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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 30, 2015

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Much of Canada is currently experiencing the effects of fall weather: falling leaves, lowering temperatures, and Toronto Maple Leaf’s fans thinking about a Stanley Cup run. As many of Canada’s discount brokerages know, however, while hope may be a good thing, hedging your bets is a necessity.

In this week’s roundup, we’ll take a look at how some of Canada’s largest online brokerages are hedging their bets when it comes providing more features to DIY investors. Of course, deals and promotions are a great way to hedge against the falling commission prices which is what we look at, followed by an eventful week on Twitter. We cap off the roundup with some exciting investor education events and interesting investor forum chatter.

Lending an Invisible Hand

If nothing else, DIY traders believe in capitalism: a market-based system in which companies are rewarded for being more competitive. At this point, the market for DIY investors reads somewhat like a textbook case in competition. With pricing now less of a differentiating factor, the real fun begins with discount brokerages having to get creative to figure out (or finally listen to) what investors want. This week, we take a look at what two bank-owned discount brokerages in particular are doing right now to capture your attention, and ultimately your business.

First, earlier this month, BMO InvestorLine announced a new feature that can benefit the DIY trader, especially during tax season. Specifically, the brokerage has replaced its Activity Report with an enhanced Realized Gain and Loss Report that provides a detailed and customized transaction history and portfolio performance report. Among other things, this new feature will allow InvestorLine clients to export transactions to CSV spreadsheet format, resulting in a much simpler calculation of capital gains and losses when filing returns to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Our second look this week at new features from a discount brokerage also involves simpler calculations from trading activity. That’s what Scotia iTrade aims to achieve for its clients with its added ‘Income Details’ tab on the brokerage’s online platform. With this feature, users can instantaneously access and calculate historical and projected income from equities, ETFs and fixed income securities. Details of any interest paid on cash in an account is also accessible in this new platform.

The competition to provide DIY traders with increasingly enhanced features appears to be proceeding quite nicely, thank you very much, and the beneficiary should be prospective brokerage clients looking for value, and a competitive edge. After all, that’s what capitalism should be all about, isn’t it?

All Good Things Come to …

The fall season represents a transition from the fullness of summer, when life and energy are often at their peak, to the uncompromising cold of winter, where both animal and plant life often slumber until the rise of spring. Of course, for online brokerages, it’s a catch-22. When the weather is good, investors typically don’t want to hunker down and watch the markets – they’d rather be on vacation. With the return of activity of the markets, there’s a scramble to keep up with interest and to get the attention of DIY investors.

While some brokerages are able to selectively put on promotions during the year, others have to (or choose to) offer incentives year-round.

Not surprisingly, old habits are hard to die for Questrade as it leads October with a whopping six promotional offers active during the month. Only two are set to expire at the end of October: the prepaid Visa promo, and the $250 cash back program. BMO InvestorLine is next in line, forgive the pun, with three promotional offers for the month. Sadly, all three are set to expire with the leaves of autumn: youth promotion phase 2, refer a friend, and the 20 free trades with $200 cash back deal. Virtual Brokers is also slated to have one of their student promotions expire.

Of course, there’s nothing to prevent these offers from being extended. In total, and by our count, Canada’s discount brokerages had 17 active advertised promotional deals during October, with only six set to expire by the end of the month.

Luckily for DIY investors, we here at Sparx Trading keep a pulse on who’s doing what with respect to promotions at the discount brokerages, and what’s exactly falling by the wayside as we head into a new month. Be on the lookout as next week as the deals roster is set to change, perhaps quite substantially, as we head into the final stretch of 2015.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

Technology strikes again. This week’s tweets showcase the hiccups and the completely unexpected events that make DIY investing online a wild ride. Making the roundup this week are CIBC Investor’s Edge, Scotia iTrade, Questrade, Virtual Brokers and TD Direct Investing.

Event Horizon

Fear not, there’s no tricks, just treats in the week ahead for discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events. Here are some upcoming sessions that may be of interest to those who are new to investing, curious about trading strategies, and options enthusiasts. Margin accounts, and a national investment conference rounds out this week’s spooktacular selection.

October 31

Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – The World Money Show (participating)

November 3

Scotia iTRADE – Stocks Search Selection Strategy with Pro Market Advisors

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

November 4

TD Direct Investing – Understanding Margin & Short Selling

Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – Protect Your Portfolio Using Options – Preview

From the Forums

It’s not only about price

Competitive forces have leveled the playing field among discount brokerages. In this post from the RedFlagDeals investing thread, people compare the pros and cons between Scotia iTrade and Questrade. We’ve seen big banks decrease their commission rates which results in clients comparing more than just price.

For the passive investor

For those of you that aren’t looking to become active traders and still want to be involved with DIY investing, a great option is passive trading. In this post from the Financial Wisdom Forum a user posts about their lack of interest with active investing. The thread discusses the options for DIY investors that would like to take a more passive approach to investing.

Into the Close

So that’s it for this week’s roundup. Regardless of whether you’re looking for treats from the market, your discount brokerage or simply the candy bar variety, have a happy Halloween!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 23, 2015

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Landslide elections, time machines, and Drake’s infamous victory dances (we think) – this has been a marathon week for peering into the future. While they may not have legendary locks of hair, a hoverboard or some rather original dance moves, Canadian discount brokerages are constantly thinking about and trying to keep up with the future of DIY investing.

In this edition of the roundup we take a look at the interesting moves by one online brokerage South of the border that tip their hand at what’s around the corner for the active traders/investors. Next, a short lesson in volatility that all DIY investors who trade on margin should keep in mind. On the topic of lessons we 1000 tweets deep into personal finance tips from this past weekend from some of Canada’s leading voices on personal finance to see what emerged from the ether. We cap off the roundup with some exciting upcoming investor education events, insightful tweets of the week, forum posts and some dance moves you probably won’t be able to unsee but might be able to relate to after this week.

Earnings Hotline Bling

Earnings season is back once again and this go around there was an interesting reveal made by the US-based Interactive Brokers on their Q3 2015 earnings conference call. As we mentioned in last week’s roundup, Interactive Brokers published a communique highlighting their investor marketplace’s progress but also the launch of their newest practice account feature.

This past week, the founder and CEO of Interactive Brokers, Thomas Peterffy, provided more context around this feature and what it means for his company. There were several interesting tidbits of information within that call.

First, the practice accounts. Peterffy revealed that “about 35% of new account applicants actually completed their applications and funded their accounts” however now that applicants will get immediate access to all of Interactive Brokers’ trading tools, Peterffy believes that a greater percentage of individuals will actually want to follow through on signing up. What was particularly interesting is that users can sign up for a practice account with full access to all the trading tools that they can keep using with delayed data indefinitely.

Second, their target clients are. Interactive Brokers’ platform, marketing and product experience are not geared towards every kind of investor. By their own admission they are more interested in and cater to the active traders – individuals who trade on average “about 500 times a year”. In contrast, the larger bank-owned brokerages who are typically the choice of less active investors often struggle to provide a robust platform and competitive pricing for active traders. In short, IB is a product being built for and marketed to active traders. This was particularly important in the context of platform stability in which Interactive Brokers was able to weather the storm of market outages that hit other bigger platforms, such as Ameritrade and Schwab in August. The reason, according to Peterffy was a lack of bandwidth.

Finally, it’s hard to make money, even as a market maker. This was particularly fascinating as an investor to see that major exchanges reserve the right to cancel trades. For market makers, a business arm of IB, having no visibility or certainty in times of heightened volatility means that they and others like them are not eager to jump into a position because of the risk a trade they take may get cancelled.

There were more interesting nuggets in the call especially for those interested in learning about how Interactive Brokers’ business model and approach.

A Short Lesson

One of the biggest news stories for investors and traders alike this week has been the volatility hitting Valeant Pharmaceuticals.

While volatility is a double edged sword in terms of risk and reward, for those looking to chase the storm for some short term gain, there was a very instructive lesson dealt by Questrade in terms of margin requirements being raised.

Covering their own assets by changing margin requirements is not unique to Questrade. In fact, in the conference call with Interactive Brokers referenced above, one question appeared to focus on an investor who noticed margin requirements were suddenly raised across the board – much to the surprise of the company CEO. This past week, however, clients of Questrade took notice of the drastic change from 30% to 50% margin requirement.

For individuals who run afoul of margin requirements, brokerages typically reserve the right to ‘derisk’ the position either by liquidating the offside position or requiring the account holder to bring the margin requirement up to the minimum acceptable threshold.

Interestingly, by raising margin requirements, it makes it more likely that individuals will have to sell/liquidate in order to satisfy their lenders risk comfort level. As a result, more traders are selling into the falling price and create a lower price forcing more investors to either shore up margin or liquidate. And so the death spiral goes until the buyers step in or the short sellers start to cover (of course if an exchange can cancel trades, market makers are not going to want to step in and start buying).

Another interesting consequence of ending up in a margin call is that certain deals and promotions, especially the cash-back promotions, may get invalidated. In the fine print of many of these offers, accounts must be kept in “good standing” which can mean that an account not be subject to a margin call during the promotional qualification period.

Storm chasing always attracts those with a penchant for danger, however there are risks that can creep up all through the transaction pathway that DIY traders should be aware of.

1000 Tweets on Canadian Personal Finance

The 2015 edition of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference or #CPFC15 was held last weekend in Toronto. Organized by CPFC co-founder Krystal Yee and’s Kerri-Lynn McAllister, this two day event featured lots of great personal finance tips and gems passed along by many of Canada’s most influential and passionate personal finance writers.

One of the great side benefits of having so many social media savvy writers in one room is the sheer volume of information they can collectively generate. While yours truly did not attend in person, there were a large number of like-minded Twitter stalkers watchers also in attendance.

Naturally the question arose as to what could be gleaned from a room full of personal finance writers and speakers by reading their Twitter posts.

The answer is: lots.

After sorting through and removing the spammy messages that appeared because the hashtag #CPFC15 managed to get itself trending across Canada (apparently thanks in large part to Jonathan Chevreau and Capital One Financial), what remained was an interesting cross section of personal finance topics covered from borrowing to investing.

Below are 1000 tweets collected from this year’s #CPFC15 (minus the spam) that show a bit of the ramp up, the conference itself as well as some of the reactions post conference.

While it is nearly impossible to sum up that many tweets and topics into a “Top 10” list, here are 3 interesting observations related to the DIY investing and discount brokerage space:

First, Questrade was the only Canadian discount brokerage who was actively tweeting from that conference. Keep in mind that this event brought together some of the most influential voices in the Canadian social media and personal finance blogger/writer community – including those who comment on investing. Questrade also took that opportunity to promote their affiliate program (full disclosure SparxTrading is also a participant of that program) to the community of personal finance writers which also raised a few eyebrows in the room, most notably from Jonathan Chevreau.

Second, Robo-advisors are gaining in popularity and resonate with younger investors. The real nugget was that apparently BMO is finally moving into this space after many months of trying to understand the landscape and opportunity.

More broadly, the impact of financial technology or fintech is starting to become a real challenge to the traditional model of banking and wealth management. Now there are robot money managers, branchless banks and peer to peer lending platforms encroaching on the traditional financial services sectors. That’s not news per se but the storm is real and it’s coming.

Finally, DIY investing isn’t so easy according the Canadian Couch Potato Dan Bortolotti. While the ‘discount’ in discount brokerage is appealing, there is a lot that investors take on by trying to sort through the news and noise of the markets, let alone the emotional ups and downs that accompany investing.

Overall, it was great to see the cross section of professional journalists and personal finance bloggers sharing ideas and inspiration on how best to bring the message of better financial literacy and practice to a wider audience. Happy reading!


Event Horizon

Time to bundle up and hunker down, it’s a busy week ahead for discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events. Below are some upcoming sessions that may be of interest to those who are new to investing, options enthusiasts, and those interested in technical analysis. Risk management, trading strategies, a networking opportunity, and a national investment conference round out this week’s selection. Also on the docket, the Tastytrade special event in Toronto this Monday. Here is a recap of the co-founders on a previous edition of Money Talk on BNN.

October 24

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

October 26

TD Direct Investing – Stock Talk

October 27

NBDB – Introduction to Technical Analysis – Moving Averages – [Fr]

Scotia iTRADE – Concepts in Technical Analysis with Recognia

NBDB – Portfolio Management Using Momentum Strategies – [Fr]

October 28

Credential Direct – Understanding Economic and Market Trends with Fidelity

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

October 29

NBDB – Introduction to Technical Analysis – Oscillators – [Fr]

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

October 30

Desjardins Online Brokerage (Disnat) – The World Money Show

Tweets of the Week

There was lots of interest in Questrade this week as they were the only online brokerage at this year’s CPFC. It was a surprisingly quiet week for certain brokerages. TD Direct Investing continue to make waves on social media. Also surfacing this week was Credential Direct in the promo for their upcoming webinar.

From the Forums

DIY another day?

Investors are becoming more informed about how to invest their money but does this knowledge justify going it alone?   In this post from the RedFlagDeals investing thread, a user asks the question about whether to manage investment funds themselves or to use a financial adviser and pay higher fees. The debate continues.

Saving commissions on ETFs

The ability to save on commission fees while purchasing ETFs is influencing some DIY investors to switch from their current discount brokerage to others. For users who want to make frequent purchases of ETFs, paying a commission each time they buy isn’t cutting it. In this post from the reddit Personal Finance Canada subreddit, one user pitches the idea of switching from TD to Questrade to avoid paying commissions on purchasing ETFs. Also check out another thread from Reddit’s personal finance Canada section where an individual with $20,000 recently opened a Questrade account and is asking for advice on how to invest in ETFs.

Into the Close

Congratulations on making it through a marathon edition of the roundup. Whether you’re celebrating or commiserating the marathon season for the Blue Jays, or portfolio hits and misses from the week, here are some fun, but headscratching, dance moves to inspire DIY investors in those squirmy market moments. Have a great weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 16, 2015

It’s rally time. Midway through October, baseball, bats and Blue Jays are top of mind in this post-Thanksgiving trading week. While there’s lots more than baseball that the personal finance enthusiasts are talking about this week, we’ll pitch the idea of a baseball themed roundup, tossed bats and all.

In this edition of the roundup, we’ll recap the field of dreams approach that several discount brokerages are hoping will give them an edge in the race to be crowned best online brokerage. Next we provide a virtual highlight reel of personal finance and investing education conversations happening this weekend and throughout the month. Also on deck will be our discount brokerage tweets of the week, upcoming investor education events and batting cleanup will be the forum chatter from the Canadian investor forums.

‘if you build it they will come’

This past week Interactive Brokers provided an update via their latest ‘Communique’ that revealed just how much interest there has been with their ‘investor marketplace’ initiative as well as revealing more details about their practice trading platforms.

Earlier this year, Interactive Brokers launched an interesting initiative to bring together a community of providers of investing related products and services under the umbrella of their investor ‘marketplace’.

Since the launch in June, they have attracted:

  • 386 investment service providers
  • 155 research providers
  • 308 technology providers
  • 89 administrative service providers and
  • 15 business development providers

This initiative was a bold one to undertake but so far it looks to be paying off and interest appears to be growing.

The strategy to offer up value added services without actually taking on the overhead of hiring staff means that Interactive Brokers has found an interesting way to compete against the armies of staff that larger (and typically bank-owned) brokerages offer but at a fraction of the cost.

It’s not quite a grand slam, but it does give Interactive Brokers a chance to score big points with lots of their key stakeholders.

Interactive Brokers isn’t the only brokerage looking to build new features to attract interest from investors. Questrade, TD Direct Investing and Desjardins Online Brokerage are all working on new platforms to be rolled out in the near future and another popular brokerage (who shall remain unnamed) is gearing up to launch a new website in the upcoming weeks.

Clearly there is a big push to improving the product or platform experience in 2015 and brokerages that can’t keep up will, very visibly, be distanced from those firms that can.

Avoiding the Doubletalk

Talking about finance is not something most people typically choose to do with their weekend. Not so for many of Canada’s most popular personal finance writers and enthusiasts.

This weekend, the Canadian Personal Finance Conference is taking place in Toronto and it promises to bring together dozens of voices from across the personal finance landscape to talk about all kinds of acronyms from RRSPs, TFSAs, DRIPs, PiPs and more. To find out what’s getting the personal finance community buzzing, follow along at the hashtag #CPFC15 or better yet, reach out on Twitter as they will have a live feed at the conference.

Tom Drake of the Canadian Finance Blog also put together a great compilation of personal finance tips from some of the experts in attendance. Keynote speakers at the event include popular names such as David Chilton, Dan Bortolotti, Rob Carrick and Ellen Roseman.

Also interesting is the demonstration of some of the newer frontiers of personal finance from robo-advisors to peer-to-peer lending. Questrade will also be on hand for a demo as part of the fintech portion of the conference. Follow along here on Twitter: #CPFC15

Getting more people to open up and engage in discussions about investing is also on the minds of many of the Canadian financial regulatory agencies. As part of their efforts to increase awareness of important topics for investors, they’ve been offering up all kinds of great resources and content relevant to DIY investors for Investor Education Month.

As many regular readers know, we regularly feature the investor education events offered up by Canadian discount brokerages as well as some of their educational partners. Check out the upcoming events for October below or on our investor education calendar of events.

To follow the conversation on investor education, check out the hashtag: #IEM2015

Event Horizon

It’s an interesting week ahead for discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events. Here are some upcoming sessions that may be of interest to those who are new to investing, female investors, options enthusiasts, and those interested in technical analysis. Fixed income and ETFs round out this week’s selection.

October 19

Scotia iTRADE – Simple Options Strategies for Part Time Trading with Sarah Potter

October 20

Scotia iTRADE – Trading Commodity ETFs with Pro Market Advisors

TD Direct Investing – Chart Smart – Reading Candlestick Charts – [Fr]

October 21

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Fixed Income

Scotia iTRADE – Smart Indexing-Benefiting from Min. Volatility & Fund. Index ETFs with iShares

October 22

TD Direct Investing – Do-It-Yourself Investing for Women

NBDB – Tools and Technical Analysis with Michel Carignan – [Fr]

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

With a shortened trading week and lots of better things to watch on TV, it looks like Canadian DIY investors were busy tweeting about and watching other things. Nonetheless there were a handful of interesting exchanges with the brokerages mentioned this week. Stepping up to the plate were Questrade, Scotia iTrade, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.


From the Forums


Striking Out Costs

TD’s E-Series funds are a popular choice among self-directed investors looking to invest in low cost index funds. In this post from Reddit’s personal finance Canada section, a user discusses BMO Series D Funds as a possible alternative. For added insight, another thread discusses the differences between BMO InvestorLine and TD Direct Investing as a brokerage here.

ETFs Continue to Rally

The increased availability of commission free ETFs at discount brokerages has piqued the interest of DIY investors. In this thread from the Canadian Money Forum, a user is looking for places to find information about these ETFs.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on the short week that was. Of course, there’s really nothing better than showing this off again – so here is the highlight reel of that epic home run. Have a great weekend and #GoJaysGo!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 9, 2015

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This was a big week for rivalries. Whether it was Vancouver versus Calgary or Montreal versus Toronto, there was an electric kick off to the 2015/16 hockey season. It was a fitting backdrop as fierce rivals from across the Canadian discount brokerage landscape also stepped up their game with new features, promotions and movement taking place into the turn of their fiscal year.

In this pre-Thanksgiving edition of the roundup, we cover discount brokerages dishing out plenty of gravy with deals and promotions. Next we move onto one very big brokerage who has their sights set on a little blue bird this Thanksgiving. Of course, what would Thanksgiving be without a little tension across the table? We look the latest moves in investor education that are making a couple of brokerages cast some steely stares across the gravy boat. Finally we round out with a healthy portion of discount brokerage tweets, investor education and the latest chatter from DIY investor forums. Make sure to save room for desert!

Tiers of Joy

This past week, the biggest Canadian discount brokerage decided to wade into the deals pool. Of course any move by a brokerage as big as TD Direct Investing is bound to make more than a few waves with investors and competitor brokerages alike.

Unlike most of the other brokerages on the list of regulars, TD Direct Investing is not a frequent presence on the deals/promotions page. So, when they jump in, there’s probably a good reason behind doing so.

TD Direct Investing’s latest promotional offer is a commission-free trading deal which consists of three tiers of assets and provides three tiers of commission-free trades. Investors depositing at least $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000+ in assets can qualify for 50, 100 or 200 commission-free trades respectively.

The multi-tiered deal seems to be the trend amongst the bank-owned brokerages with BMO InvestorLine, National Bank Direct Brokerage and Scotia iTrade each with promotional offers that are tiered to deposit sizes.

The fact that TD Direct Investing has put an offer out that is both short in duration and timed to this point in the calendar year highlights that it is prime time for brokerages to be generating incentives for DIY investors.

To that end, Virtual Brokers also launched (or revived) their 25 free trade offer this past week although this time with a much lower threshold to qualify ($5,000 vs the previous $15,000). This now puts the deal count for Virtual Brokers at a modest 2, however their deposit thresholds are squarely aimed at younger or newer investors – long the stronghold of their nearest rival Questrade.

With the addition of the TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers offers, the deal count now stands at 17 and the deals and promotions section is looking more stuffed than a Thanksgiving turkey. For DIY investors, this is great news, as these promotional offers are adding gravy on top of falling commission prices.

TD Direct Investing #JoinsTwitter

Even though turkeys are on the minds of a lot Canadians, a much smaller, more blueish bird was on the mind of Canada’s largest discount brokerage. This past week TD Direct Investing pushed go on their own Twitter account and wasted no time throwing it down with promos, news and going after potential clients.

The saga of TD Direct Investing on social media is a fascinating story in and of itself (that’s a story for another time). Suffice to say, other Canadian discount brokerages are now at real risk of developing a few more wrinkles now that TD Direct Investing has their own Twitter account.

For most individuals, getting going on Twitter is a relatively straight forward affair, however for a bank and brand that is as big and visible as TD, the resources that are required to be present on social media are mind-boggling. Not only is there the usual marketing and advertising, there’s also the customer service, legal compliance and the generally-not-looking-awkward-trying-to-be-cool-on-social-media to worry about.

The “history” of TD stepping into social media, while brief, shows that they leverage their biggest resource – their people – in a hurry.

When the TD Twitter account went live, it was simultaneously shocking and awe-inspiring to see how fast the team army of client service reps dedicated to Twitter were deployed. As a reality check, it is now possible for #millenials to actually get a job at a bank that requires them to be on Twitter all day.

When TD Direct Investing gave its team members individual Twitter accounts and asked them to start tweeting not too long ago, there were close to a dozen individuals out and about in the world tweeting about things inside and outside of the world of finance.

Now, as TD Direct Investing launches their new Twitter handle, @TD_DirectInvest, they are battle-hardened, social savvy and are wasting no time going after their competitors.

The following tweet basically sums up and foreshadows what other brokerages such as Scotia iTrade and Questrade are in for:

Source: Twitter


As the battle for attention and relevance spreads to smaller screens and more fragmented channels, TD Direct Investing has joined the fray on Twitter. Although they have a modest following out of the gate (71 at the time of writing) they are very quickly going to get on the radar of a lot of social media investors organically, by advertising and, unfortunately for other brokerages, by going directly after DIY investors.

Moves in Investor Education

It’s fitting that in a week of big rivalries that one of the biggest rivalries in the discount brokerage landscape space flare up. Qtrade Investor and Credential Direct are battling it out in Western Canada and it looks like that fight is about to spill over into the world of investor education.

On the heels of the launch of their new front-facing website, Qtrade Investor not only underwent a drastic cosmetic change, but they also took the bold move of committing more fully to investor education. In their case, it wasn’t the traditional webinar/seminar route but rather through written ‘guides’.

Not content with Qtrade’s content, it looks like Credential Direct is countering by offering up a webinar of its own. Specifically, Credential Direct is holding a webinar from Fidelity Investments entitled “Economic and Market Trends”. While this is by no means the first time Credential Direct has held a webinar and even a webinar from a non-platform/ETF provider, the timing and optics suggest that Credential Direct is keenly aware that they are going to have to get more creative, or at the very least, more active with investor education.

Further east, however, is news that the winds of change in investor education at TD Direct Investing (and probably for everyone else) are now blowing in from the south. What are all these airy allusions referring to?

Spotted this past week was an announcement on TD Direct Investing’s shiny new Twitter account that Tasty Trade will be holding an investor seminar in conjunction with TD Direct Investing in downtown Toronto near the end of October.

Source: Twitter


The primary reason that is this a big deal for investors and investor education providers is because Tastytrade offers up content for DIY investors and has a very big following in the US. To quote the Wall St. Journal on who Tastytrade’s founder is:

Tastytrade is the brainchild of Tom Sosnoff, who founded Thinkorswim Group, an online options-brokerage that was sold for some $750 million in 2009 to TD Ameritrade

For Tastytrade to move north and specifically to be teamed up with TD Direct Investing demonstrates that when it comes to investor education, TD will continue to lean on its resources south of the border (such as Investools and ThinkOrSwim) to offer something many other Canadian brokerages simply cannot.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

As was already described above, this past week on Twitter marked a milestone in the discount brokerage social media space. With TD Direct Investing now stepping onto the ice and immediately dropping the gloves with Scotia iTrade, it looks like the brokerage battles are only going to get fiercer. Mentioned this week were Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTrade, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

Event Horizon

Fall is in full swing, and it’s a busy week ahead for discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events. Here are some upcoming sessions that may be of interest to those who are new to investing, female investors, options enthusiasts, and those interested in technical analysis. Risk management strategies, ETFs, and a margin account primer round out this week’s selection.

October 13

NBDB – Introduction to Technical Analysis: Trends – [Fr]

Scotia iTRADE- Covered Call ETFs with Horizons ETFs

October 14

TD Direct Investing – Understanding Margin & Short Selling

TD Direct Investing – Understanding Margin & Short Selling

TD Direct Investing – Chart Smart – Bollinger Bands

October 15

NBDB – Introduction to Technical Analysis : Supports and Resistances – [Fr]

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Technical Analysis

TD Direct Investing – Do-It-Yourself Investing for Women

Scotia iTRADE – Risk Management Strategies for Traders with AJ Monte

From the Forums

A platform for change

In this post from the RedFlagDeals investing thread, hints and whispers of a new TD Direct Investing trading platform WebBroker are circulating. We’ve heard about this being ‘in the works’ so it will be interesting to see what the reaction will be like when it goes live. Worth a read for some early sentiment on the proposed upgrade.

Is free worth it?

There’s no denying that commission-free ETFs get the attention of the ‘couch potato’ investing crowd. In this post from the reddit Personal Finance Canada subreddit, it is interesting to see how Scotia iTrade’s commission-free offering stacks up.

Into the Close

That does it for this Thanksgiving Weekend edition of the roundup. Have a safe and enjoyable long weekend and don’t forget to carve out some time for fun! Remember, Canadian markets are closed on Monday.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 2, 2015

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One of the great lessons that the stock market teaches investors again and again is that perception is reality. Within the Canadian discount brokerage marketplace, this lesson is equally true, as almost all online brokerages wrestle with just how exactly they can get DIY investors to listen to what they are saying.

In this week’s roundup we take a look at how one discount brokerage is trying win investor attention by launching a newer, more exciting website. Being a new month we’ll also take a look at the deals and promotions Canadian brokerages are using to get noticed. Of course, nothing gets people’s attention quite like a trading platform outage during trading hours as one major online brokerage found out the hard way in our discount brokerage tweets of the week. Finally we’ll take a look at the upcoming investor education events and close out with the chatter from the Canadian investing forums. But first, let me take a selfie.

In With New

Over the past two years, the Canadian discount brokerage industry has tried to use commission price to get the attention of investors, and to a large degree it has worked.

Almost all the major bank-owned online brokerages (except for Scotia iTrade) and all of the independent online brokerages have standard commissions under $10 per trade and almost every time a brokerage has initiated a price drop, there has been a splash.

Could prices fall further? Sure but investors seem content for the time being to stick to the about-$10-per-trade mark – at least most do and most discount brokerages are in no rush to drop their prices.

As most of Canada’s online brokerages are coming to realize, after price drops, there has to be something else. And this year, that something else appears to have been “changing the website”. As we mentioned in last week’s roundup, Qtrade Investor officially unveiled their new website this week, capping off for them, what has been a marathon of planning and design. And, even though they weren’t first out of the gate to change their old website or pricing, it seems like their new website was worth the wait. For returning visitors to the Qtrade Investor website, the difference will feel a bit like night and day.

Screenshots of old Qtrade Investor homepage vs new Qtrade Investor homepage.

Like several other Canadian discount brokerages who have sought to refresh their look and feel over the past year, Qtrade Investor opted for a much more contemporary layout and design scheme.

Among the many thoughtful changes, ease of navigation was a clear priority. Elements such as the menus and sub-menus have evolved to make going from section to section seem easier. There are also fewer menu options and far less text to have to scan through on the screen to find the ‘right’ information. To boot, their ‘About’ section is dynamic and engaging showcase of who they are and why anyone who’s thinking about them should care.

Aside from the striking new look to the website, and improved navigation, one of the biggest changes has been to the education section of the website. Qtrade Investor has taken a much more active approach to supplying website visitors with educational content about investing – a strategy that many other brokerages are exploring to varying degrees.

On Qtrade Investor’s new site, there is now a growing list of standard educational content for beginner investors in the form of featured articles or a series of guides on topics such as margin trading, TFSA’s and stock trading ideas. They have also embraced video tutorials on investing concepts as part of the investor education mix.

For more experienced investors, there is access to syndicated content from the Financial Times. With information overload being the new reality for many users of the internet, what defines an effective website from a user’s perspective has changed. While Qtrade will not be the last online brokerage to change their website this year, there are those who have yet to do so that now have to deal with one more brokerage that DIY investors will be shifting their attention to.

Deals Update

The deals and promotions section was far less volatile than the markets were as we rolled into October. With 15 active offers on the table, there’s lots of selection for individuals looking to get a little something for opening an online trading account.

Discount brokerages appear to be in somewhat of a holding pattern with the end of October being an important milestone date in the calendars of many of them as the fiscal year end. We think there are still some big offers waiting in the wings, especially as it becomes clearer as to which brokerages are actively trying to win new clients over.

October is also an important month in the deals calendar with six of the offers set to expire at the end of this month. Clearly this month is of strategic importance so it will be interesting to see which brokerage(s) push a little harder into their corporate year end.

#DIYInvesting Tweets of the Week

There must have been something in that blood moon that tilted the trading world on its axis. Perhaps that’s what client reps at TD Direct Investing wished they could have blamed an outage of their trading platform on this past Wednesday as investors took to Twitter to vent their frustration as they sat idle during market hours. Of course, while TD Direct Investing and Scotia iTrade were having some customer woes, Questrade was the broker who offered up their shoulder to trade on.

Event Horizon

On deck this October are quite a few investor education events and opportunities. The World Moneyshow rolls into Toronto on October 30-31st . There will be a few discount brokerages exhibiting at this year’s show including Desjardins Online Brokerage, Interactive Brokers and National Bank Direct Brokerage. Also spotted on the exhibitor list is roboadvisory firm, Wealthsimple.

Options Education Day Toronto also takes place this weekend (October 3rd) in downtown Toronto. The cost for this session is $45 and features speakers from the Options Industry Council and representatives from the Montreal Exchange. As an interesting aside, there are six Canadian discount brokerages sponsoring this event.

From the Forums

WebBroken Down

In this forum post from the RedFlagDeals investing section, users of TD Direct Investing’s WebBroker platform cover the storm that arose when the platform went down during market hours.

Friends with Regulatory Requirements

This was an interesting post for those interested in the curious consequences of cohabitating with individuals working in the securities industry. Regulatory requirements are something all brokerages take seriously and as one reddit user found out, they even sometimes apply to one’s significant other.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on yet another eventful week in the markets and with the brokerages. For all the Jays fans celebrating a very exciting season, #MerryClinchmas! See you next week!

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – October 2015

*Updated Oct. 9* October is typically the month when little ghouls and goblins put on their best costumes and head out in search of treats. For DIY investors, Canadian discount brokerages have quite a few treats in the form of deals and promotions running this month, and perhaps even a few tricks.

Heading into this month, there was a flurry of activity from five brokerages, each of whom launched new offers in September. While BMO InvestorLine and Questrade kicked off last month’s deal action, and Scotia iTrade launching a new offer to replace an expiring one mid-month, it was National Bank Direct Brokerage and Virtual Brokers who stepped back into the deals pool with some interesting offers. NBDB launched a commission free trade offer which coincided with their top finish in the latest JD Power Investor Satisfaction Survey while Virtual Brokers timed their university student oriented cash back promotion around the back-to-school window.

Extensions on two other long-standing offers also showed up for the start of another round of deals. Scotia iTrade’s ‘Refer a Friend’ offer has been extended to the end of 2015 as has Desjardins Online Brokerage’s $500 commission credit.

Canadian online brokers are in a bit of a holding pattern at the start of the month. With big announcements coming weekly at this point and the fiscal year end for many of the banks/brokerages at the end of October, there may be a few treats left for patient DIY investors. Be sure to check back through the month or follow us on Twitter for updates.

Expired Deals

There was one offer that officially expired mid-month last month from Scotia iTrade – their 1000 trade or $1000 cash back offer. This deal was replaced with a less headline grabbing 500 trade or $500 cash back offer.

Extended Deals

As mentioned above, Scotia iTrade and Desjardins Online Brokerage each had deals they extended out to the end of the year. For Scotia iTrade, the ‘refer a friend’ offer has been extended yet again, this time putting another three months on its game clock. For regular readers of the deals section, this is one offer that has reliably been extended every time it has come up for expiry, although this time around it has been extended for three months instead of the usual one month.

Desjardins Online Brokerage has also extended their signature offer for another three months keeping them on the deals board through the end of 2015.

New Deals

*Update: Oct. 9 – Virtual Brokers added another deal to its promotional offers this week with a revival of their 25 commission-free trade deal. Individuals depositing at least $5,000 of new assets into a new Virtual Brokers account can receive 25 commission-free trades which are good for use for one full year. See table below for more details.*

*Update: Oct. 6 – After a long hiatus from the deals and promotions section, TD Direct Investing is stepping back into the ring with a commission-free trade offer that lasts until November 30th. TD Direct Investing’s latest deal offers DIY investors either 50, 100 or 200 commission-free trades for minimum deposits of $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000 respectively.  To help sweeten the deal, they’re also offering 90 days of free access to their Advanced Dashboard platform. See table below for more details.*

There’s nothing to officially report in the new deals department at the beginning of October, however it is worth noting that Virtual Brokers’ new student-oriented cash back deal just got launched less than a week before the start of a new month and runs until the end of this month.

As always, if there are any new deals or promotions that you’d like to share with us, please drop us a note or comment below.

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 and fund a new account at Virtual Brokers with at least $5,000 and you could be eligible to receive up to 25 commission-free stock or ETF trades good for use for up to one year. Use promo code “TRADEFREE2015” when signing up to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions carefully. $5,000 25 commission-free trades 365 days 25 commission-free trades December 31, 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 December 31, 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
Open and fund an eligible TD Direct Investing account with at least a) $25,000 b) $50,000 or c) $100,000 in new (to TD) assets and you could be eligible to receive a) 50 b) 100 or c) 200 commission-free trades. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions for this offer. 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 45 days; commission-rebates will be paid by June 3, 2016 200 Free Trades Promo November 30, 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 December 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 – $249,999 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

Last Updated: October 9, 17:05 PST

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 $15,000 500 Free Trade or $500 Cash Back Offer December 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
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 from another brokerage and TD Direct Investing will cover up to $150 in transfer fees. $150 $25,000 200 commission-free trades November 30, 2015
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 December 31, 2015