotes and marveled (or gasped) at the way in which buyers and sellers connect then you’ll probably appreciate the symbolism behind the logo letter X.

Why the diatribe on logos and symbols? At the heart of the logo is the idea of convergence – of bringing investors, providers, opinions and facts together into the same space.

In line with the theme of this year’s financial literacy month theme of strengthening financial literacy through collaboration, our latest feature launch, AXIS (which stands for Answers, eXperiences, Insights and Sharing) is the next step in the evolution our site.

We believe that by creating and caring for a space for the community of online investing stakeholders, from investor to provider, the quality of the online investing experience and understanding will improve for all.

Over the next several weeks, while the platform is in beta testing, we will include highlights and information on AXIS in the roundup.  We encourage all visitors to sign up and contribute their experiences, questions, answers and perspectives for the betterment of online investors everywhere.  Click the following link to access our community page.

Cold Weather, Warm Deals

At the outset of another month, we’ve surveyed the Canadian discount brokerage deal landscape and packaged all of the published offers we’ve found into our deals section.

This month the deals and promotion activity looked fairly healthy with 13 (and a possible 14th to be confirmed soon) offers on the table. Of these only two are scheduled to expire before the end of November meaning that DIY investors have a bit of time to shop around.

The deals that are set to expire this month come from TD Direct Investing and Questrade.  Of the two, TD has not historically offered as many deals during the year so those on the fence may want to weigh that into their decisions as the deadline approaches.

Making the Grade

One of the interesting observations from the list of this month’s investor education events is just how many providers are offering intensive education.

This month, Desjardins Online Brokerage’s educational partner Stockscores (and its founder Tyler Bollhorn) will be going on a ‘Coast-to-Coast’ intense Canadian tour. For those who haven’t attended a session with Tyler Bollhorn and are interested in Technical Analysis/Trading, this is an interesting and ‘beginner friendly’ session.

Desjardins isn’t the only brokerage also sponsoring a national investor education roadshow.  Scotia iTrade along with Larry Berman’s Independent Investor Institute are also taking their investor education seminar back and forth across the country this month.

Interestingly, National Bank Direct Brokerage is stepping up their educational offering by partnering with educational providers from Learn to Trade Global (who are partners with the Montreal Exchange teaching many of their options courses for DIY investors) as well as a Quebec based firm Decision Plus.  New to the lineup of offerings from NBDB are paid investor education courses.  Clients of NBDB, however, may be eligible for reimbursement of certain sessions in the form of trade commission credits.

While TD Direct Investing still offers the most investor education events this month, it looks as if they are looking over their shoulders a lot more as other brokerages are holding special events across the country to make up for the lack of physical branch presence.

Discount Brokerage Rankings

Speaking of grades, there are only a couple of weeks until Rob Carrick’s annual online brokerage rankings are set to roll out.  Brokerages and online brokerage enthusiasts are keeping an eye out for who will wear this year’s crown.

The Globe and Mail online brokerage rankings won’t be the only broker rankings/ratings to be unveiled later this month.  Morningstar Canada, as part of its investment awards gala, will announce their ‘best online brokerage’ award at a ceremony to be held November 26th.  Unlike other rankings/ratings brokerages pay to participate in the Morningstar rankings so depending on who decides to participate, the field of brokerages covered may be narrower than other rankings.

Event Horizon

Nov 8. (Sat) – Desjardins Online Brokerage – Coast to Coast Stockscores Tour

Nov 10. (Mon) – Desjardins Online Brokerage – Coast to Coast Stockscores Tour

Nov 12. (Wed) – Scotia iTrade – Building a Collar with Montreal Exchange

Nov 12. (Wed) – TD Direct Investing – Options Trading Mistakes to Avoid

Nov 12. (Wed) – TD Direct Investing – Understanding Margin & Short Selling

Nov 12. (Wed) – TD Direct Investing – Dividend Investing using ETFs

Nov 12. (Wed) – NBDB – Technical Analysis – [Fr]

Nov 13. (Thur) – TD Direct Investing – Options Strategies for your RSP & TFSA

From the Forums

Penny Wise

In this week’s forums sweep, we take a look at an interesting question one visitor asked about deep discount brokerages and how they can afford to stay in business with ultra low commissions. Check out the full question and answer here.

Prose on Pros

Talking about advisors is all the rage right now in the investment community. While most of the discussion has been about robo-advisors, there are still lots of folks who swear by the human touch.  In this post from the Reddit Personal Finance Canada thread, a user wants to find out what the community had to say about using professional advisors.

For the Record

Most people know that there is no such thing as a free lunch. The same applies to services offered by financial institutions, even when it comes to record keeping. If there’s one thing folks should count on its that those who run financial institutions for a living like to count things, including the cost for services. In the following post from RedFlagDeals’ investing forum, one visitor wondered aloud about where the fees for record keeping come from at financial firms.  Check out what the community had to say in response.

That’s a wrap for this first week of November roundup. While many of us have heard that money doesn’t grow on trees, there are many homeowners out there that can vouch for what does grow on trees (and where it all seems to land).  Have a great weekend either admiring the fall colours, trying to keep them off your lawn or thoroughly enjoying making a mess!

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Discount Brokerage Deals and Promotions – November 2014

*Updated Nov. 25* November is the month that many bargain hunters wait for all year long. The phenomenon of ‘Black Friday’ has taken on a life of its own with anybody who sells anything trying to ride the wave of deal hunter enthusiasm. Traditionally Canadian online brokerages have avoided the big discount day type of promotion, however last year Questrade jumped into the Boxing Day deal game with their own special promo. Given some of Questrade’s recent hints of upcoming service launches as well as the timing of expiry of an existing offer in late November, this month could herald a number of surprises.

While it is becoming a familiar refrain at the beginning of the month, no ‘new’ deals launched at the outset doesn’t mean that more aren’t coming. Heading into November the theme appears to be extending current offers, with at least 7 offers going to the end of this year if not out into early 2015.

There are offers that we’re already aware of that we’re working to get additional details on so there will be updates to this section you’ll want to check back for soon. In the meantime, let’s dive in.

Expired Deals

Technically speaking, only one deal met this criteria, and it is a familiar one in this section. Scotia iTrade’s “refer-a-friend” offer is posted on their website as having expired (at the time of writing this post) however historically it has yet to be allowed to stay there for too long.

Extended Deals

There were a number of extensions on offers which came mostly from BMO InvestorLine this month. Their young investor (yes up to age 35 is considered young) promotion has been extended through to January 2015 as has their ‘Smile’ promotion. BMO InvestorLine’s refer-a-friend offer has also been extended to October 2015 however the terms/conditions for this offer are only accessible to clients at this time so, although we mention it in our selection below, there won’t be a link to the terms/conditions page.

New Deals

*Update Nov. 22* BMO InvestorLine has launched a promotion to encourage its users to download and try the mobile/iPad app. BMO InvestorLine is offering qualified individuals up to 5 commission free trades within 30 days of downloading the app.  The 5 free trades offer is open to new and existing clients and can be combined with existing offers so it is possible to ‘stack’ this deal on top of another.

*Update Nov. 18* RBC Direct Investing  commission-free trading promotion for new account openings has been added to the mix. Specifically, qualified applicants can receive their first 20 trades (placed within 90days of opening the account) commission-free. See table below for additional details.

*Update Nov. 18* Questrade has also launched yet another deal this month – this time a cash-back offer.  Individuals can receive either $100 cash back or $250 cash back depending on the deposit they place into their account.  Individuals who sign up for this promotional offer will have to maintain the qualifying balance for a period of 6 months. See table below for additional details.

There are no new deals released at the outset of November however the offer from CIBC Investor’s Edge following their price drop was one of the biggest to land on the playing field. Questrade also offered up a $50 Visa gift card which we’re including in this month’s list of promotions. There is also another offer that we know of from a popular brokerage (that we can’t name yet) that we expect to announce as soon as we’ve got confirmation on terms and conditions.

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 January 5, 2015
Individuals opening a new account with RBC Direct Investing by December 31st may be eligible to receive a commission-rebate on their first 20 trades. Use promo code QC20 or visit the info page link for a valid code. Be sure to read the terms and conditions on this offer. n/a 20 commission-free trades 90 days Full offer information can be found here . For terms and conditions information click here. December 31, 2014
BMO InvestorLine Download the BMO InvestorLine iPad app and you could qualify for up to 5 commission-free trades. This offer is open to new and existing clients and can be combined with other offers. Clients must have a qualifying account in order to be eligible. Read full terms and conditions for details. n/a 5 commission-free trades ($50 max value) 30 days Tablet Trades Promotion January 5, 2015
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 November 20 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 November 20, 2014
Open a new account (TFSA, Margin, RRSP or FX/CFD) and place at least one trade within 60 days of opening and you may be eligible to receive a $50 prepaid Visa card from Questrade. Use promo code VISA50. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details on this offer $5000 $50 Visa gift card Cards will be mailed within 40 business days of reaching account funding requirement. $50 Prepaid Visa Card Offer December 31, 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 tbd
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new Scotia iTRADE account with at least $15,000 before December 31, 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
Open and fund a new account at Questrade with at least A)$50,000 or B)$100,000 by December 30, 2014 and you may be eligible to receive either A)$100 cash back or B)$250 cash back. Use promo code: CASHBACK250W when opening the account. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for full details. A)$50,000 B)$100,000 A)$100 cash back B)$250 cash back Cash back payout occurs after 60 days. Questrade Cash Back Offer December 30, 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). Contact InvestorLine for full terms and conditions. October 30, 2015
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 January 15, 2015

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