Even though the official kick off to the Pan Am Games was today, in the week leading up to it markets have given traders more than enough diving, hurdles and nail-biting drama for weeks to come. For a handful of Canadian discount brokerages, this week proved to be equally eventful with contests and competitors going at it full swing. It looks like it’s game-on for the brokerages once again.
In this edition of the roundup we kick things off with a look at a major bank-owned brokerage tearing a page out of the Kardashian playbook with their new selfie contest. Next we’ll look at some big news from two Quebec-based discount brokerages that is sure to create a few sparks in that market for years to come. Also we’ll scan through the investor education events and take a look at some really interesting exchanges that took place on Twitter. Finally we cap off the roundup by looking at the forum chatter from DIY investors across Canada and close off with one funny/scary view of this week’s market glitches.
But First, Let Me Take a Selfie
In a quirky bit of timing, not long after the selfie aficionado Kim Kardashian was interviewed about her financial wisdom tips, Scotia iTrade launched their selfie-themed promotion. This latest contest, which runs during the month of July, involves people taking selfies at the recently launched Scotia iTrade investor centre at Scotia Plaza in downtown Toronto. The “eligible winners” will be awarded a movie pass for one (approximate retail value of $13).
While they’re not the first big bank to try and capitalize on the selfie (TD put a twist on it with their ‘housie’ campaign) Scotia iTrade might be the first Canadian online brokerage to run a selfie-themed promo. And, although contests are nothing new, this particular one shows some interesting quirks of mixing the world of personal finance with the worlds of selfies, millennials and Twitter.
Here are a couple of interesting observations.
First, there are the contest’s terms and conditions. At about 2300 words long this is one of the longest scrolling workouts folks are going to have before they fully know what they’re getting themselves into.
Once in the terms and conditions, however, there are some interesting finds such as this phrase: “Take a selfie of yourself at the branch”.
Not only has ‘selfie’ made it into the vernacular of the financial world, the way in which its used is like the Hugh Grant moment in Mickey Blue Eyes (the la Trattoria).
And, while it may seem mildly comical, as it turns out, the details actually matter. According to the Wikipedia definition of a selfie, it is “a self-portrait photograph featuring the photographer”. That would make the following image submitted by @carr71 for the promo technically seem to not count (it looks like a photo of a person that was taken by someone else).
— Caroline Dukes (@carr71) July 8, 2015
Unfortunately, it looks like @Scotia_iTrade didn’t accept either of @carr71’s submission(s) and she got directed to read those rather lengthy terms and conditions.
With 10 days now gone in July, it looks like the contest has yet to gain significant traction. Of the 3 photos submitted thus far one may not be a selfie, one appears to have been disqualified (not sure why) and one went unacknowledged (at least publicly) so it’s not clear by looking at it if it counts. That’s a tough batting average a third of the way through the contest window.
Of course, figuring out what will or won’t work on Twitter is all about experimentation. Like most things on Twitter, it’s difficult to predict where things will go and the timeline for events to happen. The fact that Scotia iTrade is willing to get creative on social media is a good sign and it should hopefully spur other discount brokerages to flex their creative muscles. We’ll keep watching to see how the contest unfolds.
New Pricing at Desjardins Online Brokerage
After numerous commission price adjustments by Canadian discount brokerages, Desjardins Online Brokerage has updated their standard commission pricing for the active trader-focused Disnat Direct service.
Instead of a standard rate of $19.95 for less active traders (i.e. those who traded less than the 10 trade per month threshold to qualify for lower commission pricing) Disnat Direct account holders can now qualify for the best commission rates of between $5 and $9.95 per trade. Standard options trading has also been adjusted to $1.25 per contract (down from $1.50) and the minimum per options trade is now $8.75.
The actual commission paid still depends on the combination of the volume of shares purchased/sold, the currency of the trade and the price of the stock. This means that there is still some extra effort involved to keep track of what a transaction will cost however for the less active traders, this is definitely a smaller price to pay than the higher upfront fee.
Some other fees were also announced to be changing. The platform fees for individuals not meeting the trading threshold look to be rising by between $5 and $8 depending on the platform (see table below). The new fees are scheduled to take effect on October 1st.
For many professional sports players, the off-season is where the major trades take place. This past week the Canadian discount brokerage space also saw a rather dramatic trade (of sorts) happen.
As mentioned in this article in the Globe and Mail (for subscribers only), the general manager of Desjardins Online Brokerage, Laurent Blanchard, will be leaving Desjardins and assuming the role of president of National Bank Direct Brokerage. Blanchard has been instrumental in working with Desjardins’ online brokerage unit since its early days and had been the general manager since 2012.
The rivalry between NBDB and Desjardins Online Brokerage is amicable but nonetheless present. Both are quite well known within the Quebec market and both have been especially close in the competition for the J.D. Power Investor Satisfaction Survey award over the past several award cycles.
As both firms will now be seeing transition at the top, it should be interesting to see where the competition between these online brokerages goes next.
Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week
This week on Twitter, Questrade continues to field requests for features while the larger bank-owned brokerages were being kept busy with client service questions. What was most interesting, however, were a couple of conversations between traders regarding the pricing and functionality of certain discount brokerages.
From the Forums
The hard sell
For most DIY investors it’s challenging enough to keep Mr. Market from taking back trading gains. In this post from reddit’s personal finance Canada subreddit, it was interesting to note the report of one large bank-owned brokerage deciding to use outbound sales calls to see if users of their discounted mutual funds would consider also using some premium products.
Son of a glitch
This past week has seen a major airline and a major stock exchange have technical difficulties cause some mayhem. For one user of the Financial Wisdom Forum, their online brokerage experience got a little nerve-wracking when they had login difficulties. Check out this post for a great example of the some of the stranger technical difficulties that can occur while trading online and on-the-go.
Into the Close
That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. With so much going on in the markets (China, Grexits, interest rate hikes, computer glitches and more!) it’s enough to make anybody’s head spin. Thankfully with the sun shining for most Canadians this weekend, there are lots of fun ways to not have to worry about it (at least for a little while) starting first with the big opening to the Pan Am Games in Toronto. Good luck to all the athletes on and off the GTA highways this weekend!