This week provided yet another reminder to traders big and small of the value that data plays in the market place. From the news of the arrest of hackers taking advantage of press releases, to frustrations of receiving delayed (or worse) data to the growing chatter among DIY investors about algorithmic trading, the message is simple, better data gives marketplace participants an edge. Interestingly, this message also rang true for Canadian discount brokerages trying to navigate their own competitive landscape by getting better information as well as having to figure out how to ensure they’re providing ‘good’ data.
In this edition of the roundup, we’ll take a deep dive into a recent study by one bank-owned online brokerage into the state of Canadian investor psychology. Following that we’ll look at an interesting article from the US on an emerging trend among the new breed of DIY investors. Next on the list will be a fascinating look at the action on Twitter, a quick scan of the upcoming investor education events and finally the chatter from the Canadian investor forums.
Some interesting results of a survey sponsored by BMO InvestorLine were released earlier this week that pulled back the curtain on Canadian investor psychology. What the survey found was equal parts fascinating and concerning all at once.
Despite a common perception of Canadian investors being largely the same from one region to the next, the data tells a very different story. One point of interest was how vastly different attitudes towards market volatility vary depending on where an investor resides.
For example, when looking at the percentage of individuals who reported being anxious about how market volatility would impact their portfolio performance, the difference in absolute terms ranged from a low of 21% (in Quebec) to a high of 46% (in Alberta) with a national average of 33%.
Fascinatingly, provinces west of on Ontario seemed to be much more sensitive to market volatility than the provinces east of it. In relative terms, however, these numbers suggest Western Canadian investors are nearly twice as sensitive to volatility as those east of Ontario.
The most interesting finding, however, is that despite the finding that investors are unanimously anxious (97% on average) and confused (90% on average) about investing, all of the individuals polled invested anyway.
While all surveys should be treated with some degree of caution, the picture these results paint are particularly puzzling and also a bit troubling.
Specifically, the question raised by these results is why would so many individuals invest despite being so anxious or as confused as they are?
Are they feeling compelled to invest out of fear, persuasion, social pressures or some other reason? Or, is it greed – a fear of a different kind – that perhaps they’re missing out? Perhaps experiencing “investment anxiety” or being “generally confused about investing” aren’t as bad as they sound?
Whatever the case, if (and it is a big if) the surveyed individuals are representative of the investing public, then this survey is bound to provoke some uncomfortable conversations.
In particular, these results force the investment industry as a whole to dig further into the issues uncovered. They may need to ask whether enough has been done to explain and educate the general public on what investing entails and what individual investors are getting themselves into.
Given the extent of the findings, it will be interesting to see how or if other investment industry observers respond. If the results of this survey don’t prompt further action, then that ought to be a cause for anxiety or, at the very least, confusion.
Pros & Quants
It seems that every day that goes by stories about advances with robots are becoming part of the normal news stream. In the world of online investing and trading, robots have made a big splash in recent years as high-frequency traders and now as advisors. While the latter has certainly made waves with the retail/DIY investor, algorithmic trading has largely been the focus of a small subset of DIY investor – the tech enthusiast – which may be changing.
An interesting piece from the Wall Street Journal this past week shed light on another facet in which robo-trading could start to make its way more and more into the ‘retail investor’ crowd. Specifically, the article explored the way in which individual investors (or small groups of retail investors) are setting up their own trading algorithms and trading bots via online brokerage firms to go up against the professional market wizards who are the subject of Michael Lewis’ Flash Boys.
For Canadian DIY investors, there are only a handful of brokerages that are really equipped (so far) to offer the kind of setup that enables this algorithmic (algo) trading. Among them are Interactive Brokers, Jitneytrade and, most recently, Questrade.
Although the evidence is scattered, the interest in the practice of DIY algo trading is growing and can be seen in this week’s ‘From the Forums’ section as well as in a nascent conversation threads on how to solve programming challenges for different brokerage APIs.
While Canadian DIY investors have largely been limited to the Interactive Brokers platform (which has had automated trading capabilities for quite some time) early ‘tinkerers’ are getting on board with Questrade’s new API.
Since most Canadian discount brokerages are still wrestling with the Robo-advisor question or working to update and modernize their websites or backend, don’t expect there to be a flood of traditional online brokerages offering up DIY robo-trading any time soon.
Innovation, it seems, may come from younger firms that are less beholden to legacy technology platforms.
For example, the rise of the robo-advisor firms in Canada has been possible because they can build new, streamlined IT systems from the ground up. Online brokerage Robinhood has gone from concept to international company in just a few years, and, could seemingly be capable of enabling technology to help supplement human trading. Even Interactive Brokers, one of the leaders in the DIY algorithmic trading space, could (and appears likely to) grow their business in this area by offering some interesting off-the-shelf scripts and algorithms.
While only time will tell, the emerging picture shows that those firms that have a head start in the DIY robo-trading space are likely to capture this very lucrative group of traders. It also seems to show that humans are going to have to adapt to a very different trading landscape to be able to trade around the growing number of machines on the playing field.
Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week
Markets weren’t the only reason investors were seeing red this week. A couple of discount brokerages, Scotia iTrade in particular, found themselves having to put out some very public fires regarding technical issues. The interaction between Scotia iTrade and one options trading client of theirs was especially fascinating and instructive on a number of levels. For instance, the new service dynamic between clients and providers that exists on Twitter showcases in somewhat real-time and full view how exciting and/or deflating (there’s a Tom Brady plug in there) the client resolution experience can be. This is not only a sign of the times, but also a huge shift in the way that financial services firms have to run and manage client service.
From the Forums
In a world with high-frequency trading bots working to take advantage of every nanosecond, this post from RedFlagDeals.com’s investing forum about trading data speed almost seems quaint. While human traders can still navigate the markets, speed and accuracy of data are crucial to making the crucial decision to buy, sell or hold. It’s an interesting read for those considering the Interactive Brokers Trader Work Station (TWS) platform.
In another data-themed post, this time from the Financial Wisdom Forum, one user asked an interesting question about exporting of trading data from online brokerages. For those curious about how to get information out of their brokerage and which brokerages offer some data export capabilities, it’s a good read.
Into the Close
That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. With this time in August roughly coinciding with the Perseids meteor shower, if you happen to be outside keep an eye out for any shooting stars. Of course, if you happen to be in Toronto, you may just be seeing a ball or two being knocked skyward. Go Jays Go!