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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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