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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – September 25, 2015

For some, this week started off about as bad as a post-Oktoberfest wurst nightmare scenario could be. The world awoke to major automaker Volkswagen admitting that there was something strange in the air with their emissions ratings. Of course while their stock was getting pummeled, traders also saw the opportunity to give Palladium, one of those important metals for those not so environmentally friendly diesel vehicles, one of its best rallies in a while. Competition can make companies do some crazy things.

Of course for Canadian discount brokerages, competition is nothing new. What is new, however, is just how nimble with technology they will have to become to effectively compete for the investors of tomorrow.

In this week’s roundup we take an exciting exclusive first look at one online brokerage’s new website and how they are building out their technology offering. Next we take a quick look at the interesting angles around the latest discount brokerage ranking results announced earlier in the week. After that we highlight yet another deal in the promotional race and cruise through the tweets from this week, investor education events and close out with some interesting dividend-themed forum chatter.

Sneak Peek at Qtrade Investor’s New Website

In a exclusive, we’ve managed to get our fans a first look at the new Qtrade Investor website, set to launch within the next few days.

As has been the trend for 2015, Canadian discount brokerages have spent a lot of time and effort in trying to refresh and modernize their websites. Without putting a number on how old their previous site was, Qtrade Investor’s latest website looks and feels like a modern experience.

Their new website front end experience is built for a multiscreen world and should accommodate smartphones, tablets, phablets, laptops and desktops. The layout is simple and contemporary as is the messaging. Their new design direction is also a subtle way to refresh the look and feel of Qtrade visually.

When asked what prompted the change on their part, Qtrade told us:

Our conversations with self-directed investors and traders have led us to a better understanding of what’s important to them when choosing an online broker. The new public face of the Qtrade Investor website is clean, engaging and easy-to-use. We have also featured valuable educational articles, guides and videos for new and experienced investors.”

Qtrade Investor’s New Website (source: screenshot)

We’ll be sure to bring readers more details when Qtrade’s website fully launches however it looks like there are some very exciting features planned for their new site.

One of the big commitments that Qtrade Investor has recognized and followed through on is the improvement of user experience. Their mobile trading offering, in the span of two years, has gone from fairly standard to competitive.

Just this week Qtrade Investor joined the small list of Canadian online brokerages whose mobile apps are supported on Apple Watch.

What’s clear is that the pace of change in technology is accelerating and one of the new benchmarks DIY investors are going to demand be met is how technologically responsive their brokerage is. For Qtrade Investor, the new responsive website and roll-out of a leading edge online access point are two big strides that other brokerages are going to have to work much harder to catch up to.

Be sure to keep ‘watching’ @SparxTrading on Twitter for more details.

JD Power Discount Brokerage Rankings Crown National Bank Direct Brokerage

It’s like Déjà vu all over again. Almost 2 years after National Bank Direct Brokerage took top spot in the JD Power Investor Satisfaction Survey, NBDB managed to do it again handily beating out the rest of Canada’s most popular brokerages and displacing their cross-town rival Desjardins Online Brokerage. And what a difference 2 years can make.

Since NBDB’s win in 2013 the world of Canadian discount brokerages has been turned upside down by changes in standard commission pricing, powerful mobile devices as well as the proliferation of roboadvisors. If there’s one rule in the world of Canadian online brokerages, it appears to be step up or step back.

While we’ll save the deep dive on these rankings for an upcoming post, here’s a quick preview of some interesting observations about this year’s JD Power Discount Brokerage Investor study results.

First, this year, there are three more discount brokerages being ranked than there were last year. Specifically this year Questrade, Qtrade Investor and HSBC InvestDirect returned to the rankings after not being evaluated in 2014. Most interesting is that Questrade’s return to this list puts it high enough on the list to position itself as the highest ranked of the independent discount brokerages. For Qtrade Investor and HSBC InvestDirect, their return was not as stellar landing at 8th and 10th out of a field of 10.

Ratings on JD Power Discount Brokerage Survey from 2013 to 2015

Of course, coming in ‘last’ or ‘first’ in 2015 doesn’t exactly mean the same as it did in the past. Looking at the range between the top and bottom scores from 2013 to 2015, the gap has narrowed considerably. That’s not great news for the online brokerages at all who are now going to have to put their creativity into overdrive to do something that DIY investors are genuinely going to get excited about.

Range between highest and lowest scores on JD Power Canadian Discount Brokerage Rankings 2013 to 2015

Finally, and strangest of all, of the firms that have had the largest positive changes from 2013 to 2015 (Questrade, RBC Direct Investing and Scotia iTRADE), it is remarkable that Scotia iTRADE still continues to occupy the lower end of the ranking spectrum.

As of this September, they are now the only discount brokerage on this list to have standard commission pricing over $10. As CIBC Investor’s Edge may exemplify, just having low commission fees isn’t enough to get investors thinking about ‘satisfaction’. Not having competitive standard commission fees, however, is almost a sure fire way to make DIY investors harder to please.

Stay tuned for the full run down on this year’s JD Power Discount Brokerage results.

Virtual Brokers Launches Back-to-School Promotion

Once again it’s Friday and there’s more good news for DIY investors – at least the students. Virtual Brokers publicly launched their latest promotion today in a bid to step back into the deals ring. Their latest offer is a $50 cash back promotion for investors who are qualified students or recent (within two years) graduates with a deposit of at least $1,000. With the addition of Virtual Brokers’ latest deal, the count of live offers climbs to 15 promotions from discount brokerages as we head into the final few days of the month. Check out the deals and promotions section for more info.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

This past week on Twitter, Questrade stood out once again as the discount brokerage generating and responding to the online buzz. While webinars are generally not newsworthy announcements, in Questrade’s case, their webinar featuring OTC Markets took place this week alongside (conveniently) the launch of a few more actively managed ETFs. Interestingly, there was a comment of a user who just couldn’t let the design bug go without saying something to Questrade – it seems s/he felt justified in saying something. Click below to read this weeks tweets.


Event Horizon

Fall is in full swing, and it’s an exciting week ahead for discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events. Here are some upcoming sessions that may be of interest to dividends enthusiasts, and those who want to learn about ETFs, put options and technical analysis. September 28th TD Direct Investing – Dividends | Important Dates and Details to Know September 29th TD Direct Investing – Asset Allocation and ETFs feat. Bruce Sellery and Pat Chiefalo September 30th Scotia iTRADE – The Power Of the Put Option with AJ Monte TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Technical Analysis

From the Forums

DRIP it like it’s hot

In this post from reddit’s PersonalFinanceCanada section, RBC Direct Investing and Questrade get pitted head to head when it comes to dividend investing – specifically for someone interested in having their money grow with dividends. An interesting perspective on price vs convenience.

The Divid-end of the Road

In another dividend investing-themed post, this time from RedFlagDeals, a few dividend investors appear to be brewing about the troubles of receiving US dividends without incurring currency exchange fees. It’s a lot to take in from the beginning but an interesting view on how to win or lose DIY investor clients.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. Have a great weekend, rest up and have fun dreaming up the next big thing. In the meantime, here’s some more of that ‘boredElonMusk’ to get you thinking….

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – September 18, 2015

This past week, as all eyes were on movie stars in Toronto and on the US for direction on where the “Rate Race” will take interest rates. Of course DIY investors aren’t the only ones caught in the wheel of misfortune. The longer the uncertainty hangs over the market, the harder Canadian discount brokerages are going to have to work to encourage investors to step in.

In this week’s roundup we take a look at how one Canadian discount brokerage took the drastic step of lowering its standard commission fees and what it means for the other bank-owned brokerages who have or haven’t lowered theirs. Next we take a look at the strategies of a number of brokerages attempting to use promotions to get the attention of investors. In the discount brokerage tweets, we see some interesting flare ups from DIY investors over technology glitches. Finally we round off with investor education events and interesting chatter about cross border trading in the forums.

HSBC InvestDirect Lowers Standard Commission Fees

Earlier this week, HSBC InvestDirect officially joined the club of Canadian discount brokerages that have lowered their standard commission rates to the sub-$10 level. As of this month, HSBC InvestDirect clients can now look forward to standard commission rates of $9.88, a definite reprieve from the $28.88+ commissions which preceded the drop.

For regular observers of the Canadian brokerage marketplace, HSBC InvestDirect is not a name that often comes up for features, pricing or promotions. With this latest move, however, DIY investors as well as certain Canadian online brokerages are bound to take notice.

As a bank-owned online brokerage, HSBC InvestDirect enjoys the “safety factor” and somewhat of the “convenience” element that consumers look to as selling points when choosing an online broker. Even so, the reality of the Canadian discount brokerage landscape is that there are just too many other compelling lower-priced alternatives. To get attention, HSBC InvestDirect had to make a bold move.

CIBC Investor’s Edge clearly understood this when they almost literally turned the new $9 anchor price prefix introduced by RBC Direct Investing in January of 2014 upside down to $6. Even if CIBC’s commission pricing is $6.95, it’s that first number people tend to notice.

Ironically, it is the same strategy Scotia iTrade employs with their active trader pricing of $4.99. Unfortunately for Scotia iTrade, they are also the lone holdout for lowering their standard commission pricing from the $24.99+ level down to where the rest of the market is.

For HSBC InvestDirect, the options were somewhat limited in terms of a move that would competitively position them with their peers while simultaneously giving them visibility in strategic markets (such as Western Canada). Without flashy platforms or a strong educational/feature offering, a shift in pricing was a potent option. That said, the move to undercut the majority of other brokerages by charging $9.88 vs. the $9.95 gives HSBC InvestDirect additional visibility with price sensitive consumers.

The true coup, however, is for clients that have $50,000+ in assets. Clients at this asset tier can qualify for the HSBC InvestDirect Advanced commission pricing that takes the cost per North American equity trade down to $8.88 – substantially undercutting many other bank-owned brokerages.

Be sure to check out the in-depth breakdown on the latest commission pricing at Canadian bank-owned discount brokerages to see just where the largest players now sit with one another.

Deals Get into Gear

Although September got off to a slow start when it came to discount brokerage deals and promotions, this past week, the deals and promotions section has been hotter than the Toronto TIFF red carpets.

With BMO InvestorLine updating their special offers page, the extension once again of their popular youth-oriented deal was confirmed. It was, however, the fact that three other offers from three different brokerages that showed up throughout the week that really signaled that the promotional war may once again be heating up.

While National Bank Direct Brokerage, Questrade and Scotia iTrade all launched new offers, it was interesting to see National Bank Direct Brokerage step back into the deals and promotions ring after their absence.

Although it is just speculation, with the JD Power discount brokerage rankings right around the corner and the fact that National Bank Direct Brokerage has traditionally performed well in this particular ranking, the timing of NBDB’s set of commission-credit offers may be no coincidence.

Another interesting observation is how the value of Scotia iTrade’s latest cashback/commission-free trade offer is starting to creep up.

Specifically, Scotia iTrade just launched (or relaunched) their $500 cash back or 500 commission free trade promotion after just retiring the $1000 cash back or 1000 free trade promotion. In the case of their latest offer, the minimum deposit to qualify for the offer ($15,000) can net a new client a $75 cash back bonus. In the offer that just expired, however, the minimum tier of $15,000 would have only netted a $50 cash back bonus.

Clearly Scotia iTrade is looking to step up its efforts at attracting clients in by offering them more and the fact that iTrade has posted this deal through the end of the year means that they’re banking that it will be tough for other brokerages to come up with a better offer to beat it.

Tweets of the Week

This past week, technology glitches resurfaced as a reminder that trading online and now “on the go online”, is not without its potential mishaps. The brokerage at the centre of it all was Scotia iTrade, who experienced a server glitch that meant some users went offline temporarily (or in the users minds far too long). Other brokerages on the hot seat this week were BMO InvestorLine and Questrade. Virtual Brokers was spotted yet again on their campus tour, this time at U of T Scarborough.

Event Horizon

This week’s line-up of discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events include upcoming sessions that may be of interest to those intrigued by RRIFs, trading psychology, and options. Short selling and trading strategies round out this week’s selection.

September 19 – September 25

Scotia iTRADE – Trading Psychology Part 1 with Stefanie Kammerman

Scotia iTRADE – RRIF Accounts with Scotia iTRADE

TD Direct Investing – Options as an Income Strategy

Scotia iTRADE – Options as an Income Strategy Using Calls with Montreal Exchange

NBDB – Trading Plan and Investment Strategy for Mid and Short Term Traders – [Fr]

TD Direct Investing – Understanding Margin & Short Selling

 September 21st

Scotia iTRADE – Trading Psychology Part 1 with Stefanie Kammerman

September 22nd

Scotia iTRADE – RRIF Accounts with Scotia iTRADE

September 23rd

TD Direct Investing – Options as an Income Strategy

Scotia iTRADE – Options as an Income Strategy Using Calls with Montreal Exchange

NBDB – Trading Plan and Investment Strategy for Mid and Short Term Traders – [Fr]

September 24th

TD Direct Investing – Understanding Margin & Short Selling

Questrade – Energy Market Outlook

From the Forums

A Heated Exchange

One of the biggest thorns in the sides of Canadian investors is the exchange rate they typically have to pay when converting between Canadian and US dollars when trading US listed stocks. Clever investors have figured out creative ways to minimize those conversions however this post from RedFlagDeals shows that one user has stumbled on a conversion rate from CIBC Investor’s Edge that is bound to make more than a few other discount brokerages nervous.

Stuck at the Border

In this post, also from RedFlagDeals, a DIY investor client of Questrade looks to have run into some delays in getting access to dividend payments. Interestingly, the Questrade support engine did not (yet) jump in to address the issue. Either way, it’s worth a read for those interested in how sometimes dividend investing can get derailed.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. However you are gearing up or gearing down, have a great final weekend-of-summer. For those celebrating Oktoberfest, have a safe and uber-fun weekend!

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Price Drop: HSBC InvestDirect Lowers Standard Commission Pricing

If there’s one thing that can take a Canadian discount brokerage from obscurity to contender, it’s dramatically lowering its standard commission pricing. Despite a relatively quiet summer, the lead up to the fall of 2015 has now officially been marked with a price drop from an unlikely source: HSBC InvestDirect.

As of early September, HSBC InvestDirect has dramatically lowered and simplified their standard equity commission pricing from $28.88+ per trade down to $9.88. In addition, standard options commission pricing has also dropped from a base of $35+ per trade to the standard $9.88 fee + $1.25 per contract. To clarify, the new commission pricing applies to North American equities/ETFs and options only (HSBC InvestDirect is one of a few Canadian online brokerages that has global market trading capability).

While the most drastic pricing adjustments are for the standard offerings, HSBC InvestDirect Advanced clients (i.e. clients with at least $50,000 in assets or who execute 30+ trades per quarter) also caught a break. Their commission price dropped from $9.88 per trade down to $8.88 a trade.

Prior to this move, HSBC InvestDirect and Scotia iTrade were the two remaining bank-owned brokerages that had yet to lower their standard commission pricing down to the sub-$10 range. Unfortunately for Scotia iTrade, it’s now the sole major Canadian bank-owned discount brokerage that charges more double the going rate of about $10 ($24.99+ to be exact) for a standard commission on an equity trade.

The chart below illustrates just how drastic a difference there is between standard commission pricing at Scotia iTrade and the rest of bank-owned online brokerages. Also noticeable is the fact that HSBC InvestDirect’s new commission pricing edges out a lot of its peers.

Standard commission rates at select bank-owned Canadian online brokerages

For those watching the cost per trade closely, HSBC InvestDirect’s new $9.88 commission pricing is actually lower than the standard commission pricing of most of the bank-owned brokerages except for CIBC Investor’s Edge who still offers standard commission pricing at $6.95 per trade. For clients of the HSBC InvestDirect Advanced tier, however, the $8.88 pricing offers a significant savings per trade when compared to what other bank-owned brokerages are offering for deposit/assets of $50,000.

Over the past year HSBC InvestDirect has become increasingly more active with updates to their website content, and with a few promotional offers, the most recent ending just ahead of the announcement of the new pricing. Prior to the past year or so, HSBC InvestDirect appeared to be in somewhat of a holding pattern, not really producing many new deals or promotions nor shifting their pricing alongside the major online brokerage players. Perhaps this move will serve as a catalyst for more activity in the coming months.

It was interesting to note that there was no promotional offer that coincided with the launch of the new pricing. Given the ramp up to the busy fall season, however, HSBC InvestDirect may already have something in the works to take advantage of the attention they’re bound to get from this new pricing initiative.

Whatever HSBC InvestDirect’s strategy is at this point, it’s clear that having standard commission pricing that is lower than most of the other bank-owned brokerages will make waves with the bigger players in the pool. The trick, as almost all other brokerages know, is keeping investors’ attention, which is not something price alone can do.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – September 11, 2015

For such a short week, there was certainly a lot of activity to go around. Many students started school; Apple launched its latest set of toys, Tom Brady laced up for the official start of the new NFL season. Even volatility seemed to be, well, volatile. Yes, for better or worse change is the market’s only constant. To borrow from the launch of the latest iPhone: The only thing that’s changed is everything.

In this week’s roundup we take a look at the ‘back to school’ themed activities that permeated across the discount brokerage and DIY investor landscape. Next, we take a look at the current contests being run by Canadian brokerages as a slightly different approach to get the attention of investors. This week’s discount brokerage tweets also reveal an interesting mix of conversations. Finally we’ll showcase some of the upcoming investor education events and close out with the latest forum chatter from Canadian investors.

Kicking it Old School

This past week there were a number of very interesting moves made by several Canadian discount brokerages that all had a distinctive ‘back to school’ theme to them.

Starting first with Virtual Brokers who was literally going back to schools to do some promotional activity. As spotted on their Twitter account, Virtual Brokers visited the campuses of three universities this week: Ryerson, University of Toronto Mississauga and McMaster.

While post-secondary students typically don’t have lots of extra funds to invest, there are a number of strategic sub-groups within the university crowd that make sense for a discount brokerage to build awareness with.

Like several other brokerages, Virtual Brokers has younger, cost-conscious investors on their wish list. To that end, Virtual Brokers has developed student oriented products, such as the Kick Start Investment Program which are directly being pitched to students and recent graduates.

So, while it may be tough to command the attention of undergrads between pub crawls and frosh week nuttiness, Virtual Brokers looks like they’re putting a more personal approach into their online brokerage image.

Putting Energy into Education

Another non- bank-owned brokerage, Questrade, was also up to some creative education-themed marketing. Coming up later this month Questrade is holding an investor education webinar on a popular investment area for many Canadian investors: the energy sector.

The session, entitled the 2015 energy investing outlook webinar, is being presented by the OTC Markets Group in association with Canadian Oil Sands Limited, Canadian Energy Services and Technology Corp and McMillan LLP. The agenda for Questrade’s upcoming webinar is an interesting one.

Topics to be covered include an introduction to the energy sector, strategies energy company executives use to manage capital and preserve dividends, the impact of currency fluctuations on energy companies and how to read financial statements from energy companies.

Unlike other discount brokerages such as Scotia iTrade or TD Direct Investing who tend to hold frequent investor education events, Questrade appears to be leaning towards doing less frequent but bigger events. Earlier this year, Questrade also ran an event that featured key speakers from the Canadian financial media that looked at investing trends for 2015.

The session is scheduled to take 75 minutes with 60 minutes for the presentation and 15 minutes for the question/answer period. For more information on this webinar, click here.

Intuition to Win Tuition

Taking a different approach to the back-to-school season, BMO InvestorLine is banking on promotions and contests to win over younger investors. Specifically, BMO InvestorLine has decided to extend their commission-free trade youth promotion into the fall.

At the outset of September the InvestorLine website did not have the updated dates and offer, however the information eventually made its way up there.

As an extra incentive, BMO is also running a contest with a top prize of $10,000 towards tuition at a post-secondary institution as well as $500.00 towards books. Eligible individuals who open an InvestorLine ‘Young Investor Account’ can qualify for this prize draw.

For those who prefer to go the ‘no purchase necessary’ route or who have a light course load, there is an option to submit a (legibly) handwritten 500-800 word essay on “why students should plan their financial future.”


With interest in investing and trading picking back up again as we head into the fall, Canadian discount brokerages are definitely looking to get the attention of DIY investors. In addition to the regular slate of cash-back or commission-free trade offers, some brokerages also use contests strategically to get the attention (and contact information) of investors.

As mentioned above, BMO InvestorLine in conjunction with their parent bank, BMO, are running the ‘win tuition’ contest. Like most things in the discount brokerage world, however, BMO InvestorLine is not alone in using contests. RBC Direct Investing and Questrade both have contests themed around education/learning.

In the case of RBC Direct Investing, their current contest offers three chances per month to win $1,000. The contest, which began in April and runs until December 27th, is open only to members of the RBC Direct Investing Community. One of the features of the RBC Direct Investing platform is that there is a robust practice account feature as well as a large community of investors to learn and benchmark personal performance against (anonymously).

Finally, Questrade has a contest currently underway geared towards the ‘back-to-school’ sentiment. The contest offers the chance for individuals to win $5,000 toward a professionally managed RESP using Portfolio IQ.

When it comes to contests, it is actually quite interesting to see the amount of resource (in dollar terms) that RBC Direct Investing is contributing towards their investor community feature relative to what other brokerages are spending on these type of efforts. The only other big bank-owned brokerage offering a major prize contest is BMO InvestorLine and even then, the contest is actually being run by the parent BMO and spread across many different business units to qualify.

Also, for comparison, the selfie contest that Scotia iTrade ran this past summer for the prize of a movie pass shows the magnitude of difference between what RBC is putting forward and how other brokerages are responding. At a time when competition is forcing discount brokerages to look for cost efficiency, RBC is once again raising the ante for the other bank-owned brokerages to come up with a compelling incentive.

Tweets of the Week

This week on Twitter was an interesting one. While there was a good diversity of participation and topics covered, it was particularly noteworthy to see Virtual Brokers’ social media efforts restart. Prior to this past week, their Twitter account was dormant through a good chunk of the summer. Mentioned this week were CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, Scotia iTrade and Virtual Brokers.


Event Horizon

This week’s discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events include upcoming sessions that may be of interest to mutual funds enthusiasts, and those curious about options and ETFs. Introduction to investing, trading strategies, and fundamental analysis round out this week’s selection.

September 12 – September 18

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing

TD Direct Investing – D-Series | Mutual Funds for the Self-Directed Investor

Scotia iTRADE – Getting Started with Stocks with Pro Market Advisors

TD Direct Investing – Options as an Income Strategy

NBDB – Option Trading Training Program 3rd Edition – [Fr]

Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Trading ETFs with Desjardins Online Brokerage

TD Direct Investing – Options as an Income Strategy

Scotia iTRADE – Equity Strategies with iShares

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fundamental Analysis

Scotia iTRADE – The Call Option with AJ Monte

From the Forums

Mutually E-xclusive

In this post from reddit Personal Finance Canada, a beginner investor is looking to get started with some simple TD e-series mutual funds in a TFSA. It definitely generated a lot of interesting comments and instructive perspectives on how to get started with investing and is worth a read for beginners.

Optional Options

In this quick thread, on Canadian Money Forum a user is curious about how to go about trading options in their TD direct investing account. What’s also interesting is how some DIY investors can turn to fellow forum posters ahead of or in lieu of brokerages directly.

Scalp Message

In this post from another reddit forum on investing, the Canadian Investor, one user is looking for some perspective on which discount brokerage may be best penny stock trading. Though the forum isn’t as big as the other forums, it is an interesting perspective on a trading strategy.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. There’s been a lot of chatter about two dirty four letter words in the news: rate hike. Not all hikes are bad though. If you’re the outdoorsy type, take the chance to enjoy a late summer hike; if you’re a football fan, then there’s also another type of hike you might enjoy. Of course, everyone is still waiting and worrying about that “other” hike, but until it comes, hopefully there are still some chances to take advantage of the fun kinds. Have a great weekend!


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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – September 4, 2015

source: Giphy

Just a few more days until school begins but from the looks of things, investors are already enrolled in the school of hard knocks. Unlike Tom Brady, however, many DIY investors are not going to get away without a few bumps and bruises to their portfolio.

For Canada’s discount brokerages, the volatility is a double-edged sword. Trading tends to go up when markets whipsaw which, of course, is great for generating trading commissions. Unfortunately, crashing markets tend to keep the fearful away from opening up new accounts.

In this week’s discount brokerage roundup, we’ll take a look at volatility in the deals and promotions section for the new crop of offers. Next we preview the upcoming season Canadian brokerages love and loathe followed by a ‘big bank’ theory that showed up in this week’s discount brokerage tweets. Finally, we cap off the roundup with some upcoming investor education events and a couple of very interesting forum posts.

Fall Selection

Coming into September, the deals and promotions activity at Canada’s discount brokerages mirrored the markets by pulling back significantly. Seven deals expired at the end of August and only two showed up to replace them leaving a grand total of 11.

Fall is typically a busy season for online brokerages so there is likely a ramp up for deals and promotions on the near horizon. Of particular interest is the fact that several online brokerage rankings are just around the corner. In years past there have been some incentives or promotions that are timed around announcements from the ranking results.

Questrade still dominates the online brokerage promotions space when it comes to the number and diversity of promotional offers with 5 deals currently in play. And, although BMO InvestorLine and Scotia iTrade both technically have two offers each, it’s clear that there aren’t many concurrent offerings from the other online brokerages heading into the fall (at least not yet).

Another noteworthy observation from this month’s deals activity was that several firms (big bank and independent) did not take down the expired deals from their websites, even well into the new month. Given that expired offers can create confusion for site visitors or convey the impression that an online brokerage is not tending to its online image, it was interesting to see these offers continue to be visible. In such a competitive field, these seemingly minor elements can end up tipping the balance in favour of those brokerages that appear to be perceived as more responsive.

With market volatility making headlines, it is going to be a challenging time for Canadian brokerages to get noticed and to provide incentive for DIY investors to step into the market. Those who are up for the challenge, however, will have to be able to be a little bolder than what’s currently posted in order to make investors pay attention.

Best Online Brokerage Award Season

It’s almost that time of year again for the crown of ‘best Canadian online brokerage’ to be handed out, again and again and again and again.

Between September and December there are four different rankings of Canada’s online brokerages that typically get released: the J.D. Power Investor Satisfaction Survey, the Globe and Mail Discount Brokerage Rankings, Surviscor’s Discount Brokerage Rankings and the Morningstar Best Online Brokerage Awards.

The J.D. Power awards for Canadian online brokerages are expected later this month while Rob Carrick’s online brokerage rankings for the Globe and Mail usually land somewhere in mid to late November. Surviscor’s awards are slated to arrive sometime in October or November and the Morningstar Canada Award winners are announced at an evening gala event which takes place this year in Toronto on November 25th.

As a lead up to the upcoming online brokerage awards season, this past week, Morningstar Canada tweeted the nomination form for the best online brokerage award – which is a submission based award.

What this means is that brokerages can, for a $1,000 entrance fee (the fee goes to the charitable partner for this event MusiCounts), submit their firm for consideration for the best online brokerage award. The submission form covers three main areas: online presence, customer service and costs. A panel of several jurors, typically made up of professionals within the online brokerage industry assess the submissions and then select the firm they think provided the best submission. What all of these different awards point out, however, is that there are many different ways to define who the ‘best online brokerage’ in Canada is. For DIY investors and online brokerages alike, this is an unfortunate reality. Since so many firms use the term “best” its meaning has now lost the weight it once carried. Ironically, what having these different measurements points out is that no one system is best when it comes to evaluating which Canadian online brokerage is the best.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

This week’s volatility in trading markets provided an interesting backdrop to what DIY investors were commenting about on Twitter. Specifically it wasn’t what they were saying so much as who they were saying it to and when the conversations were happening. In this week’s discount brokerage tweets, the big bank owned brokerages were getting quite a bit of attention. Another interesting observation: Scotia iTRADE’s twitter account was getting coverage on the weekend. Over the past several weeks we’ve seen tweets that show up late Friday or across the weekend get answered on the Monday. This past week, however, it was noteworthy to see Scotia iTRADE provide extended coverage. For the other bank-owned brokerages and independent brokerages, simply providing the scheduled tweets on the weekend looks like it isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Event Horizon

It’s back-to-school with this week’s discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events. Here are some upcoming educational sessions that may be of interest to technical and fundamental analysis enthusiasts. Trading strategies, ETFs, and options round out this week’s selection.

September 8th

Scotia iTRADE – Cash Management Using ETFs with Horizons ETFs

TD Direct Investing – Chart Smart | The Relative Strength Index (aka “The RSI”)

September 9th

Scotia iTRADE – Long-term Liabilities are the Real Benchmark to Beat with Purpose Investments

TD Direct Investing – Options as an Income Strategy

September 10th

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fundamental Analysis

NBDB – Trading Plan and Investment Strategy for Mid and Short Term Traders – [Fr]

From the Forums

In keeping with the theme noticed on Twitter, there were a couple of interesting posts about bank-owned online brokerages that surfaced in the Canadian investor forums.

Taking off the Trading Wheels

In this first post from the Personal Finance Canada community on reddit, one mid 30’s user had some questions about getting started with their new RBC Direct Investing account, including setting up order types and ETF purchase strategies.

A Convenient Coincidence

Meanwhile, in a separate thread on RedFlagDeals’ investing forum, a similar scenario emerged for a user considering either BMO InvestorLine or Questrade for a TFSA. Interestingly, the convenience factor is a definite pull for some DIY investors. This post was also really interesting because Questrade’s reps did not hesitate to jump on the chance to explain the value of their offer. Well played Team Questrade. Well played.

Into the Close

That does it for this edition of the roundup. Enjoy the long weekend and remember that markets in the US and Canada are closed Monday for the Labour (or Labor) Day holiday. For those longing for volatility anyway, from the PNE to the CNE to Canada’s Wonderland to La Ronde, there are at least a few ways to get your roller-coaster fix. In the meanwhile, here are 10 roller coaster rides that might or might accurately capture the sentiment for the last few trading days.

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – September 2015

*Updated September 26*

September is not even a day old and it’s off to a volatile start in the equity markets. Even though this is the month when leaves start changing colour, it seems like DIY investors are going to see portfolios and markets change colour first.

Canadian discount brokerages, and in particular their deals and promotions, are also stepping into September having to navigate some big changes. Specifically, heading into this new month, seven deals or promotions from five different brokerages have officially expired leaving the those brokerages who have offers a better chance at getting the attention of DIY investors and those on the sidelines with some catching up to do.

While brokerages, such as BMO InvestorLine and Questrade continue to rotate offers, other online brokerages, such as National Bank Direct Brokerage, HSBC InvestDirect and Virtual Brokers have opted to let offers lapse, at least for the moment.

Part of the strategy behind the number of discount brokerage deals being offered in the summer was to offset the slowdown that typically occurs as investors take time away from the markets. This fall, however, brokerages may have to get creative in providing incentives for DIY investors to open up online trading accounts because of substantial stock market volatility.

As always, we’ll be watching closely to see which brokerages decide to launch offers this month and if you’ve heard of anything not listed, drop us a note or comment below.

Expired Deals

The end of August saw seven deals officially expire from five discount brokerages. Of those, however, three brokerages still have these offers posted on their websites (at the time of publication). Here’s a quick list of the deals that expired at the end of August:

  • BMO InvestorLine – Summer Cash Back Promotion
  • BMO InvestorLine – Youth Promotion Phase II
  • HSBC InvestDirect – 30 commission free trades promotion
  • NBDB – iPad Mini or $300 Cash Back promotion
  • Questrade – 3 months free trading promotion
  • Questrade – $500 Apple Store Gift Card Promotion
  • Virtual Brokers – 25 commission free trades promotion

As mentioned above, there are a couple of “expired” offers still being advertised on brokerage web pages at the time of publication, specifically BMO InvestorLine’s Youth Promotion, HSBC InvestDirect’s 30 free trade promotion and Virtual Brokers’ 25 commission-free trades promotion. We’ll continue to monitor them for any updates or extensions.

Extended Deals

*Update: Although it took a few days to reach the website, BMO InvestorLine has extended their Youth Promotion once again. The new deadline to take advantage of this offer is October 31st, 2015. See table below for more info*

At the time of publication there are no extensions of deals to report.

New Deals

*Update: Virtual Brokers is back in the deals ring with a “back-to-school” themed promotion. Students who sign up for a Virtual Brokers account (with a deposit of at least $1,000) can receive a cash-back promotion of $50. See table below for more details*

*Update: The deals and promotions are starting to ramp up as three new offers from three different online brokerages have been spotted since the update four days ago.

First, Scotia iTrade has launched their latest cash back or commission free trade offer to replace the offer which expired Sept. 13th. Their latest offer is similar in that it provides the choice of cash back or free trades, however it looks like Scotia iTrade is sweetening the deal for investors with lower deposit amounts by offering $75 cash back (instead of $50) for the first deposit tier. When the bids increase it’s a sure sign of competition becoming more fierce. See table below for more details on the pricing tiers and deadlines.

The next offer is from Questrade who started the month without a dedicated offer for the deposit tier of $50,000+ but who also has decided to provide a cash-back bonus that is quite competitive. Questrade is offering either $100 cash back or $250 cash back for deposits of either $50,000 or $100,000+ respectively. See table below for more information.

Finally, National Bank Direct Brokerage has stepped back into the deals and promotions arena with a multi-tiered commission-free trades offer. For deposits of between $5,000 to $24,999 eligible clients can receive 25 commission-free trades; for deposits between $25,000 and $49,999, eligible clients can receive 50 commission-free trades; and finally, for deposits of $50,000+, eligible clients can receive 100 commission-free trades. See the table below for more information.*

Two new offers from BMO InvestorLine and Questrade kick started the deals activity for September.

Starting first with BMO InvestorLine, their latest promotion is a combination of free trades and cash back and is aimed at individuals depositing at least $100,000. Specifically, BMO InvestorLine is offering $200 cash back and 20 commission-free trades which are good for use for up to a year. The offer runs until October 31st and is open to both new and existing clients (who open a new account). See table below for more details.

Questrade starts the month with the most deals of any Canadian online brokerage. Their latest promotion is a relaunch of a previously posted commission-free trading deal. This offer gives eligible clients either 100 commission-free trades (for deposits of at least $10,000) or 10 commission-free trades (for deposits of $1,000 to $9,999).

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
BMO InvestorLine Individuals between 18 and 35 years of age who open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine, may be eligible to receive 35 commission-free trades, an eBook on investing, $50 cash back and potentially waived account minimum fees. Use promo code “YOUNG” when signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. A) for commission free trades: n/a B) for cash back: $25,000 A) 35 commission-free trades (rebate for free trades to be applied week of March 28/2016) B) $50 cash back + 35 commission-free trades (cash back bonus to be applied week of March 28/2016) 90 days Youth Promotion October 31, 2015
For students and recent graduates (within the past 2 years), open a new account with Virtual Brokers with at least $1,000 and you may be eligible to receive $50 cash back. Use promo code UN332015 when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. $1,000 $50 cash back Cash deposited shortly after Dec. 31/15 Student Promo October 31, 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 $25 cash back and they receive either A) $25; B) $50; C) $75; D) $100; or E) $250 depending on the amount deposited amount. Enter code: 476104302388759 during account sign up to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for eligibility and additional bonus payment structure and minimum balance requirements. A) $1,000 – $9,999 B) $10,000 – $24,999 C) $25,000 – $49,999 D) $50,000 -$99,999 E) $100,000+ $25 cash back (for referrer per referral; $50 bonus cash back for every 3rd referral) For referred individuals: A) $25 cash back B) $50 cash back C) $75 cash back D) $100 cash back E) $250 cash back Cash deposited into Questrade billing account within 7 days after funding period ends (90 days) Refer a friend terms and conditions; Code Number: 476104302388759 none
Open and fund a new account (TFSA, Margin or RRSP) with at least $1,000 and you may be eligible to receive 5 commission-free trades. Use promo code 5FREETRADES when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions carefully. $1,000 5 commission-free trades 60 days 5 commission-free trade offer December 31, 2016
Open and fund a new online trading account with Questrade with at least A)$1,000 or B)$10,000 and you could be eligible to receive either A)10 or B) 100 commission-free trades. Use promo code 100LOWCOM2015 when applying to be eligible for this offer. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions for this promotion. A)$1,000 B)$10,000 A) 10 commission-free trades B) 100 commission-free trades 60 days Commission-free Trade Promotion December 31, 2015
Open a new online trading account (registered, margin or FX and CFD) with Questrade and deposit at least $5,000 in order to be eligible to qualify for a $50 prepaid Visa gift card. Clients must also place at least one commission-generating trade within 60 days. Use promo code VISA502015 when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 $50 prepaid Visa card Prepaid Visa cards will be mailed after clients complete eligibility requirements. Prepaid Visa Promotion October 30, 2015
Open a new online trading account with National Bank Direct Brokerage and deposit either A) $5000 – $24,999; B) $25,000 – $49,999 or C) $50,000 and you may be eligible to receive either A) 25; B) 50 or C) 100 commission-free trades. Use promo code “Trade” when applying to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions carefully. A) $5,000 – $24,999 B) $25,000 – $49,999 C) $50,000+ A) 25 commission-free trades B) 50 commission-free trades C) 100 commission-free trades 90 days Commission-free Trades Offer November 30, 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 September 30, 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 – $249,999; or D)$250,000+ and you may be eligible to receive a corresponding cash back or commission rebate. For commission-free trades use code: FTN-F15 or for cash rebates use code: NC-F15. Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully for rebate and cash back eligibility. Contact Scotia iTrade for full details on this offer. A) $15,000 – $49,999 B) $50,000 -$99,999 C) $100,000 – $249,999 D) $250,000+ A) 75 commission-free trades OR $75 cash back B) 125 commission-free trades OR $125 cash back C) 250 commission free trades OR $250 cash back D) 500 commission-free trades OR $500 cash back 120 days for commission-free trades; Cash for the cash back offer will be deposited directly by September 30, 2016. 500 free trade or $500 cash back promo December 31, 2015
Disnat Disnat is offering new & existing clients $500 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 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code Disnat500. See details link for more info. $50,000 $500 commission credit 6 months Disnat $500 Commission Credit Promo September 30, 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 – $249,999 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). BMO InvestorLine Refer-a-Friend October 30, 2015
Open and fund a new online trading account with Questrade with at least A)$50,000 to $99,999 or B)$100,000+ and you could be eligible to receive either A)$100 or B) $250 cash back. Use promo code CASHBACK2015 when applying to be eligible for this offer. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions for this promotion. A) $50,000 -$99,999 B) $100,000+ A) $100 cash back B) $250 cash back Cash will be deposited within 30 days of account being properly funded. $250 Cash Back Promo October 30, 2015
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine, and fund it with at least $100,000 in net new assets and you may be eligible to receive either A)$200 cash back plus 20 commission-free equity trades. Use promo code FALL2015 when signing up to be eligible. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. $100,000 $200 + 20 commission-free equity trades Cash award will be paid the week of June 6, 2016. Trades are good for 1 year from signing up for promotional offer. Fall 2015 Promotion October 31, 2015

Expired Offers

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 – $249,999; D)$250,000 – $499,999; E) $500,000 – $999,999 or F)$1,000,000+ you may be eligible to receive a corresponding cash back or commission rebate. For commission-free trades use code: THSP15 or for cash rebates use code: RNYDMN. Be sure to read the terms and conditions carefully for rebate and cash back eligibility. Contact Scotia iTRADE for full details on this offer. A) $15,000 – $49,999 B) $50,000 -$99,999 C) $100,000 – $249,999 D) $250,000 – $499,999 E) $500,000 – $999,999 F) $1,000,000+ A) 50 commission-free trades OR $50 cash back B) 100 commission-free trades OR $100 cash back C) 250 commission free trades OR $250 cash back + KeeneOnTheMarket Subscription D) 350 commission-free trades OR $350 cash back + KeeneOnTheMarket Subscription E) 500 commission-free trades OR $500 cash back + KeeneOnTheMarket Subscription F) 1000 commission-free trades OR $1,000 cash back + KeeneOnTheMarket Subscription 120 days for commission-free trades Cash back to be deposited by February 13, 2016. $1000 or 1000 free trade offer September 13, 2015
Last Updated: September 26, 2015 1:30am PT

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 or $1000 Cash Back Offer September 13, 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
Transfer $25,000 or more from another brokerage and Credential Direct will cover up to $150 in transfer fees. Use promo code SWITCHME when signing up to qualify for the transfer promotion. $150 $25,000 Credential Direct Transfer Fee Rebate none
Qtrade Investor Qtrade Investor will reimburse your transfer fee up to $150 when transferring a balance of $10,000 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 Rebate 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 into a CIBC Investor’s Edge account and they will reimburse up to $135 in brokerage transfer fees. Clients must call customer service to request rebate after transfer made. $135 $25,000 confirmed with reps. Contact client service for more info (1-800-567-3343) 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
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 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code Disnat500. See details link for more info. $150 $50,000 Disnat $500 Commission Credit Promo September 30, 2015