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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 2, 2015

source: giphy

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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