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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 28th, 2016

Heading into the unofficial ‘Halloweekend’, just one small piece of news from the US was enough to spook the markets. Investors were left trying to figure out if the latest news on the US presidential race was more trick or treat. Of course, not everything coming out of the US this past week was doom and gloom, especially for a pair of online brokerages.

In this week’s roundup, we take a look at a major shift in the US online brokerage landscape that could offer some clues as to what might be in the cards for Canadian discount brokerages in the not-too-distant future. From there, we’ll take a look at one major Canadian online brokerage that just rolled out a feature that is sure to make some of their closest competitors have to step up their game. As usual, we’ll cap off the roundup with soundbites from Twitter and the investor forums.

Kind of a Big Deal

How does $4 billion sound? If you’re US online brokerage Scottrade, apparently it sounds pretty good. This past week, US-based TD Ameritrade pulled off a major purchase of another online brokerage, Scottrade, and provided an interesting window into the world and marketplace of online trading, perhaps offering some idea of the state of the industry as a whole and where things are headed.

As many value investors are aware of, it’s only when a buyer makes an offer that the ‘real’ value of an asset (in this case, an online brokerage) is known. So, with TD Ameritrade putting up an offer for 3 million accounts, it now offers some insight into what those accounts are actually worth. Like any big investment, however, it pays to look at the details.

In the case of TD Ameritrade and Scottrade, there are actually two parts to the transaction, one for the online brokerage segment ($2.7b) and one for the bank segment ($1.3b). The breakdown of what TD Ameritrade is paying is spelled out in their investor presentation but the takeaway (or at least one of them) is that TD Ameritrade is buying the 3 million or so accounts funded accounts at Scottrade along with the $170B in assets that come with them.

Source: TD Ameritrade Investor Presentation

According to the details of the transaction, some quick math puts the price per account at about $870 and the assets per account at about $57K. With various possible additional opportunities to grow “share of wallet” over time, the price per account falls even further. That said, the figure is in the ball park range of what it costs to acquire a new client, at least in the US. All told, TD Ameritrade is paying 3x revenue for the deal and is looking for the deal to be accretive (12% to 20%) within 3 years, assuming all goes to plan.

For a deal of this magnitude, the numbers have to make sense. That said, there is also the human factor that potentially drove this deal forward. According to some sources, the timing seemed right for Scottrade founder Rodger Riney to cash out. Whether it was age, health or a desire to exit on a high note, the human element likely played a factor.

Within the Canadian context, there has often been chatter and speculation about whether the Canadian marketplace can sustain the number of online brokerage providers that it does. Could a similar deal happen here? The odds would suggest probably not.

Currently, there are only a couple of choices for non-bank owned brokerages for players to purchase – JitneyTrade, Questrade or Virtual Brokers. The other online brokerages have some kind of larger financial institution, such as a bank or credit union as a parent – or in the case of Interactive Brokers Canada, a larger US online brokerage as the parent. So, for a larger player to take out one of the independent brokerages would really be an aggressive move. None of the available ‘independent’ brokerages are particularly large in terms of accounts. On the other hand, for one of the bigger financial firms to try and exit the DIY investing segment might mean ceding market share.

As the Scottrade deal shows, the banking side of the business is always looking for ways to deepen their ‘share of wallet’ not reduce it. Neither buying nor folding seem palatable for the bigger players. Nonetheless, if the asking price is right or there is a catalyst to drive an exit, then business people can usually find a way to make a deal.

For DIY investors, the elimination of some competition may not be a bad thing. In a recent investor conference call published on, President and founder of Interactive Brokers Thomas Peterffy had the following take on Scottrade ahead of the announced TD Ameritrade acquisition:

“…we are excited about the Scottrade news. Just like the LPL news, the fewer brokers, the easier the comparison and the starker the differences between us and them, and the easier it is to compete for the customers. Also, whenever a broker is taken over, we usually get a bunch of accounts from people who were considering coming over to us, but were reluctant to change. Now that they will have to change anyway, they think they may as well come to us and move on to a better and less expensive platform.”

While trying to put a positive spin on losing 2000 or so accounts to a competitor (Interactive Brokers previously had an agreement to service some of Scottrade’s clients’ trade executions) is basically damage control, there is a valid point that the differentiation between brands will be brought into focus and consumers could stand to benefit by seeing some very compelling offers being made.

Whatever the case, there is a lot of change on the horizon for the Canadian financial services sector. This past week National Bank (parent to National Bank Direct Brokerage) also announced that it is going to be shifting its focus to ‘going digital’, joining its peers in spending massive amounts on meeting the banking and investing needs of consumers in an increasingly online world. Thus, one of the biggest drivers of who is left standing in the online brokerage space here in Canada might very well come down to who can afford to keep innovating. With that in mind, cashing out might not seem so bad after all.

Conditions are Improving

TD Direct Investing seemed to be in the spotlight again this past week with a news release announcing the official rollout of conditional orders to their flagship platform WebBroker (even though clients started to see this feature show up last week).

Ever the savvy marketers, they also announced that they are the first ‘bank-owned’ brokerage to deploy a platform with conditional order types. While that is technically accurate, conditional orders (aka bracket orders) are already available at a number of other Canadian online brokerages, such as Questrade, Interactive Brokers and Desjardins Online Brokerage and on the thinkorswim (aka US trading platform).

Nevertheless, this latest edition to the TD Direct Investing trading platform feature set is a fairly powerful one.

Conditional orders enable traders and investors to set criteria for entering or exiting a trade and then have a trade execute if that criteria is met. Criteria could include when a price goes above or below two different levels or when a condition – such as the value of an index, goes above or below a target. Some traders refer to this as the “set it and forget it” approach, however, with all things online trading, it’s never wise to fully trust that the technology will work as promised.

While there are numerous types of bracket/conditional order types out there, TD Direct Investing has enabled the following order types:

  • One Triggers Another (OTA)
  • One Cancels Other (OCO) and
  • 1st Triggers OCO (FTO)

An example of when this might be useful is if an investor owned a stock at $15 and put in a condition to sell the stock if it hit $20 or if it dropped below $10. If one of those conditions were met, the corresponding order (in this case a sell order) would execute. This enables investors to create rules for how a particular investment or trade should be handled that go beyond the traditional limit order.

Interestingly, at the time of publication, the documentation for conditional orders on WebBroker platform was not available on the TD Direct Investing website. Fortunately, there is a webinar available that walks users through each of the order types and how they work on WebBroker.

Clever marketing aside, TD Direct Investing has continued to distance itself from its bank-owned brokerage competitors in terms of platform offering and now trading experience. And, while they may not be the first or only online brokerage to offer conditional orders, the reality is that as one of the largest and most popular online brokerages in Canada, TDDI has just given DIY investors one less reason to consider looking at competitors who also offer these order types.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

It was a fairly tame week on Twitter this week. Interestingly, technology was on the minds of investors chiming in on Twitter. Mentioned in the DIY investing conversation was BMO InvestorLine, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

From the Forums

Dash for Cash

One of the platforms TD Direct Investing markets to advanced traders is their advanced dashboard. In this post on’s investing thread, a user looking for feedback on the experience with advanced dashboard received a few interesting suggestions for data platforms.

Low Cost Education

The stock market can be an expensive place to learn how to trade. Still the fear of not knowing how things work is something that prevents many people from even trying. In this post, also from, one beginner investor is contemplating using either Questrade or Virtual Brokers for the commission-free ETFs as a way to get their feet wet with investing. Worth a read to see what other forum members had to say.

Into the Close

Just when things seemed like they were on track for a smooth finish to the US Presidential election there was a monkey wrench thrown into the works. It would be a great time to get some rest this weekend because there’s every indication that next week is going to get a little wild. In the meanwhile, with hockey, baseball, basketball and football, not to mention Halloween all on deck, there are plenty of reasons to take a break. Have a spooktacular weekend!!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 21st, 2016

Well it has certainly been a week to remember. Not so much for what happened in the markets but rather for what happened around them and what this weeks events may do to markets everywhere. While the presidential debate or the loss of championship run were big news, perhaps the biggest news is the major outage of some of the world’s biggest websites because of exploits in technology. Heading into the weekend, it is a stark reminder that with more of the world moving to online, technology is not without its risks.

This past week, technology is the theme for the lead story at one Canadian bank-owned online brokerage. Specifically, how one online brokerage is using video technology to try and pull ahead of its competitors in the digital landscape. From there we’ll take a quick look at the latest figures from US-based online brokerages as many of them reported their earnings this past week and also provided a snapshot of what’s happening behind the scenes at some of the world’s biggest online brokerages. Finally, we’ll check out what DIY investors were talking about in the tweets of the week and in the investor forums.

Scotia iTRADE Keeping it Reel

While it’s been somewhat quiet at several of Canada’s biggest bank-owned brokerages, Scotia iTRADE has definitely been busy working to capture the attention of DIY investors online. Specifically, over the last few weeks, we’ve noted a definite uptick in the amount and diversity of video content coming out of iTRADE’s various social media channels. During this time, they’ve launched a video-based advertising campaign, several new ‘explainer’ videos on investing (in French) on YouTube and recently held a livestream “fireside chat” with personal finance expert Evelyn Jacks.

There’s definitely lots to unpack but let’s start with video advertising. For any regular consumer scrolling through content on just about any social media channel, videos are everywhere. Knowing that video posts are almost certainly going to be more engaging than regular ol’ images, Scotia iTRADE’s latest batch of video ads have started to show up in social media feeds, such as Twitter, and people are noticing. Interestingly, there aren’t that many bank-owned online brokerages with their own Twitter handle and with the exception of Questrade, the non-bank-owned brokerages aren’t nearly as active on social media feeds as they need to be to gain a significant presence. So, for Scotia iTRADE, the fact that they’ve doubled down on Twitter by not only having an account of their own but also buying ads means they’re getting an interesting share of the spotlight with millennial users.

Another place that Scotia iTRADE appears to be moving into is the French speaking market. Case in point is the recent publishing of their market education videos on YouTube en Français. For many of the big Canadian bank-owned brokerages, building an audience within the Quebec DIY investor marketplace has been a challenge. Data from our educational event tracking showed that TD Direct Investing, for example, had a difficult time pulling in people to their in-person seminar topics in Quebec much more so than in other parts of the country. Now it appears that Scotia iTRADE is widening its net to try and provide investor education oriented content to French speaking audience. Again, this is an area in which other brokerages big and small just simply aren’t doing enough of. Add to the fact that this is being done online, and other brokerages are going have their work cut out for them to produce and deploy that kind of information. Interestingly, it is difficult to imagine either Desjardins Online Brokerage or National Bank Direct Brokerage, both of whom are fiercely competitive brands within the Quebec market, making room for Scotia iTRADE to come in and capture mindshare.

Finally, this past week, Scotia iTRADE held a ‘fireside chat’ with personal finance expert Eveyln Jacks on the topic of risk management. This interactive webinar enabled Scotia iTRADE to gather information from attendees (i.e. gather marketing leads) but also demonstrate that they are taking their seminar/webinar formats to the next level. While there are still kinks to be ironed out with the format, unlike several of their peers, Scotia iTRADE is definitely pushing forward faster and more broadly online. And, in a world where DIY investors have so many choices to consider, Scotia iTRADE is making it much harder for them to be overlooked.

Is This Thing On?

A lot of traders know the saying: the trend is your friend (until it ends). For online brokerage Interactive Brokers, there are a couple of trends that are emerging surrounding their online brokerage business, some of which are more friendly than others.

On the positive side, the latest results from Interactive Brokers shows that they continue to crush it with regards to account growth, specifically with attracting more new customers to the platform than having customers leave. It’s actually rather uncanny how long their account growth streak has continued.

On the negative side, when the founder and CEO of the company wonders out loud if the platform is broken because there was no trading activity in the market, there’s definitely something strange in the trading neighbourhood. The impact of a lapse in volatility in the marketplace had a significant negative outcome for market makers (which again continued to lose money) which just goes to show that even the pros have had a tough time trying to time and trade the market when their strategy doesn’t line up with market conditions.

For many brokerages, it will be just a few more weeks until the election is finally over and markets can once again reprice assets without having to hedge against the possibility that Trump may actually win. Until then, however, brokerages and their clients are clearly watching and waiting (except for the brave/impatient few who are already betting into the election).

Qtrade Investor Quietly Drops Fees

Late last week Qtrade Investor sent an announcement to clients stating that ECN charges, the annoying fees that chew into trading profits because of market orders, were being dropped…sort of.

Technically Qtrade Investor reserves the right to charge ECN fees however they have described the situation of when those fees would be incurred as when an individual’s trading pattern makes “repeated, high volume trades on the active side of the market.” In other words, for most low to moderately active investors, this is definitely welcomed news from Qtrade.

While the technical definitions/limits were not spelled out (e.g. how many trades within a specific time frame is too many), Qtrade Investor did go on to mention that in the event of “excessive” trading that generates ECN fees, a Qtrade client service representative will attempt to contact the client.

Undoubtedly, the recent introduction of youth-focused pricing, some commission-free ETF trading and now removal of ECN fees will bode well for Qtrade in Rob Carrick’s online brokerage rankings. With the landscape for DIY investing clients being so competitive, however, there’s a fairly decent chance this news gets broadcast much more loudly before and after those rankings.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

It was a relatively tame week across Twitter for Canadian discount brokerages. Nonetheless there are some interesting client service moments that highlight why Twitter is a must-have for DIY investing clients looking to get traction on customer service issues with certain online brokerages. Mentioned this week were BMO InvestorLine, Questrade, Scotia iTrade & TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

How Smart is Your Folio?

Seems like there aren’t many places investors can go online these days without bumping into a BMO Smartfolio advertisement.  In this post from’s investing thread, one curious investor took the marketing to the market to find out what others had to say about BMO’s robo-investor service.

Snug as a Bug

This was an interesting post from a Questrade user also posted on that highlights the importance of actually keeping tabs on a portfolio. Yes, even technology can fail, however as the author of the post suggests, staying on top of the details helped prevent a potentially bad trade.

Into the Close

TGIF. It’s been a bumpy ride to land the work week. If you still aren’t sick of the debate coverage yet and you want a great chuckle courtesy of the fine folks on Twitter, enjoy the hashtag #trumpbookreport.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 14, 2016

Like the Toronto Blue Jays’ bats, fall colours are also in full swing.  As we head into the halfway point in October this edition of the roundup has an equally interesting feature – something that all Canadian online brokerages are going to want to tune into.

In this week’s roundup, we lead off with a spotlight piece on deals and promotions – specifically we present the findings from our reader survey from September that shows that DIY investors and Canadian online brokerages are out of sync and a suggestion on how to make it better. As with our usual menu, we’ll also be covering reactions from DIY investors this week on Twitter and what investors are chatting about on investor forums. For good measure, we’ve also included some of the interesting upcoming investor education events DIY investors might want to check out as the weather gets colder.

Let’s make a deal

Even though RRSP deadline season is months away, it’s already clear that Canadian discount brokerages are collectively ramping up efforts to attract new clientele. And while it’s one thing to work hard, it’s certainly also important to work smart.

As part of our coverage of the Canadian online brokerage landscape, one of the areas we analyze are the deals and promotions offered by discount brokerages to incentivize DIY investors to open a new online trading account.

Last month, we ran an informal one-question poll of visitors to that asked: “what is your preferred deal or promo?” and found some fascinating results about what Canadian DIY investors actually want and what they’re being offered.

Before jumping into the results of our deals and promotions survey from last month, it is useful to take a quick look at the deals & promotions that are currently in play.

As of the first week in October, we’ve uncovered 27 live advertised promotions with transfer offers representing and cash back/commission-free trades tied for the largest portion (31% or 8 offers), followed by (contest/other (7 offers) with referrals rounding out the group (three offers). Currently, Desjardins Online Brokerage, Questrade and Scotia iTRADE are tied with the most number of offers (four apiece) while Interactive Brokers Canada is the only brokerage not currently advertising a promotional offer of some sort (note their referral program is not counted because it only offers the individual making the referral a bonus, not the new account holder). Transfer fee coverage offers may be underreported in this count because certain firms may offer it but have not advertised this on their website.

For a bit of background on the poll itself, respondents could choose between the following options:

  • Cash back deals (for just the individual)
  • Commission-free trades (for just the individual)
  • Referral bonuses (me & a friend)
  • Transfer fee coverage
  • Technology items
  • Contest entry/prizes

These choices were selected as they represented the most popular or prevalent promotional offers typically put forward by Canadian discount brokerages. A total of 59 respondents from across Canada participated.


Our poll showed that the overwhelming majority of DIY investors (68%) surveyed stated that they were interested in cash back promotions while commission-free trades came in a distant second at 27%. Transfer fee deals (3%) and technology items (2%) rounded out which offers DIY investors preferred.

What is fascinating to see is just how far off many online brokerage offers are from what investors are actually interested in. Of the 27 deals currently offered by Canadian discount brokerages, only two (which translates into 7%) offer cash back promotions: HSBC InvestDirect and BMO InvestorLine. That is certainly a major disconnect in the marketplace, one that, upon further reflection, just doesn’t quite make sense.

Considering that at least 9 brokerages are prepared to cover transfer fees from accounts from other institutions, it stands to reason that they would offer up as much (perhaps more) for a new client that didn’t put them through the hassle of having to transfer an account. A simple look at some forum comments or on Twitter would show that there are all kinds of issues that can arise that delay a transfer of accounts.

Another interesting finding was that referral or affiliate programs aren’t popular as a first choice. Ironically, all of the referral offers in the market right now actually offer cash back for the person referring and the individual signing up for the account, so it really is a win-win option.

One interpretation of this data suggests that individuals who are looking for a cash back offer don’t necessarily want to go through the effort of finding a referral source. Fortunately for Questrade, for example, they not only have the most competitive offer for referral based deposits, but they also have the easiest system in place for these referrals to be generated. Conversely, Scotia iTRADE and BMO InvestorLine require a bit more effort for each referral.

Finally, it was made abundantly clear that DIY investors were just not that into contests among those who are looking to open an online trading account. It is probably understandable that getting a “chance” at something is akin to playing the lottery except in this case, the payout is far lower and the price of participation astronomically higher. Nonetheless, looking back over the past year, there are numerous examples of Canadian discount brokerages offering up contest entries as a way in which to encourage users to deposit more.

For Canadian discount brokerages, the lesson here seems to be that the market is clearly communicating one thing while most providers are doing another. Like all businesses, online brokerages need to make sensible decisions around adding to their client base, however the results of our survey certainly suggest that a very sensible decision to get attention of new clients is to offer cash back promotions. For those that do offer cash back promotions, even in the affiliate or referral program, that is something that more DIY investors should probably be better aware of.

And, just to show that we’re also into the giving spirit, any Canadian discount brokerage that wants to advertise its cash back offer to visitors of may receive up to $250 cash back* for doing so (*conditions apply). Contact us for full terms and conditions.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

Whether you blame it on the rain, or some other stranger things, this past week there was plenty of blame being tossed around on Twitter, mainly due to outages on trading platforms. It’s a great example that shows, whatever the size of the brokerage, online trading can get interrupted. Mentioned this week were BMO InvestorLine, Questrade, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

Event Horizon

Fall’s in full swing, and it’s a colourful week ahead for discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events. Here are some upcoming sessions that may be of interest to those curious about technical analysis and trading strategies. A pair of special events for options enthusiasts rounds out this week’s selection.

October 15

Options Education Day Vancouver – Autumn 2016

October 16

Options Education Day Calgary – Autumn 2016

October 18

Scotia iTRADE – Understanding Price Action To Make More Informed Trading Decisions

From the Forums

The price of advice

Everyday there are Canadians who are faced with decisions about where and how they should invest their money. With a crowded landscape, it is interesting to see how first time investors have to navigate the choices given to them by financial services firms. In this post from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada thread, there are lots of interesting suggestions for a novice investor looking for a little help in figuring out how/where to park some capital.

Into the Close

Even though it was a short week, there was certainly no shortage of excitement. While folks in Vancouver and Calgary will be able to learn about options, some other options include hunkering down for a serious weekend of sports watching. For those in Vancouver and other parts of BC – stay safe and dry (as much as you can anyway)! Have a great weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – October 7, 2016

It’s been a tough week for some birds. Turkeys have seen their number come up, the blue bird of Twitter has seen its number go down, and for Orioles, orange was the new eliminated. Of course, there’s still one cuckoo left set to take the stage on Sunday. Thankfully, the Canadian online brokerage space hasn’t gone to the birds – in fact, far from it. There have been lots of (good) surprises to chirp about.

In this week’s roundup we take a look at how one online brokerage is making 1% make waves with DIY investors and other discount brokerages. Next, we speed through several important developments highlighting trading platforms, security and options training. From there we’ll showcase the latest tweets from DIY investors about Canadian discount brokerages and finally round out with comments from investor forums.

Redefining the Art of the Deal

After watching the Canadian online brokerage space evolve over the past several years, every so often someone makes a bold move that forces the industry as a whole to respond.

This past week, Desjardins Online Brokerage appeared to be that catalyst by launching a new promotional offer that is bound to create waves across the Canadian discount brokerage industry and may ultimately force a re-thinking of how deals are offered at many brokerages.

The latest promotion from Desjardins Online Brokerage offers 1% back (in the form of commission credits) of qualifying deposits into a new account. Qualifying deposits range from $10,000 to $100,000+ which roughly translates into between 10 and 100 commission-free trades at $9.95 per trade.

While they are not the first to offer a 1% rebate (RBC Direct Investing offered a very popular 1% cash back bonus back in 2008), Desjardins Online Brokerage is currently the only brokerage doing so in a very competitive promotional offer field. Unlike the situation just over 8 years ago, competition is much fiercer, commissions are generally lower and there are new players, such as robo-advisors, that are attracting a lot of attention. Clearly Desjardins has opted to “go big” instead of “go home”.

What is likely to make this promotion stand out is the fact that rewards are proportional to the assets deposited. This is in stark contrast to what most discount brokerages typically do which is to reduce the amount of the reward (on a percentage basis) as the amount of money invested increases. Thus, Desjardins’ has put forward a compelling offer for many investors who feel like they get a worse offer the more money they bring with them.

Their choice of an athletic-themed image for this offer is appropriate in more way than one. In the case of Desjardins Online Brokerage, despite their popularity in Quebec, in other regions there is an uphill climb for DIY investors to find out about them.

Previously, their wider marketing efforts, partnership with Stockscores, as well as wins with the JD Power & Associates Investors Satisfaction award had helped make in-roads, especially in Western Canada. Without those visible marketing efforts in play, this promotion may be a signal that they’re preparing to take a run at their more visible counterparts. Based on the year-end expiry dates of the offer, it certainly seems like this may shape up to be a marathon rather than a sprint.

Lightning Roundup

In the early days of October there is no shortage of news to report across the Canadian discount brokerage space. Here are some of the highlights:

WebBroker Doesn’t Look Back

For many users of TD Direct Investing, it seems like this week spelt the end of being able to use the previous interface/layout of their main trading platform WebBroker. In an announcement shared with clients, TD Direct Investing stated that they were officially pulling the plug on the option to use the old WebBroker interface and steering clients into the new layout.

Like any major website change, there were mixed reactions to the new layout and orientation.

And, while the new trading platform interface has been around for several months, this latest announcement from TD Direct Investing also signaled new feature capabilities on the platform, most notable among them being conditional orders. Unlike many of their bank-owned peers, TDDI is moving faster than they have previously to start rolling out new technology, new features and respond to feedback from users. Those who may not like change had better start getting used to more of it, as it seems like change is soon to be the new normal.

Questrade says: ‘If You Like It, Then You Better Put a PIN on It”

Ok so they didn’t actually but arguably Beyoncé’s famous line seems to capture the spirit of Questrade’s latest security feature. Account protection at Questrade account got a little stronger and perhaps more convenient with a new PIN code feature that can be used when interacting with client service agents.

Of course what was much more revealing than the rollout of the PIN system was the passionate response about security at Questrade, notably on two-factor authentication, found in the comments below the post on their company blog.

While catching a bit of heat for rolling out a new security feature is somewhat interesting, it is clear that Questrade has a loyal and active enough client base that is engaging with them on their company blog (as well as across other social media sites). It is a mixed blessing but ultimately having passionate fans means Questrade has to deliver because their users will let the world know one way or another how irreplaceable Questrade is or isn’t.

Options Education Day Vancouver

For those who are interested in learning about all things options, meeting some new contacts and getting a couple of good meals, the Options Education Day Vancouver event will be taking place on October 15th. Sponsors of the event include Desjardins Online Brokerage, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers. More information on the event is available here.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

This week the Blue Jays were not nearly as busy at the blue bird on Twitter. DIY investors were letting a handful of Canadian discount brokerages know just how they were feeling this week. Mentioned were Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing & Virtual Brokers.

From the Forums

Who Cares

It’s not actually a question so much as it is a statement. In the case of this post on reddit’s Personal Finance Canada section, it indicates that Questrade has, through its constant effort of interacting with clients and prospective clients online, earned a much more vocal and passionate following. The post being referenced is about 2 factor authentication vs the PIN system (mentioned above) that rolled out this week. More telling is not so much the topic of security but that Questrade has clearly built a passionate user base.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on what has been a crazy week across the markets. Of course it won’t be anywhere near as crazy as the US presidential debate (more specifically one of those candidates) on Sunday. Canadian markets are closed on Monday but lookout for some very turbulent trading next week. In the meantime, have a safe, happy and thoroughly enjoyable Thanksgiving!!

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – October 1, 2016

*Updated Oct. 7* For DIY investors, October is shaping up to be a great month for treats. After a quiet start to September it wasn’t too long before deals and promotions from Canadian discount brokerages started to pop up.

With names such as HSBC InvestDirect stepping into the deals pool mid-September and other more familiar players such as Scotia iTRADE and Virtual Brokers coming back onto the field, heading into October there are now 26 live offers for DIY investors to choose from, and several of them are quite compelling.

All in all, more offers came in than left and with more activity predicted on the horizon, it is a great time to be in the market for an online brokerage even if the markets themselves may be a bit wobbly.

As always, we will continue to monitor the deals and promotions but if there are offers that readers may benefit from knowing about, let us know.

Also thanks to everyone who completed our survey last month, we’ll be publishing the results later this month. We have a new quick survey this month so be sure to check it out below.

Expired Offers

Desjardins Online Brokerage commission credit is listed as expired heading into the beginning of October. It will be interesting to see if this offer, which has been running since April of 2015, will finally come to an end or if this offer continues to live on. Also technically expired is the Virtual Brokers transfer fee offer.

Extended Offers

There were no offers that were listed as extended as of the beginning of the month.

New Offers

*Updated Oct. 7 – Desjardins Online Brokerage launched a potentially game changing offer this week. They’re offering a 1% of assets transferred deal in which they are giving 1% of assets transferred (up to $1,000 in commission credits) for deposits of at least $10,000. Unlike many other offers which offer less on a percentage basis the higher the amount the client deposits, Desjardins’ latest offer is a fixed 1% commission-credit. See table below for more details.*

There were a number of offers that crossed our radar in late September however the first official promotion to launch in October is Qtrade Investor’s commission-free ETF buying program for October. As part of this promotion, new and existing clients are eligible to purchase ETFs commission-free all through the month of October. Selling an ETF still incurs a regular trading commission charge. This applies to both US and Canadian ETFs.

Although it technically launched in the last few days of September, Virtual Brokers’ latest offer is likely to pick up steam heading into October. Their latest deal is a relaunch of a previous promotion (which was only offered to existing clients) that offers new Virtual Brokers clients access to 5i Research’s investment/equity analysis for one year. For many DIY investors, getting access to good research and ideas about where with whom to invest is typically a challenge. Perhaps the biggest challenge, however, will be building the awareness and profile of 5i Research products so that DIY investors can gauge whether this deal is enough to drive opening an account with Virtual Brokers.


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Discount Brokerage Deals

  1. Cash Back/Free Trade/Product Offer Promotions
  2. Referral Promotions
  3. Transfer Fee Promotions
  4. Contests & Other Offers

Cash Back/Free Trade/Product Offer Promotions

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 Jitneytrade and receive access to their preferred pricing package. n/a Discounted Commission Rates none For more details click here 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 account at Virtual Brokers with at least $5,000 and you may be eligible to receive 3 months of commission-free equity trading and a $150 USD/mo credit towards Edge Trader Pro for 3 months. Use promo code sent at sign up to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for details. $5,000 3 months commission-free equity trading + $150 USD/mo platform fee rebate. 3 months 3 months free trading / Sign up form for promo code available here none
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering new clients 1% of assets transferred into the new account in the form of commission credits (to a maximum value of $1,000). Minimum qualifying deposit is $10,000. To qualify, individuals will have to call 1-866-873-7103 and mention promo code DisnatFlex or email: [email protected]. See details link for more info. $10,000 1% of assets transferred in the form of commission-credits (max credits: $1,000) 6 months Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo December 31, 2016
Open and fund a new account with HSBC InvestDirect with at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000; E) $500,000 or F) $1,000,000+ and you may be eligible to receive a cash bonus offer of A) $88; B) $188; C) $288; D) $388; E) $688 or F) $988. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full offer details. A) $25,000 – $49,999 B) $50,000 – $99,999 C) $100,000 – $249,999 D) $250,000- $499,999 E) $500,000 – $999,999 F) 1,000,000+ Cash back bonus A) $88 B) $188 C) $288 D) $388 E) $688 F) $988 Bonus will be credited to the qualified accounts by July 31, 2017 HSBC InvestDirect Cash Bonus Promo December 30, 2016
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new account with Scotia iTRADE with at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,00 or D) $250,000+ and you may be eligible to receive A) 75; B) 150; C) 200 or D) 250 commission-free trades. Use promo code F16FT when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. A) $25,000 – $49,999 B) $50,000 – $99,999 C) $100,000 – $249,999 D) $250,000+ Commission-free trades 90 days 250 free trade offer November 30, 2016
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new account with Scotia iTRADE with at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,00 or D) $250,000; E) $500,000 or F) $1,000,000+ and you may be eligible to receive 50 commission free trades plus A) 5,000; B) 7,500; C) 20,000; D) 35,000; E) 50,000 or F) 100,000 SCENE points. Use promo code F16SC when signing up to qualify. Be sure to read terms & conditions for full details. A) $25,000 – $49,999 B) $50,000 – $99,999 C) $100,000 – $249,999 D) $250,000- $499,999 E) $500,000 – $999,999 F) 1,000,000+ A) Commission-free trades + B) SCENE reward points 90 days (for trades) SCENE points will be awarded by June 30, 2017. Free trade + SCENE points offer November 30, 2016
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine, and fund it with at least $100,000 and you may be eligible to receive $200 cash back as well as 20 commission free trades. Use promo code Fall200 when signing up to be eligible. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. $100,000 $200 cash back + 20 commission-free equity trades Cash back will be deposited the week of June 5, 2017. Fall 2016 Promotion October 31, 2016

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Oct. 7, 2016 22:30 PT

Referral Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Incentive Structure Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Deposit Details Link Deadline
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
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 tbd
If you (an existing Virtual Brokers client) refer a friend or family member to open a new account with at least $5,000 you may be eligible to receive $25 cash per referral. For 3 or more referrals Virtual Brokers will add a $50 bonus. Referred individuals depositing either A) $5,000 – $50,000 or B) $50,000+ may be eligible to receive A) $25 or B) $50 cash back. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions carefully for full details. Be sure to read the terms and conditions to this offer carefully for full details. A) $5,000 – $50,000 B) $50,000+ Referrer: $25 per referral; $50 bonus for each 3 or more referrals. Referee: A) $25 B) $50 Cash to be deposited to VB account by August 15, 2016. Cash Referral Program May 31, 2016
BMO InvestorLine If you (an existing BMO InvestorLine client) refer a new client to BMO InvestorLine and they open an account with at least $50,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $50 cash. To qualify the referee must use the email of the referrer that is linked to their BMO InvestorLine account. See terms and conditions for full details. $50,000 You(referrer): $50; Your Friend(referee): $50 Payout occurs 45 days after minimum 90 day holding period(subject to conditions). BMO InvestorLine Refer-a-Friend October 31, 2016

Expired Offers

Open a new account (TFSA, Margin or RRSP) and receive $50 commission credit . Use promo code: kdkfnbbc $1,000 $50 commission credit 30 days none none
Last Updated: Oct. 1, 2016 17:15 PT

Transfer Fee Promotions

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
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
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 at least $25,000 or more in new assets to TD Direct Investing when opening a new account and you may qualify to have transfer fees reimbursed up to $150. Be sure to contact TD Direct Investing for further details. $150 $25,000 Contact client service for more information (1-800-465-5463). none
Transfer $25,000 or more to Qtrade Investor from another brokerage and Qtrade Investor may cover up to $150 in transfer fees. See terms and conditions for more details. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee Rebate none
Transfer $25,000 or more to Virtual Brokers and they may cover up to $150 in transfer fees. $150 $25,000 Transfer Fee promo September 30, 2016
Scotia iTrade Transfer $25,000 or more to Scotia iTRADE when opening a new account and they will cover up to $150 in transfer fees. $150 $25,000 Eligible with both offers: Free trade + SCENE points offer and 250 free trade offer November 30, 2016
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 information (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 September 30, 2016

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Oct. 1, 2016 17:15 PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
Credential Direct has partnered with Trend Micro to offer 50% off Trend Micro Titanium Internet Security. Use code “TrendCF” at checkout. n/a Trend Micro Special Offer Code none
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage, in conjunction with MoneyTalks, is offering 3 months of the “Inside Edge” investor information service to Desjardins Online Brokerage clients. Use promo code DESJ2016 during checkout to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for more information. n/a MoneyTalks Inside Edge Discount none
Disnat Desjardins Online Brokerage is offering $50 in commission credits for new Disnat Classic clients depositing at least $1,000. See terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 Broker@ge 18-30 Promotion none
Scotia iTrade Scotiabank StartRight customers can receive 10 commission-free trades when investing $1,000 or more in a new Scotia iTrade account. Trades are good for use for up to 1 year from the date the account is funded. Use promo code SRPE15 when applying (in English) or SRPF15 when applying in French. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 StartRight Free Trade offer none
Open a new account with Virtual Brokers with a deposit of at least $1,000 (for the Classic Commission Account) or $5,000 (for the Commission Free Trading Account) and you may be eligible to receive a one-year subscription to access 5i Research. Use promo code 5iVB2016 when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 (Classic Commission Account); $5,000 (Commission Free Trading Account) 5i Research Offer March 31, 2017
For the month of October, Qtrade Investor is offering commission-free ETF purchasing on all Canadian and US ETFs. This offer is open to new and existing clients. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details, including minimum purchase amounts. $1,000 (minimum purchase amount) Commission-free ETF Purchase Promotion October 31, 2016

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Oct. 1, 17:15 PT