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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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