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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 30 2015

It looks like football players aren’t the only ones trying to score big this weekend. Burgers, fries and Candadian discount brokerages are also in the mix. With the frenzy of offers rounding out January, we’re heading into February with over 22 deals and promotions for anyone looking to open up an online trading account. That’s plenty to chew on.

In this week’s roundup we take a look at the issues that got people talking this week – that’s about brokerages not burgers. First we take a look at two different measurements of client service and try to make sense of why they’ve obtained two completely different results. Following that, we’ll take a look at one independent brokerage’s bold voyage into a place they haven’t really been before: online investor education. Finally, with deals & promotions clearly on the minds of investors, we’ve collected an assortment of forum posts for specific online brokerage deals.

Defining Customer Service

As much as online trading doesn’t require directly dealing with a brokerage’s staff, there are a handful of times when it is unavoidable or even required. In spite of technological advances around them, many brokerages don’t have a live chat or don’t rely on that function when it comes to sensitive account information and/or trading instructions.

In last week’s roundup we mentioned that financial service analysis firm, Dalbar, announced the results of their annual evaluation of telephone client service at Canada’s online brokerages. In it both HSBC InvestDirect and RBC Direct Investing earned the “Winner’s Circle” designation for meeting the standard for high quality telephone client service (for our in depth look at the latest results, click here).

This past week another financial service firm, Surviscor, announced their results of an email based evaluation. According to Surviscor’s evaluation, Credential Direct earned a “platinum” designation with a response time of under two hours and Qtrade and Scotia iTrade were awarded “gold” (which reflects an email response time of between two and four hours).

While fast email response may be of interest, what was far more interesting was that both the Dalbar rankings and Surviscor rankings yielded completely different results when it comes to ‘customer service’.  In Dalbar’s evaluation, RBC Direct Investing and HSBC Invest Direct scored the highest of the evaluated brokerages. Conversely in the Surviscor rankings, HSBC Invest Direct placed 9th whereas RBC Direct Investing tied for last place.

For DIY investors, this is undoubtedly a confusing situation. Factor in the headlines and spin doctoring and you have an especially tough time figuring out what these results really reflect.

Take the following examples from recent news releases:

  • “Qtrade Investor takes gold for customer service” (from the news release here)
  • “Credential Direct Named Top Brokerage Firm for Customer Service in Canada” (news release here)
  • “HSBC InvestDirect and RBC Direct Investing both emerged as premier providers in customer service in 2014” (from the news release here)

Then there are the numbers themselves. Although Dalbar only reported the average and the range between highest and lowest (which was 13 percentage points) scores on client service, when compared with the range between Surviscor’s highest and lowest scores (a difference of 83 percentage points) the disparity is hard to ignore.

From the outside, it is puzzling how firms capable of implementing highly sophisticated trading platforms and rank highly on client service on telephones can’t seem to figure out prompt email or vice versa.

The lesson when looking at any of the rankings of online brokerages continues to be that consumers need to be vigilant when it comes to understanding exactly what is being measured and how those measurements are being made. Clearly, in this case, ‘customer service’ isn’t a standard unit of measure the way ‘commission pricing’ may be. Unfortunately, headlines and press releases (and evidently source materials) can yield conflicting definitions of quality customer service.

Event Review

This past week Virtual Brokers held an educational webinar aimed at beginner investors. The session, presented by personal finance author Gail Bebee, was the first in a two-part series and featured an overview of the basics of investing. Given that it was just under an hour long, this presentation did not go into extensive detail on any one topic but instead looked at several topics relevant to investing generally.

Included in the discussion was a breakdown of the different asset classes individuals can invest in; a quick comparison of mutual funds versus ETFs and how to start planning to invest. Bebee spent a bit of time discussing ETFs in particular and highlighted the benefits and potential risks/costs. This webinar was recorded and may be made available for viewing in the near future on VB’s website.

Part two of this presentation will look take a deeper look at how to build a portfolio. For more information on when this session is planned, check our investor education events section.

This upcoming week will feature a number of investor education events. We’ll be updating the events calendar shortly so check back soon for details on February’s selection of investor education opportunities.

From the Forums

The record volume of deals & promotions from Canadian brokerages did not go unnoticed by investors on the popular deals forum Below is a list of links related to discussions of deals at each respective discount brokerage:

  • BMO InvestorLine: This deal mentioned by one forum user is actually a special targeted offer. Nonetheless the bonus is for an extra $100 on top of the advertised $300 cash back RSP promotion.
  • Questrade: With so many offers on the go from Questrade, users may have a tough time deciding between free trades, cash back or even an iPad mini. Click here to read what forum users had to say.
  • RBC Direct Investing: With a year to use 20 free trades, RBC DI has got some forum users talking. While not their best offer to date, it is one of the few with such a long expiry date. Click here to read the discussion.
  • TD Direct Investing: This thread discusses the current 200 free trade offer by TDDI.

That does it for this week’s roundup. Heading into the weekend here are a couple of miracle stories to keep you entertained. For those who don’t believe in zombies or that cats don’t have 9 lives, here’s a cat that will make you rethink that.

And finally for the football fans and video gamers. For those that didn’t think they’d see Marshawn Lynch play nice with media ahead of the Super Bowl, it seems like maybe you’re in for a bit of a shock on this fun video.

Go Seahawks!

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Review: Dalbar Direct Brokerage Service Evaluation 2014

For Canadian discount brokerages, the idea of providing great client service is a moving target. Not too long ago service used to refer to the ‘offline’ world and meant having a face-to-face interaction at a branch. That gave way to the telephone, and the telephone to email, and email to web chat and web chat to social media.

The result of this communication evolution is that online brokerages are forced to cater to a wide spectrum of touch points that consumers can now access in order to manage their online investments. While consumers benefit from being able to (theoretically) stay connected to their brokerage howsoever they please, the reality is that client service at any brokerage on any channel is only going to be as good as the brokerage’s investment on it.

DIY investors shopping around for online brokerages based on client service should take note of this. If client service, and specifically telephone service, is of interest, then Dalbar Canada’s recently released direct brokerage evaluation of telephone client service interactions is worth looking into. And, while many brokerages are finding their way through the myriad of new technology touch points, telephones, it seems, still matter to online investors.

Who You Gonna Call?

Where and how telephone-based client service fits into today’s highly screen-driven age is a bit confusing. On the one hand while some issues can be resolved via online only methods there are times when getting someone on the phone is necessary.

From highly specific account inquiries to routine trading strategies, such as ‘journaling’ or exercising options, there are still many roads that require DIY investors to turn to telephone agents to address their needs. Of course, when a website goes down or a trading outage occurs, the only way to get an answer is to turn to the phone. Those interactions, as it turns out, impact how a client experiences doing business with that provider and what they ultimately tell others about those experiences.

Dalbar Canada, a financial service analysis firm, understands the value and impact quality service has on direct brokerage client relationships and has been measuring the quality of telephone interactions for many years now.

Given that brokerages use the results of Dalbar’s evaluations in their advertising, it is important for DIY investors to understand some context behind the results.

Widening the Circle

According to Dalbar, “quality” of client interaction at a direct brokerage is broken into four key components:

  • product and procedural knowledge
  • professionalism
  • ease of doing business and
  • the ability to deepen relationships with clients

These categories reflect strategic points around which a firm can either strengthen or weaken the relationship with their clients. While what a telephone agent knows is certainly crucial, how they communicate that information goes a long way in providing a positive experience. Whether the agent takes a ‘big picture’ view of clients question or simply responds literally to the question asked also influences whether a client leaves the call feeling frustrated or satisfied. What Dalbar measures when they analyze the interaction between provider and client is therefore a clear snapshot of the ‘human’ element of the brokerage experience.

It should be mentioned that one of the parameters these awards either don’t measure or report is the availability (i.e. hours to reach an agent) nor the duration. So, while it may be nice to get a nice person, there is still something to be said about getting a person when you need one, even outside of market hours.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 23, 2015

If you’re feeling as deflated as Patriot’s football this week, hopefully the fact that markets ended the week on a bit of a positive note is enough to cheer Friday. And, if recent market movements haven’t got you puzzled enough, at least Miss Universe Canada’s costume has got pundits and social media focusing on something other than the plunging price of oil. Like the beauty pageant contenders, Canadian brokerages are definitely dressing up their offers to score big points with DIY investors.

In this week’s roundup we continue to track January’s storm of deals & promotions, shine a spotlight on the first discount brokerage award of 2015, highlight a newcomer into the investor education space, walk through the investor education events coming up and close out with some timely conversations from the investor forums.


The race towards the March 2 RSP contribution deadline continues to draw Canadian discount brokerages into an already overcrowded deals game. This past week a typically quiet deal provider, HSBC InvestDirect, jumped into the promotions pool by offering up a commission-free trading offer. While the offer has been officially listed as live since the beginning of the year, it appeared only recently on their website. The timing of the launch was perhaps intended to coincide with the launch of Dalbar Canada’s Direct Brokerage Service Award (see below).

Another promotion also hit the deals wire this past week, this time from BMO InvestorLine. Their previous ‘smile promotion’ campaign ended on January 18th and was promptly replaced by an RSP focused offer of $300 cash back. Check our deals & promotions page for more details on the current open offers from Canadian brokerages.

That’s we in the Spotlight

Dalbar Canada’s 2014 assessment of the service quality at Canadian brokerages was announced this week as part of their Direct Brokerage Service Award. The two online brokerages that received top honours were HSBC InvestDirect and RBC Direct Investing. Dalbar has made a transition away from naming exclusive winners of the award, instead using the “Winner’s Circle” approach in which multiple brokerages can get recognition for their performance on Dalbar’s assessment.

Interestingly the announcement of the award was made on Wednesday and we’ve yet to see mention on either of the two ‘award’ winners’ website. A further point of interest is that both winners this year were also winners last year. Although both RBC Direct Investing and HSBC InvestDirect have claimed top honours in years past, it is unclear how having to share the accolade will shape their messaging around winning the award this year.   For more information on the Dalbar Direct Brokerage Service Award, check out our feature piece here.

Virtual Brokers Stepping into Education

Keeping up with the Jones’ is no easy feat, especially when those Jones’ are other Canadian online brokerages. As mentioned in our special year-in-review series, one of the big focal points for 2015 mentioned by Canadian brokerages was investor education.  Currently six online brokerages are actively providing (or have partnerships in place to provide) investor education. This past week, however, we learned that Virtual Brokers will be joining in the provision of investor education.

As Virtual Brokers works to keep pace with the value-add features provided by other banks and brokerages, one of the areas they’ve lagged has been in investor education. In an interesting move, Virtual Brokers has teamed up with personal finance author Gail Bebee to hold a two-part webinar on investing and portfolio management.

Event Horizon

A light week of educational activities is in the offering.

Jan. 24 (Sat) TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing

Jan. 26 (Mon) TD Direct Investing – Market Outlook – Winter 2015

Jan. 27 (Tues) TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fundamental Analysis

Jan. 28 (Wed) Virtual Brokers – Investing Basics

From the Forums

It’s a Hard Knock Life

Asking lots of questions and doing due diligence before taking on DIY investing is key – as is frequently checking in on your account. This post from the Reddit Personal Finance Canada subreddit highlights one individuals unfortunate ‘surprise’ at having a margin balance.

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. Regardless of how far under ice or water certain folks may be (am I right Vancouver?) here’s a neat and strange tale of what can be found even in the most remote of places. Have fun and stay sharp for next week!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 16, 2015

For traders who had grown ‘complacent’ over the lack of market volatility in 2014, the adage of ‘be careful what you wish for’ seems a bit prescient. Whether it was the unexpected move on the Swiss Franc, squashed rumours of a Blackberry buyout, Bombardier grounding their Learjet program or the continued fallout from tanking oil prices, volatility is back with a vengeance.

Canadian discount brokerages, on the other hand, are dealing with a different kind of volatility. In their case, it’s trying to figure out how to win at the RSP game.  In this week’s roundup we take a look at the ever growing list of deals/promotions streaming in from Canadian brokerages, earnings highlights from US online brokerages, a preview of the upcoming investor education events and finally the topics that got DIY investors chatting.

Cash Register

Like Shakira’s hips, data doesn’t lie (see chart). We are heading squarely into the storm of TFSA and RRSP season and brokerages big and small are pulling out all the stops to try and woo self-directed investors into picking an online trading account.  As a result, January’s deals and promotions have been piling up faster than an Ottawa snow bank.

This past week another three offers were added into the discount brokerage deals & promotions mix, taking the current total to 21 offers. Questrade added yet another to their promotional pool and Virtual Brokers has finally stepped into the promotions space as has Qtrade. All three of these offers are directly targeted to getting the attention of investors looking for a registered account.  While the seasonality of the deals certainly factors in, we also think that from this point forward, the competitive landscape for registered accounts has changed. Among the many reasons why things are different, the biggest threat to the non bank-owned brokerages is that Interactive Brokers Canada has started to offer both RSP and TFSA registered accounts. Stay atop all of the deals action by checking our deals and promotions section through January and February. We think there still may be some additional offers yet to launch that could cause quite the stir.

One App to Manage Them All

With mobile technology becoming a mainstay of everyday life (apparently ‘millennials’ check their mobile phones an average of 43 times per day), online brokerages are increasingly turning their attention to ensuring their platforms work on the go.  BMO InvestorLine is one of the latest bank-owned online brokerages to be pushing their integrated banking and mobile trading app, releasing this announcement this past week.  Not too long ago, however, brokerages such as Qtrade and Scotia iTrade  also made improvements to their tablet trading experience.  Even though BMO InvestorLine had officially rolled out the app in 2014, in the heated battle to highlight something other than commission pricing, look for more brokerages to showcase the features they think set them apart from their peers.

All About the Benjamins

One of the largest online brokerages in the US, Charles Schwab, reported their quarterly earnings today. They are an interesting model to look at as they moved their business away from being primarily a discount brokerage and more towards providing ‘full service’ and advice.  This model is not unlike the approach taken by Questrade, which, if Schwab is any indicator, may help add value to the company during periods of low interest rates and somewhat muted trading activity.  Schwab took in $1.5 billion in earnings for the quarter ending December 31 which is up 9% over the previous quarter. The key metric of Daily Average Revenue Trades (DARTs) was up 17% compared to the previous quarter and the average revenue per trade came in at $12.04. Another big name in the discount brokerage space, Interactive Brokers, releases their earnings next week so it should be interesting to see if the volatility late in the year translated into increased trading commission activity.

Event Horizon

A quartet of educational events are on tap for you next week, enjoy. Jan. 20 (Tues) Scotia iTRADE – Introduction to Puts with Pro Market Advisors Jan. 20 (Tues) NBDB – Managing Risk While Investing in Stock Jan. 21 (Wed) Scotia iTRADE – Fixed Income Strategies Using ETFs with iShares Jan. 22 (Thur) Scotia iTRADE – Trading The Gap with AJ Monte

From the Forums


Fee the burn

At the start of a new year, the focus on dropping a few pounds is on the mind of many.  While getting active can have health benefits, in the online trading account world, inactivity gets dinged with a fee.  Perhaps online brokerages are on to something. Check out this post from RedFlagDeals’ investing forum for one individual’s query on when exactly RBC Direct Investing’s kicks in

Getting Registered

With RRSPs and TFSAs still a hot button issue for this and next month, we’re still tracking the storm that is the launch of Interactive Brokers’ registered accounts.  Here is yet another post from a investing thread on the launch of IB registered accounts and what that might mean cost wise for folks with multiple accounts.

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup.  For those lucky enough to be taking in the Vancouver ‘winter’ hope to see you at the Vancouver Resource Investment Conference this weekend! And for those who aren’t, here’s a multimillion dollar version of the ‘fireplace log’ to give you warm thoughts (and to take your mind off some portfolio explosions that may have happened) courtesy of Elon Musk and co. 

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 9, 2015

Whether it’s oil prices, temperatures or Calvin Klein, January has started with a clear theme of racing to the bottom. Thankfully, there’s been a bright spot this past week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas where the focus has been on innovation. The latest and most intriguing gadgets get showcased at the show and reinforces something that Canadian brokerages know all too well – to get ahead you have to keep innovating.

In this week’s discount brokerage roundup, we take the theme of ‘innovation’ and review some of the exciting changes that Canada’s online brokerages have planned for 2015 that they mentioned in our special year in review and look ahead piece. We’ll also shine the spotlight on an upcoming conference in Vancouver that’s sure to be on the minds of many resource stock investors. Lastly, be sure to check out some of the interesting conversations between investors from the investor forums.

Discount Brokerages in 2015

It’s been a familiar refrain for over 10 years now – Canada’s online brokerages are in a very competitive arena. While the commission prices were slow to fall, they gradually have been declining with last year providing an incredible price shock across the board.

For 2015, however, many discount brokerages are hoping that commission prices stay put. Even if prices do stand still, the collective perspectives we gathered show that no Canadian online brokerages can afford do so.

We’ve collected the hints and references to what’s coming next that the brokerages that participated provided to us and summarized them below. It should come as no surprise, however, that brokerages provided only a fraction of what they’re actually working on. Nonetheless, here is a brief summary of what we’ve gleaned for 2015.

CIBC Investor’s Edge – Upcoming Features: Documentation/Trade Confirmations

There’s definitely been a resurgence of interest in CIBC Investor’s Edge after their pricing drop announcement. However, there’ve also been a whole host of other activities ‘behind the scenes’ that CIBC has undertaken in order to improve their client experience. One of the key areas of focus will be on paperless confirmations and ‘digitizing’ the record-keeping (and compliance) aspects of online investing.

Credential Direct – Upcoming Features: Webinars & Seminars

Credential Direct has hinted that the upcoming year will be one in which they continue to build on the investor education theme with webinars and seminars. This past week we also spotted a posting for additional marketing support indicating that we can expect Credential Direct to get themselves back into the spotlight in the not too distant future.

Desjardins Online Brokerage – Upcoming Features: Client Experience

The term ‘client experience’ is admittedly broad. That said, it is an accurate reflection of the way Desjardins Online Brokerage is approaching the changes it has planned for 2015. Probably the biggest ‘hint’ of what’s to come came from the interview with Laurent Blanchard, VP & General Manager of Desjardins Online Brokerage, where he let viewers know that a new website is coming soon.

Jitneytrade – Upcoming Features: Trading Platform

Jitneytrade revealed that they’re planning to upgrade their web-based trading platform to enable users to now access account data as well as trade data from the same place. We suspect, however, that recent moves by other brokerages (such as BMO InvestorLine) into the active trader space, direct competitors Interactive Brokers into the registered account space and equity market volatility may spell an interesting 2015 for active traders and Jitneytrade.

National Bank Direct Brokerage – Upcoming Features: Investor Education

The president of National Bank Direct Brokerage, Nancy Paquet, shared her sentiments about 2015 in her interview and in the review piece with a clear message: investor education is going to be a priority in 2015. We’ve already seen their investor education providers and topics broaden. NBDB is kicking off 2015 with a lot of effort to help investors understand their latest product ‘Investcube’. Interestingly, they have increased their push into in-depth investor education by partnering with Learn to Trade Global, whose principal instructors also do work for the Montreal Exchange in teaching about options.

Questrade – Upcoming Features: Platforms

Questrade is not one to stand still for very long. As we reported last week, 2015 may hold more surprises in their wealth management arm with the possible launch of ETFs. From the direct investing side, however, 2015, looks like Questrade will focus on improving their trading experience on the IQ mobile, improving charting and option analytics.

RBC Direct Investing – Upcoming Features: Platforms

RBC Direct Investing played their cards close when it came to the upcoming innovations for 2015. Among the features that were mentioned were the Community feature which now boasts over 12,000 members. Interestingly, the recently released RBC Direct Investing newsletter also highlights the important role that the community platform will play in helping investors choose and monitor potential trading ideas. Another interesting hint from the year in review piece was that RBC Direct Investing will be testing out new features to their trading platforms.

Scotia iTrade – Upcoming Features: Performance Reporting

Scotia iTrade continues in its focus on portfolio measurement and analysis with the addition of a ‘performance reporting tool’. Also on their radar for 2015 will be enhancements to trading platforms.

TD Direct Investing – Upcoming Features: Performance Reporting

TD Direct Investing is looking to join in with other brokerages in augmenting their performance features. Specifically TD has indicated that realized gain/loss reporting is coming up in the early part of 2015.

Flurry of Deals

January kicked off with a number of promotions and deals being extended however as we venture forward it looks like some deals are making a comeback too. This past week Questrade re-launched two promotions: their ‘trade free for 3 months’ offer as well as the ‘100 free trades’.   The timing of these offers coincide with RSP season and, when viewed as a group, the offers from Questrade now appeal to a wide range of minimum deposit sizes from $1,000 to $50,000.

Event Horizon

If you’re an investor in the mining and exploration sectors, you’re likely going to want to either attend or tune into the upcoming Vancouver Resource Investment Conference by Cambridge House International on January 19th & 20th.  This is the 20th anniversary for the show and it comes at a time when junior mining and exploration stocks, many of which are typically the focus of the show, have suffered significant sell offs.  As such, this should be an interesting event with a mix of celebration and optimism combined with the sobering reality of a sector that’s looking to navigate a very uncertain path ahead.  There are many familiar names on the speakers list and a full floor of exhibitors.  For more information, check out their website and the video they’ve prepared as the lead up to the event.

January 13:  Scotia iTRADE – Best Practices In ETF Trading with Horizons ETFs (Online)

January 13: NBDB – Building Diversified Portfolios with ETFs – [Fr] (Montreal)

January 13: TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options (Toronto)

January 13: NBDB – Portfolio management using momentum strategies – [Fr] (Online)

January 14: TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options (St. John’s)

January 14: TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options (Montreal)

January 14: Scotia iTRADE – Advanced Options Strategies with Montreal Exchange (Online)

January 14: TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Technical Analysis (White Rock)

January 15: NBDB – Introduction to technical analysis : Supports and resistances – [Fr] (Montreal)

January 15: TD Direct Investing – Income Investing Using ETFs (Toronto)

January 15: TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Technical Analysis (Ottawa)

From the Forums

To Bot or not to Bot

There’s been a lot of hype through 2014 regarding the presence of ‘robo-advisors’.  In this post from’s investing thread, there’s an interesting perspective on whether or not robo-advisors are all they’re cracked up to be.

Tossing Around the Crystal Ball

It’s always great to see what the sentiment is going into a new year.  In this post from the Financial Wisdom Forum, the forum participants provide their best guestimates for a contest on what 2015 will bring.

That’s a wrap to week two of 2015.  Think warm thoughts – except if you happen to be in Vancouver, in which case you may want refrain from calling your friends elsewhere in Canada to tell them what the weather’s like.  Have a great (and hopefully warm) weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 2, 2015

Welcome to the first discount brokerage roundup of 2015. While many folks are still in holiday mode, online brokerages are busy getting into shape for the all-important first calendar quarter. The countdown that brokerages are looking at is the all-important RRSP contribution deadline (March 2 this year).

In this week’s roundup we take a look at the new deals & promotions being offered by Canadian brokerages, one brokerage’s bold move to challenge a highly competitive industry as well as insights about the retail investor from one brokerage’s trading stats. Of course, we cap off the roundup with a look at the upcoming education events and a quick tour of the forums.

In with the old

With the start of a new month it’s time to take a look at the deals and promotions being offered by Canada’s discount brokerages. It looks like the theme coming into 2015 was to ‘stay the course’ for many brokerage offers. Of the 8 offers set to expire at the end of December, 5 were extended. In total there are 14 open offers however January could hold a surprise or three. Of the three offers set to expire this month, two are from BMO InvestorLine and one from Scotia iTrade. It should be interesting to see what the bank-owned giants do going into one of their busiest seasons.

The only brokerage to kick off January with a new offer is Questrade. They’ve introduced yet another offer into their promotional mix with a commission-rebate offer for 25 trades that can be used throughout 2015. Click the following link for a full breakdown of all of January’s discount brokerage deals.

Questrade stepping into the ETF game

In another interesting move by Questrade into the wealth management space, Questrade recently filed a preliminary prospectus for the launch of up to 6 new ETFs. According to the prospectus, the funds are based on several US based indices and hedged to Canadian dollars. Here is a list of the proposed funds and symbols (on the TSX):

  1. Questrade Russell US Midcap Growth Index ETF Hedged to CAD (“QMG”)
  2. Questrade Russell US Midcap Value Index ETF Hedged to CAD (“QMV”)
  3. Questrade Russell 1000 Equal Weight US Technology Index ETF Hedged to CAD (“QRT”)
  4. Questrade Russell 1000 Equal Weight US Industrials Index ETF Hedged to CAD (“QRI”)
  5. Questrade Russell 1000 Equal Weight US Health Care Index ETF Hedged to CAD (“QRH”)
  6. Questrade Russell 1000 Equal Weight US Consumer Discretionary Index ETF Hedged to CAD (“QRD”)

The recent formal launch of PortfolioIQ and Questrade’s move into the wealth management space, it appears that Questrade is diversifying away from being an exclusive discount brokerage and emulating the model seen in the US (such as with Schwab and Ameritrade) where there has been a successful push into wealth management. Bank-owned discount brokerages that also have ETFs attached to the wealth management arms (such as BMO) will most certainly take notice of this move.

Questrade’s diversification away from being strictly a discount brokerage has pitted them against a number of big players in the wealth management space, and this latest maneuver will definitely force them to compete in yet another exceptionally competitive space.

Interactive Brokers trading metrics

A quick peek into the trading metrics for Interactive Brokers’ December figures shows that they’re continuing to grow their customer base. New accounts are up 1% month over month but impressively 17% year over year, with the number of accounts standing at 281,000.   Interestingly, December was the weakest month out of the year for net new accounts. Trading activity in December was strong with 590,000 Daily Average Revenue Trades (DARTs), the second most active month after October in 2014.

For Canadian brokerages, an interesting data point that the Interactive Brokers shows is that retail interest in the markets continues to be strong (at least in the US). Also, Interactive Brokers is clearly a strong competitor for the highly prized active trader segment. It may have something to do with the fact that the average commission per equity trade was a mere $2.58 with an average order size of 1,968 shares.

Event Horizon

Investor education events are ramping up again. Here is a list of the events coming up in the next week:

January 6 – Scotia iTRADE – Getting Started With Technical Analysis with Pro Market Advisors (online)

January 7 – TD Direct Investing – Understanding Margin & Short Selling (Regina)

January 7 – Scotia iTRADE – Smart Beta ETFs with First Asset Management (online)

January 9 – Scotia iTRADE – Bond Basics with Scotia McLeod (online)

From the Forums

Registering a Vote

As the RRSP contribution deadline will become the focus over the next few weeks, the move by Interactive Brokers to offer Canadian registered accounts is likely to become increasingly discussed. The following post from Canadian Money Forum sums up the sentiment nicely.

Flipping the Switch

Another consideration going into the RRSP season is which brokerage to consider. This post from RedFlagDeals offers a great perspective on some of the merits of brokerages currently on the minds of DIY investors.

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. Have a great weekend trying to stay dry or out of the snow/ice or whatever Mother Nature is throwing our way. In the meantime, here’s to a profitable New Year ahead!

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Discount Brokerage Deals and Promotions – January 2015

*Updated Jan 26/15* Welcome to 2015! For many, the start of a new year is the time to mark a new beginning. For Canada’s online brokerages, however, the theme coming into January isn’t so much about being new as it is about being present.

While many of the deals and promotions listed in December were poised to expire at the end of the month, it appears that they would ‘expire another day’.   Curiously, of the 5 6 offers that were extended out into 2015 only the offer from Scotia iTrade (their 100 free trade offer) had its expiry date bumped to January 9th. Whether this is a clue to something possibly coming soon or simply a strange mini-extension, the good news is that it won’t be too long till we find out.

At the outset of January there is one new offer added into the mix, once again from Questrade. Their newest offer (see below for more details) is a commission-free trading offer aimed at clients with deposits of $25,000 or more. Another offer that landed mid-December that warrants mentioning is National Bank Direct Brokerage’s sizeable cash back offer – interestingly aimed at depositors with at least $20,000. Interestingly, brokerages competing for deposits of $20,000 to $25,000 include CIBC Investor’s Edge, NBDB and, now, Questrade.

As the holidays and vacations wear off, and the ramp up to RRSP season begins, we anticipate seeing some major activity from the various discount brokerages. Be sure to check back again throughout January as we monitor the developments with various deals and promotions.

*Update: BMO InvestorLine has extended their tablet app free-trade offer deadline to February 26th. Their ‘smile’ promotion is still scheduled to expire January 18th.

Expired Deals

At the time of writing, there are four offers that officially expired going into January:

  • RBC Direct Investing’s 20 commission-free trade offer
  • Questrade’s 30 free trade offer
  • Questrade’s $250/$100 cash back offer
  • Scotia iTrade’s $500 cash back (or 500 free trade) offer
  • *Update Jan 22/15* BMO InvestorLine’s “Smile Promotion” $250 cash back offer

Extended Deals

Rather than let them slip into history, Canadian discount brokerages sought to extend the shelf life of several big offers, some well into 2015 and others just over a week. Here’s the list of extended offers:

  • Scotia iTrade’s refer-a-friend offer extended to March 15th
  • BMO InvestorLine youth offer extended to March 31st
  • *Update Jan 5/15* BMO InvestorLine tablet app offer extended to February 26th
  • Questrade $50 prepaid Visa offer extended to February 27th
  • Scotia iTrade 100 free trade offer extended to January 9th
  • Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) $300 commission credit offer extended to March 31st

 New Deals

The only new promotion for January by a Canadian discount brokerage was one launched by Questrade. Specifically their “new year’s” offer enables qualified clients to have 25 commission-free trades which are eligible for use throughout the year. Unlike many commission-free trade offers which have a shelf life of anywhere between 30 and 90 days, this offer is unique given how long clients have to use the commission-free trades (the deadline to use the free trades is December 31st 2015). While the number of trades is not necessarily as high as other offerings, the length of time to use the trades stands out. The caveat, however, is that there is a minimum deposit of at least $25,000 required to qualify. See the table below for additional details.

*Update Jan 11/15* Questrade has just added two additional offers (see below). For one of their offers, they are bringing back the unlimited commission-free trade promotions which last from one to three months depending on the deposit made. The other offer (the “Multi Leg” promotion) enables qualified clients to trade up to 100 trades commission-free.

*Update Jan 12/15*

  • Questrade has resurrected their iPad Mini offer in time for RSP season.  For a deposit of $100,000 or more, individuals can be eligible to receive an iPad Mini 2 (16GB, wi-fi only). In order to receive the iPad Mini, individuals have to fund their account and make at least one commission-generating trade. For more information see the table below.
  • Scotia iTrade has launched a massive offer on the heels of their previous deal expiry.  Scotia iTrade is now offering a modified cash back or commission-credit promotion for deposits from $15,000 to $1,000,000 – yes that’s not a typo.  Scotia iTrade is now the only brokerage to scale up the promotional offers beyond the $250,000 ceiling of other brokerages and with this latest promotion they’ve topped their previous offer (500 trades for $500,000).  The current offer actually goes beyond just commission rebates or cash back, there is also a 90 day free use of their platform (FlightDesk) and a free 2 day educational seminar with their education partner Larry Berman.  The list of terms and conditions for this offer is quite extensive so be sure to read it fully if you’re considering the deal. Some particulars to pay attention to are the rebate period for commission credits (180 days) and minimum balance requirements.
  • RBC Direct Investing has also stepped into the deal arena with a commission-rebate offer.  The promotion enables qualified applicants to receive 20 commission-free (commission fees will be rebated) trades that are good for use for up to one year.  One of the highlights of this offer is that no minimum deposit is required in order to qualify.  See table below for further details.

*Update Jan 16/15*

  • Qtrade has launched a new RRSP-themed contest.  Individuals opening (and funding) or contributing to an RSP account with at least $2,000 by March 2nd, 2015 could be eligible to win a $500 contribution to their account each month for a year.  Given that this is a contest, it is not listed in the table below however for full details, click the terms and conditions link here.  One thing to consider of course is the eligible contribution room within your RRSP to receive the extra top up.
  • Questrade has launched yet another offer, making them the brokerage offering the most promotions this month. Their latest DIY investing offering is a tiered offer unlimited commission-free trading depending on the amount deposited. For deposits of $50,000 or more, Questrade is offering up to three months of commission-free trading; for $25,000 – $49,999 Questrade is offering two months of commission-free trading and for $1,000, individuals can be eligible for one month of commission-free trading.  See the table below for more details.
  • Virtual Brokers has stepped back into the deals & promotions space by offering an RRSP-themed offer. Individuals who deposit at least $5,000 in new equity can qualify to receive 50 commission-free equity trades. For deposits of $10,000 in new equity, Virtual Brokers is offering 100 commission-free equity trades.  This is one of the most competitive commission-free offers for the deposit levels. See the table below for more details.

*Update Jan 22/15*

  • BMO InvestorLine has replaced their $250 cash back offer (the Smile Promotion) with a new RSP-focused promotion with a higher cash back component. Like the promotion it is replacing, the latest offer from BMO InvestorLine (live as of Jan 19/15) requires a deposit of at least $100,000 to qualify. Individuals who qualify for this promotion can receive $300 cash back. See the table below for additional details and deadlines.
  • HSBC InvestDirect is now also offering up its own RSP season themed offer.  In their case, the deal appears to have gone line early in January but has only recently made it onto their website.  The offer states that eligible clients can receive up to 50 commission-free equity trades which are good for up to 88 calendar days.  It is noteworthy that the commission-free trades apply to equity/ETF trades and not to options or fixed-income trades. Also, according to the terms and conditions there is no minimum deposit required nor is there a stated promo code. See table below for more details.

*Update Jan 26/15*

  • One of Canada’s largest online brokerages, TD Direct Investing, has now also jumped into the deals pool this month.  Their latest commission-rebate offer features trading commission rebates on three tiers of deposits.  For deposits of between $25,000 – $49,999 eligible accounts receive up to 50 commission-free trades; for deposits of $50,000 – $99,999, eligible accounts can receive up to 100 commission-free trades and for deposits of $100,000 or more, up to 200 trades may be rebated. This offer applies to equity and options trades.  See table below for additional information.

Discount Brokerage Deals

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Commission/Cash Offer/Promotion 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
Open a new account with HSBC InvestDirect and you could be eligible to receive up to 50 commission-free equity/ETF trades for 88 calendar days. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for full details. n/a 50 commission-free trades 88 days (payout for rebate is within 90 days of end of free trade period) HSBC InvestDirect 2015 Winter Offer March 2, 2015
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 March 31, 2015
Open a new qualifying account with RBC Direct Investing and you may be eligible to receive up to 20 commission-free trades. A promotion code is required for this offer; click on the the link for the promotional page to generate a code. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for full details on this offer. n/a 20 commission-free trades 1 year Terms & Conditions & RBC Direct Investing Trade Free for 1 Year Promotion Page March 2, 2015
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 February 26, 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 and fund a qualifying account (TFSA, Cash/Margin or RRSP) at Questrade with at least A) $1,000 or B) $10,000 and you may be eligible to receive A) 10 or B) 100 commission-free trades. Use promo code 100FREEML15W when registering. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for this offer. A) $1,000 B) $10,000 A) 10 commission-free trades B) 100 commission-free trades 60 days Multi-leg Offer February 27, 2015
Open a new TFSA, margin or registered account with Questrade and deposit at least A) $1,000 B) $25,000 or C) $50,000 to receive either A) 30 days B) 60 days or C) 90 days of unlimited commission-free stock & options trades. Use promo code UNLIMITEDW15 when signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more information. A) $1,000 B) $25,000 C) $50,000 Unlimited commission-free trades during associated period. A) 30 days B) 60 days C) 90 days Questrade Unlimited Trading Offer March 2, 2015
Open a new TFSA, margin or registered account with Questrade and deposit at least A) $1,000 B) $25,000 or C) $50,000 to receive either A) 30 days B) 60 days or C) 90 days of unlimited commission-free stock & options trades. Use promo code UNLIMITEDRSP when signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more information. A) $1,000 B) $25,000 C) $50,000 Unlimited commission-free trades during associated period. A) 30 days B) 60 days C) 90 days Questrade RRSP Promotion March 2, 2015
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 $5,000 $50 Visa gift card Cards will be mailed within 40 business days of reaching account funding requirement. $50 Prepaid Visa Card Offer February 27, 2015
Open and fund a new account with at least A) $5,000 or B)$10,000 in net new equity and you may be eligible to receive A) 50 or B) 100 commission-free trades. Use promo code “RRSP15” when signing up for an account to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions of the offer for full details. A)$5,000 – $9,999 B)$10,000+ A) 50 commission-free trades B) 100 commission-free trades (max commission per trade $6.49) Trades must be used by September 30, 2015 (commissions to be rebated by October 2015) RRSP Free Trade Promotion February 27, 2015
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 March 15, 2015
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new Scotia iTRADE account with at least A) $15,000 – $49,999, B)$50,000 – $99,999, C)$100,000 – $249,000, D) $250,000 – $499,999, E) $500,000 – $999,999, or F) $1,000,000+ and you may be eligible to receive a corresponding cash-back or commission rebate. For commission-free trades use code: WTT15 or for cash rebates use code: DL5RP. Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully for rebate and cash back eligibility. This offer also includes a free ‘swing trading’ course with Larry Berman and 90 days free of FlightDesk. A)$15,000 – $49,999 B)$50,000 – $99,999 C)$100,000 – $249,000 D)$250,000 – $499,999 E)$500,000 – $999,999 F)$1,000,000+ A) 50 commission-free trades OR $50 cash B) 100 commission-free trades OR $100 cash C) 250 commission-free trades OR $250 D) 350 commission-free trades OR $350 E) 500 commission-free trades OR $500 F) 1000 commission-free trades OR $1000 180 days for commission-free trades Cash back to be deposited by November 30, 2015. 1000 Free Trade Offer March 31, 2015
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 and fund it with at least (A) $20,000 or (B)$100,000 and NBDB may provide up to (A) $500 or (B) $1,000 in commission rebates for qualifying accounts. Use promo code “CashBack2015” when signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for eligibility and refund dates. A)$20,000 – $99,999 B)$100,000+ A)$500 commission rebate B)$1,000 commission rebate 90 days (rebate of commissions depends on sign up date and is outlined on terms/conditions) Cash Back Offer March 31, 2015
Open a new account with TD Direct Investing with at least A) $25,000 B) $50,000 or C) $100,000 and you may be eligible to receive rebates on up to A) 50 B) 100 or C) 200 equity and/or options trades. Be sure to read full terms and conditions A) $25,000 – $49,999 B) $50,000 – $99,999 C) $100,000+ A) 50 commission-free trades B) 100 commission-free trades C) 200 commission-free trades 60 days (commission rebates to be issued on Aug. 15/2015) TD Direct Investing Free Trade Promotion March 27, 2015
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 a new account (TFSA, Margin, RRSP) with at least $25,000 and you may be eligible to receive 25 trades commission free. Use promo code TRADEFREE2015 when signing up to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for details on this offer. $25,000 25 commission-free trades (commissions rebated within 10 days of trade) Trades may be used up until December 31st 2015. Trade Free For a Year Offer January 30, 2015
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 March 31, 2015
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
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 $300 cash back. Use the promo code RSP2015 when signing up for the account. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for eligibility and further details. $100,000 $300 cash back Payout occurs after 6 months RSP 2015 Promotion March 31, 2015
Open a new TFSA, margin or registered account with Questrade and deposit at least $100,000 to be eligible to receive an iPad mini. Use promo code IPADMINI15Q2 when signing up. Read the terms and conditions for more information about eligibility. $100,000 iPad Mini 2 (16gb wi-fi only) [retail value ~$370 including taxes] iPad Mini will be sent within 60 days of account being funded and 1 commission-generating trade being placed. iPad Mini Offer March 13, 2015
Expired Offers: The following offers have expired this month and are shown for reference only. #colspan# #colspan# #colspan# #colspan# #colspan# #colspan#
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 January 9, 2015 *Expired*
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 18, 2015 *Expired*

Transfer Fee Deals

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Scotia iTrade Transfer $15,000 or more to Scotia iTrade from another Canadian brokerage, and iTrade may pay up to $150 in transfer fees. $150 $15,000 1000 Free Trade Offer March 31, 2015
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
Qtrade Investor Qtrade Investor will reimburse your transfer fee up to $150 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. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee Promo 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 in equity to Virtual Brokers and they’ll cover the transfer-out fees up to $150. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee Rebate Terms & Conditions March 31, 2015
Transfer $25,000 or more into a new TD Direct Investing account and they will cover up to $150 of transfer fees. $150 $25,000 TD Direct Investing Free Trade Promotion March 27, 2015
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
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 March 31, 2015