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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.