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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 25th, 2016

For investors, every day in the markets feels like Black Friday. From the opening bell through to the close and into the night, there’s no shortage of folks looking to capitalize on a great deal. Fortunately for DIY investors, there’s at least one place that pulls together the deals and promotions from Canadian discount brokerages to make shopping around much easier (shameless plug much?).

This week’s edition of the roundup continues the deals deep dive, looking at part two of the survey we ran on which discount brokerages Canadian DIY investors are considering when hunting around for deals online. In keeping with tradition we’ll also be serving up a healthy dish of social media chatter from Twitter and what investors had on their minds from DIY investor forums.

Let’s Make a Deal

Part two of our in-depth analysis of the deals & promotions offered by Canadian discount brokerages takes a closer look at which online brokerages DIY investors reported looking at while shopping around for an online trading account. Specifically, this post focuses on which brokerages appear high on DIY investors’ list as they peruse the deals & promotions offerings and which brokerages just don’t seem to be hitting the mark.

Pick a number

Starting first with how many brokerages DIY investors have in mind while shopping. The graph below shows that a large segment of respondents indicated that, by the time they’d made it to the deals & promotions section on, they had already short-listed a couple of brokerages.

Recall from our previous report that among those visiting the deals and promotions section, there was a significant likelihood that a deal or incentive offer was a part of choosing who to sign up with. Of those who completed the survey, 85% or so were actively in the market for at least one brokerage whereas 15% indicated they were ‘just browsing’ to see what was out there.

For respondents coming through the deals and promotions section, close to 89% of individuals had narrowed the choice down to at least 3 brokerages. Specifically, a large segment of individuals (39%) had one particular brokerage in mind, followed by those who were trying to decide between two brokerages (32%) and three brokerages (18%) respectively.  Although some individuals were really undecided (between four and six choices) this group was relatively small.

Who’s on first

With so much data to explore, there were all kinds of interesting insights to be derived. One of those interesting points was that of the 14 Canadian discount brokerages respondents could have chosen from, there were 12 that were mentioned, albeit to varying degrees.

The two brokerages, interestingly, that were not mentioned as being on the minds of respondents while searching through the deals section were HSBC InvestDirect and Jitneytrade. While the latter may only appeal to specialized or professional traders, HSBC InvestDirect’s absence from the response set was curious since they are bank-owned, conduct some marketing and are currently running a promotion. Traffic data through also validates this observation that there is an absence of curiousity about HSBC InvestDirect or Jitneytrade to the same degree that exists with other online brokerages.

At the other end of the spectrum, TD Direct Investing appeared to be on the minds of many DIY investors. Whether it is a function of marketing their DIY investor offering more effectively, their size, pricing or total offering, TD’s self-direct investor services appeared to resonate with respondents of the survey. Ironically, those individuals in the deals and promotions section looking for an incentive from TD weren’t going to find anything beyond the standard transfer fee coverage. There are occasional whispers that in-person visits with an eager rep can land clients with a couple (10) of free trades however this incentive is not widely broadcasted.

Interestingly, of the firms that respondents indicated was their only choice while browsing for an online trading account (i.e. their top choice), TD Direct Investing, CIBC Investor’s Edge and Credential Direct do not have advertised offers that most investors would find appealing (e.g. cash back or commission-free trading).

Another interesting angle on the responses provided was in how respondents were shopping for online brokerages. In particular, how many alternatives (if any) are shoppers considering alongside any given online brokerage. Overall, it appears that on average shoppers are considering between one and two options when browsing through the deals section.

The heat map shown below shows the distribution of alternative choices being considered for each online brokerage.

While sample size suggests some caution with the data, there are nonetheless interesting findings where data appeared to cluster.

For example, shoppers considering Virtual Brokers appear to be consistently considering one other firm. That is to say that 83% of the those who indicated considering Virtual Brokers were doing so with only one other choice in mind.

Another interesting pattern was that Questrade appears to be a strong challenger to bank-owned brokerages. Based on correlation data, Questrade was considered alongside bank-owned brokerages moreso than Interactive Brokers, Qtrade Investor or Virtual Brokers. Another read on that data, however, could be that bank-owned brokerages have successfully managed to change the value perception and have now started to encroach on what has traditionally been the territory of ‘low cost’ brokerages such as Questrade.

Finally, while there are still lots of great data points to explore (let us know if you’re interested in learning more) one of the most interesting competitions appears to be between Scotia iTRADE, who at the time of the survey had several promotions running and TD Direct Investing who at the time of the survey only ran the transfer fee promotion.

Despite their differing profiles, it appears that deal hunters gave particular consideration to either TD Direct Investing or Scotia iTRADE. Curiously, the former does not run as many promotions as the latter while iTRADE has the highest standard commission fee. After Scotia iTRADE, both CIBC Investor’s Edge and, perhaps surprisingly, Desjardins Online Brokerage, also emerged as challengers to TD Direct Investing.

Key Takeaways

While it may not be surprising to hear that those in the market for an online trading account would likely have a favourite, the data from the survey suggests that certain brokerages are being considered more often than others.

The presence of a deal, in and of itself, doesn’t guarantee that DIY investors will pay attention. Conversely, it doesn’t always take a promotion to get the attention of investors online. That said, given the large portion of those in the market for online brokerage services who narrow down their options to about two providers, an onboarding bonus can certainly give a DIY investor a little more incentive and an online brokerage the edge it needs to win at the margins.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

Every so often a little blip on the radar pops up to signal something interesting.

This past week (and month), social media for BMO InvestorLine appears to have sprang to life with a small but growing reference to #BMOInvestorLine from a couple of BMO InvestorLine employees on social media. The move to take a more hands on approach to social media by employees is similar to what TD Direct Investing has done, although BMO InvestorLine has yet to start tweeting from a dedicated InvestorLine account.

Currently, it appears that the push on social media has to do with their “SmartFolio” robo-advisor service. With BMO InvestorLine now showing signs of life on social media, it’s likely going to touch off another race with other bank-owned brokerages (and the non-bank-owned brokerages not on social media) to get their social media strategies up to speed.

And, speaking of other Canadian discount brokerages mentioned on Twitter, it was a week filled with interesting questions, occasional gripes and the rare shout out for good service. Mentioned in this week’s tweets were BMO InvestorLine, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

From the Forums

Sizzle or Fizzle

With any product or service hype or marketing comes along with the territory. For one DIY investor, however, this post from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada section shows how they’re trying to get a different side of the story for the BMO InvestorLine experience.

ET No Phone

Here’s a question for our time: what happens if you don’t have a phone number? Interestingly, one reddit user from the Personal Finance Canada section created this post since s/he didn’t have a phone number because there’s facebook and google voice apps now. Read on to see how signing up for a Questrade account was a challenge. Nice to see that Questrade also chimed in too!

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on yet another record breaking week in the markets and another head shaking week in politics. Fortunately, there are lots of deals to be found (which some could argue is a sport) as well as actual sports to be enjoyed. Whatever your competition this weekend, best of luck!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 18, 2016

With shipping, tripping and champagne sipping, it was another wild week in the markets. There was volatility galore which always makes for exciting times for both traders and the business news media. And, even though this wacky week has come to a close, another very big week is close at hand with ‘Black Friday’ sales and deals already starting to spring up in advance of the infamous shopping weekend. Of course, while many businesses have wised up to the fact that when consumers are out looking for deals, it may be good to start offering them up, Canadian discount brokerages are definitely holding out.

In this special edition of the roundup we take a deep dive into the results from the latest survey.  Part one of this report looks at whether or not deals matter to DIY investors and analyzes what Canadian discount brokerages can do in response. From there we’ll take a look at what DIY investors had to day about Canadian brokerages on social media and what got people talking on the forums.

What’s in a deal?

For many years now, Canadian DIY investors looking to invest online have had to figure out how to choose a Canadian discount brokerage from among the dozen or so options out there. To help them with that exercise there have been numerous “rankings” of brokerages and of course, lots and lots of opinions. In addition to winning hearts and minds, winning wallets has been another strategy that several brokerages have attempted to employ in various shapes and forms.

While many Canadian discount brokerages try to figure out what DIY investors are interested in, at we were curious about whether or not many of the deals and promotions that Canadian online brokerages are using are appealing and relevant. With 26 advertised deals currently in play, and with some interesting moves by certain players in the market in the past year, we thought it would be interesting to see the degree to which DIY investors are enthusiastic about getting a deal when looking to sign up for an online brokerage account.

Additionally, we were interested in learning about which Canadian discount brokerages DIY investors seemed to be considering while hunting around for a deal. With lots of money that goes into marketing, it was interesting to see whether or not those efforts are paying off with DIY investors.

In part one of this analysis, we review the numbers and the story behind whether or not deals and promotions matter to DIY investors when shopping for an online trading account.

Do deals matter to online investors?

In a word, yes.

In the data collected by visitors to deals & promotions section in the month of October, we found that the overwhelming majority – 84% of visitors who completed the survey – stated that getting a deal helps to determine which online brokerage they ultimately end up selecting.

While it stands to reason that somebody who has made their way to the deals and promotions section would naturally be interested in or curious about a deal or promotion, it is nonetheless a number that warrants consideration. Those that are in the market for an offer or who are deciding between a short list of candidate online brokerages might just use the deal as a deciding factor.

Looking at the breakdown of deals and promotions, there are currently 26 advertised offers from Canadian discount brokerages.  Unpacking that number a bit further shows that not all brokerages are offering the same kind of incentives or promotions. Further, as we reported previously, it shows that there is a disconnect between the offers that the vast majority of DIY investors are looking for and the ones being offered up by brokerages.

Previously we reported that close to two thirds of respondents indicated that cash back promotions were the preferred offer but looking at the deals currently being advertised, only 5 brokerages are offering this to clients. Specifically, BMO InvestorLine, HSBC InvestDirect, Questrade, Scotia iTRADE and Virtual Brokers are offering cash back promotions, however only BMO InvestorLine and HSBC Investdirect do so directly, the remaining firms only offer a cash back incentive via referral offers (which we covered in last week’s roundup).

After cash back offerings, the next most popular were commission credits. These are much more popular for online brokerages to offer because the what consumers pay to execute a trade is not the same as what a brokerage may pay to execute and clear it. Thus getting $100 in trading credits is a win for consumers and a win for brokerages who might only pay a fraction of the face value of the trading commission.

The findings of this survey were quite revealing, in part, because they highlight the gap between what many DIY investors are looking for and what the online brokerage marketplace is prepared to offer. At least at most firms.

DIY investors are constantly looking at and for the next big thing, which means that innovation is always on the minds of investors. So, stepping into trading interface or an online experience that doesn’t convey “innovative” communicates that an online company either doesn’t get it or doesn’t care to. Incentives, such as deals, can help sweeten the deal or focus investors’ attention on price rather than features.

Which online brokerages are DIY investors shopping for?

There’s a saying in marketing, ‘half the money spent on advertising is wasted, we just don’t know which half.’

The results of who online shoppers were looking for certainly got our attention. What they reveal is that marketing dollars or strategies might not be working the way they could at certain online brokerages.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this post in which we report on which Canadian online brokerages DIY investors are actively looking at and which ones they’re looking past.

What can Canadian discount brokerages do?

Data points such as these help to illustrate that the best way to win market share is to listen to the market. Incentive programs are one powerful lever to get individual investors to pay attention or shortlist a brokerage – even to the point of helping to tip the scales in favour of a brokerage. Canadian discount brokerages who aren’t offering a promotion that is widely sought after need to start if they would like to appeal to a broader client base. More specifically, pushing out a cash-back offer appears to be what most DIY investors would find interesting. It should come as no surprise that when it comes to DIY investors, money talks.

Where are brokerages heading next?

Just over a month ago, trading software provider Recognia, organized their 8th Online Broker Summit in Chicago in which many online brokerages from both Canada and the US gathered to discuss trends and developments in the North America online brokerage industry.

One of the major focal points of this summit was on understanding how to navigate the ever changing world of online user experience as well as trends in what DIY investors are looking for.

Below is a quick video highlight reel prepared by Recognia to showcase what online brokerages are thinking about heading into the year ahead.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

It was a choppy week in the markets but surprisingly only a handful of DIY investors ran into technical issues. Mentioned this week were Credential Direct, Questrade, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

From the Forums

Betting Big

With the recent surge in marijuana stocks, penny stock chatter has picked up. In this post on reddit’s Personal Finance Canada section, one investor is looking to take a big gamble on penny stocks in a TFSA and is wondering what they need to know before taking the plunge.

A fistful of dollars

Is it possible to get a better trading commission rate at TD Direct Investing? One user on reddit seemed to suggest it’s possible in this post however there are some important caveats pointed out by other readers.

Into the close

That’s is for another crazy week. 2016 still has a few weeks left in it but by the looks of things it won’t be going quietly. For those in need of some laughter as a break to the week that was, here are some hashtags from Twitter that will give you a chuckle. Have a great weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 11, 2016

If the world were to go to hell in a handbasket, the market would respond by going bullish on basket makers and transportation. Such is the lens of a trader. Despite the volatility and uncertainty attached to a Trump presidency, the sell-off in the moments following the Trump election quickly corrected by the time markets opened.  For observers of the market, it was a unique lesson in how quickly the great voting machine that is the stock market can recalibrate to figure out where the opportunities lie and where they don’t. What does a ‘Trump’ world look like for Canadian online brokerages and DIY investors? There may not be a simple answer, but the simple lesson seems to be: be prepared for the unexpected.

In this week’s roundup we take a closer look at the latest Canadian discount brokerage to bring a referral program to back online and how it stacks up to offers currently in play. From there we’ll take a look at one non-bank owned brokerage and how its latest set of features are making it more competitive. To round out this week, we’ll take a look at the latest tweets from investors and what forum users were chatting about.

Virtual Brokers Casts a Vote for Friendship

After a break of several months, the refer-a-friend promotion from Virtual Brokers is back on the list of active deals being offered. With the relaunch of this referral program, Virtual Brokers joins three other online brokerages (Questrade, Scotia iTRADE and BMO InvestorLine) that offer some kind of referral program bonus for both the new enrollee as well as the individual who made the referral. Interactive Brokers, another popular online brokerage, does offer a referral bonus but only to the individuals making the referral, not to the individual enrolling for a new account.

Of the group of referral offers, Virtual Brokers’ minimum requirement of a $5,000 deposit is second behind that of Questrade’s and significantly lower than that of either Scotia iTRADE (minimum requirement of $10,000) and BMO InvestorLine (minimum deposit of $50,000). Like offers from Questrade and Scotia iTRADE, Virtual Brokers’ referral plan offers an increase in cash-back reward for higher deposit levels.

Key differences in the refreshed version of their cash back promotion include offering up more money and an additional deposit tier. While the previous promotion offered two tiers, the new referral structure offers 3. The tiers of Virtual Brokers’ new referral plan range from between $5,000 to $24,999 ($25 bonus given), $25,000 to $49,000 ($50 bonus given) and $50,000+ ($75 bonus given). For the individual doing the referring, the amount they receive for each referral ($25) remains unchanged as does the additional amount for every third referral ($50).

Of course, like any offer, it’s important to look closely at the details to see exactly what’s on the table. For the Virtual Brokers referral offer, there are some important caveats.

First, the referral can only happen between friends or family which are defined as follows:

“A friend, for the purposes of this offer, is someone with whom you have a personal relationship. A “personal relationship” is defined as a relationship between two people who have had direct, voluntary two-way communications where it would be reasonable to conclude that the relationship is personal.”

“Family relationship” for the purposes of this offer sharing is a relationship between two people related through a marriage, a common law partnership, or any legal parent-child relationship, who have had direct, voluntary two-way communications (sic)

Of the different referral programs offered by Canadian discount brokerages, only Virtual Brokers and Scotia iTRADE explicitly define the terms “Friend” and “Family relationship” and both use the same definition as part of the terms and conditions. By comparison, neither Questrade nor BMO InvestorLine make this distinction a part of qualifying for their referral programs.

Another important detail for this offer is that referral amounts will be deposited into the referring parties’ margin accounts by March 31, 2017. Between now and that time, the individuals receiving the referral have to keep their account in good standing (i.e. no margin calls) and the referee also has to ensure a minimum qualifying balance is maintained.

Third, similar to the conditions stipulated by Scotia iTRADE, this referral offer is not open to residents of Manitoba or Quebec. Curiously, neither Questrade nor BMO InvestorLine have these geographic restrictions in place.

So how do the referral offers stack up with one another?

From the graphic shown below, what DIY investors receive as part of their participation in a referral program depends on what they deposit.

Refer-a-friend incentives at Canadian discount brokerages (all amounts shown in dollars).

Of the four Canadian discount brokerages offering referral programs, Questrade is offering the most to DIY investors and their friends, across all deposit tiers up to the $50,000 mark, where they are tied with Scotia iTRADE.

In the $1000 to $4,999 deposit range, Questrade’s referral bonus stands uncontested.

For Virtual Brokers, the table above shows that they appear to be competing more closely with bank-owned brokerages rather than going toe-to-toe with Questrade’s amounts, even though the payout structure to referrers is identical to the Questrade model.

Finally, what this chart also shows is that BMO InvestorLine, regardless of the deposit tier, is not really interested in attracting deposits underneath $50,000 and is not prepared to offer up what other brokerages are in terms of a referral bonus offer. The one caveat to that is that unlike other brokerages, BMO InvestorLine allows their referral bonus to be combined with another promotion – which at this time only includes an offer that requires a minimum deposit of $100,000 to qualify.

The addition of a new deal into their list of offerings puts Virtual Brokers back on the board for referral offers and gives DIY investors looking for an online trading account one more potential reason to consider starting out with Virtual Brokers, an advantage over the 8 or so other brokerages not offering a referral-based sign up bonus.

From a business perspective, offering a referral bonus makes quite a bit of sense in that referral plans help Virtual Brokers fix their cost of acquiring a new client. In a marketplace that is so competitive, every new client matters and how much it costs to get that new client is increasingly becoming more expensive. Added to that, the fact that the offer is a cash-back promotion rather than a commission-free offer makes it significantly more appealing to DIY investors hunting for a deal.

Ultimately, whether someone wants to recommend a brokerage to a friend or family member comes down to how well a brokerage is doing its job. While enticing, the referral amounts are not set nearly high enough to have someone put their own reputation on the line for a substandard experience. So, while setting up a referral program is a good first step to growing a client base, the success of that program will depend on how great an online brokerage makes its existing customers feel.

Back the Feature with Qtrade

Over the past several weeks, Qtrade Investor has been rolling out new features and pricing changes that signal they’re committed to evolving their offering to DIY investors. In last week’s roundup, several of their feature ‘enhancements’ were referenced, notably their expansion of the list of commission-free ETFs as well as improvements to the online user experience.

A few more features that warrant a mention include their dividend reinvestment tool that simplifies setting up dividend reinvestment strategies as well as additional Morningstar ratings categories for ETFs and mutual funds based on sustainability, which were launched in March of this year.

Another interesting development at Qtrade Investor is the lowering of the threshold to qualify for a transfer fee credit (up to $150) from $25,000 down to $10,000. Although not stated on the website, representatives from Qtrade have indicated this offer is open until the end of December. This update to their transfer fee promotion positions them atop the transfer fee offer group, ahead of second place RBC Direct Investing who requires a minimum transfer amount of at least $15,000 to be eligible for their transfer fee credit and well ahead of the standard amount of $25,000.

Looking at the big picture for Qtrade, with this long list of features, they are working to remove the ‘friction’ involved in becoming a client.

The combination of lowering pricing, expanded product selection (ETFs), improving accessibility to their platform, both in terms of technology (via mobile trading), as well as by implementing steps such as the transfer-in credit referenced above, mean that over the past year, Qtrade Investor has managed to make big strides in staying competitive with the larger bank-owned brokerages as well as their non-bank owned peers.  While not calling out a winner in the upcoming online brokerage rankings, these elements certainly make Qtrade Investor seem like they’re going to finish 2016 much stronger than when they started.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

As this week’s election has proven, Twitter can spell the difference between election glory or defeat. For Canadian discount brokerages, this past week spoke volumes in terms of what prompted users to speak up and speak out about. Mentioned this week, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

From the Forums

TFSA trading

When is a trade not a trade? It’s a fine line to walk for those actively trading their TFSA accounts – something that is the source of a great deal of controversy. In this post from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada section, more than a few users chimed in to help provide their perspective and learning on when trading in a TFSA might not be so tax-free after all.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this week. If ever there was a TGIF card to play, it is definitely going to get played here. Of course, while it would be easy to recoil into sports, Netflix or some other well-deserved distraction, today more than any other it is important to remember and honour the sacrifice and service of the many men and women who helped fight for the freedom, democracy and way of life we enjoy in Canada. Thank you to our veterans and to those unsung heroes working to keep Canada safe and welcoming.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 4, 2016

Patience is a virtue. Or for some, it’s a way of life. Cubs fans can finally celebrate winning the world series, somewhat ironically on a week when market bears were also cheering their recent victories.  For Canadian discount brokers, more than a handful have decided that they’re done playing the waiting game and are going to be chasing the prize of getting new clients as we head into the final stretch of 2016.

In this week’s roundup, we start with a look at what’s happening in the deals and promotions space as we head into a new month and whether Canadian discount brokerages are starting to pick up signals from what investors are asking for in the market. Next we take a look at a few brokerages that we spotted rolling out some upgrades and changes. From there, we’ll take a look at the latest feedback from investors on Twitter (hint: US presidential candidates aren’t the only ones catching heat). Finally we close out with a few choice threads from the Canadian investor forums.

Market Clearing Price

Now that a new month is here, it’s time for a deals & promotions refresh. Heading into November there wasn’t a lot of turnover forecasted to take place with only three promotions set to expire at the end of October.

A pair of promotions from BMO InvestorLine as well as an offer for commission-free ETF buying at Qtrade Investor were on the chopping block however two of the three offers, both from BMO InvestorLine actually managed to get extensions into 2017.

The commission-free ETF buying offer from Qtrade Investor did expire at the end of October however as the sun was setting on that offer, Qtrade Investor announced that they are adding 40 more ETFs to their commission-free list, bringing the total number of commission-free ETFs that can be bought and sold with them to 100.

On a month over month basis, then, the deals and promotions section shrank by one compared to October, bringing the total number of active advertised offers to respectable 23.

Transfer offers edged ahead of the cash back/free trade offers as the most popular category of deal offered, and, Scotia iTrade pulled ahead of competitor firms as the discount brokerage offering the highest number of deals getting ahead of Desjardins Online Brokerage and Questrade. Interactive Brokers is still not on the list of Canadian discount brokerages pushing a sign up promotion however their ongoing growth and success at client acquisition suggests they’re doing well in this department all things considered.

Even though the start of November has been quiet, there still might be a few interesting promotions launched before the month and year are out.

Several brokerages have expressed interest in launching something noteworthy to DIY investors in November, and data from our own internal sources show that bargain hunters were out in droves this past October signaling DIY investors are actively looking for incentives and providers.

Early data from the survey we ran last month also indicated that not only does having an offer make a huge difference to the overwhelming majority of DIY investors shopping for a discount brokerage but there is a significant mismatch between the brokerages offering deals and the brokerages DIY investors are seeking deals from.

For certain Canadian online brokerages, the data paints an interesting picture in that offers alone, while clearly important, aren’t enough to get on DIY investors’ radars. There also has to be a significant degree of marketing and awareness building that precedes the moment where a DIY investor decides to kick the tires.

On the flip side, for DIY investors, lesser known brokerages are going to have to be able to compete much more aggressively and creatively to get attention.

This has already started to take place with Desjardins Online Brokerages’ latest offer of a flat 1% of deposit size being put towards commission credits. This offer positions them as one of the most competitive offers out there for this kind of promotion within the last four years and has already moved the needle on who’s paying attention to them.

Looking ahead to the next several weeks, it will be interesting to see just how many brokerages sit up and start to pay attention to what the marketplace seems to be asking for and who will be content sitting on the sidelines.

Qtrade Banks on Change

As we had reported in a previous roundup, Qtrade Investor quietly rolled out their removal of the ECN fees for standard trading commissions. This past week, Qtrade also rolled out a few more enhancements to their offering, adding 40 commission-free ETFs to the existing list of 60 and bringing the total number of commission-free ETFs to 100. Along with Qtrade Investor, Questrade, Virtual Brokers, National Bank Direct Brokerage and Scotia iTRADE each offer some kind of commission-free element to buying (or buying and selling) ETFs.

In addition to improvements in the number of ETFs available for commission-free trading, Qtrade Investor also announced upgrades to their mobile offering by adding an Android app as well as telegraphing an upcoming improvement to their dashboard – presumably making it easier and more intuitive for investors to get important information and navigate the site.

Qtrade wasn’t alone this week with launching upgrades and enhancements – National Bank Direct Brokerage also fine-tuned its homepage layout and CIBC Investor’s Edge also upgraded their investor newsletter with a much more modern look and feel.

Changing layouts and online technologies is not without its inherent risks, however.

One very interesting case study happening in real time is the roll out of WebBroker “improvements” and generally mixed reactions it has received from DIY investors. Given the large number of users and the popularity of TD Direct Investing, there were more than a few investors who became entrenched in the “old” layout and interface who were less than pleased at having to change. Add to that stability issues with the platform and an already impatient and vocal DIY investor crowd has not taken kindly to this transition (a quick review of Twitter comments and forum chatter makes this clear).

Clearly the paradox with online brokerages is balancing what existing clients have come to learn about a platform and product with what new clients (especially younger clients) are looking for in terms of user experience and design features.

For Qtrade Investor, it will be interesting to monitor the reactions to their latest changes to see whether they were able to keep things similar enough to have users feel comfortable with the change but also to upgrade the user experience in a way that makes Qtrade look and feel modern and forward thinking.

Whatever the outcome for Qtrade Investor, the move to update their look and feel is a sign of the times.

In such a competitive space, it is evident that Canadian online brokerages who can get the balance between fresh and familiar right are going to get significantly more points with investors and therefore not end up being complained about online.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

While Twitter users are trying to sift through the many tweets from US presidential candidates, they still managed to find some time to pipe up about what’s happening with Canadian discount brokerages.

From the Forums

Investor’s Edge keeping current

In this post from the reddit Personal Finance Canada thread, one user shared the latest update to the service agreement for clients, specifically with regards to multiple currencies. It’s an interesting move that seems to be setting the stage for trading in foreign currencies.

Broker vs Broker

It’s been a while, but that favourite comparison between Virtual Brokers and Questrade is back – but with a twist. This post from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada reveals that the choice between the two is no longer really about just these two, a signal that big banks have gained significant ground on the “value” front.

Into the Close

With the finish line in the world’s sights, there has been all kinds of wackiness in the markets heading into this weekend and undoubtedly heading into next week. If you can find a way to avoid the election speak, either a walk in the crisp fall weather or a Netflix binge watch or all the sports action might be in order. For traders, however, this would be a great weekend to double check your trade setups heading into what is likely going to be a wild week ahead. Have a great weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – November 1, 2016

*Updated Nov. 23* Nothin’ lasts forever, even cold November rain. It seems odd yet appropriate to reference a Guns & Roses song as we head into a new month of deals and promotions coverage of Canada’s discount brokerages. Like the band, however, deals & promotions are still rocking on even as we head into the last two months of 2016.

While it may feel a bit gloomy heading into a new month with no new offers to report, in reality there are still 23 26 active offers for DIY investors interested in opening an online trading account to take advantage of. Also, several sources from across the online brokerage space have hinted that a number of deals are in the pipeline, some of which may be launching this month. No need to sing the blues after all.

Another interesting piece of news on the discount brokerage deals front, which was reported in the weekly roundup from October 14th, reveals that there is a substantial mismatch between what online brokerages are and have been offering, and what it seems that DIY investors want.

Based on our survey from September, it is clear that DIY investors on the hunt for an incentive are much more inclined towards cash-back offers instead of commission-free trades. Other than those two types of offers, there really was little to no interest in other types of discount brokerage deals.

When compared against what is being pitched to investors, however, this might explain why so many DIY investors might be feeling ‘underwhelmed’ by the offers being pitched thus far.

The results from our most recent survey will also be published soon and they promise to have some very intriguing findings.  In the meantime, check out our latest quick survey below.

New Deals

*Update Nov. 11: Virtual Brokers has relaunched their cash-back referral offer with a slight upgrade. Their latest cash-back referral offering now has three deposit tiers starting at a minimum of $5,000 $1,000 and going up to $50,000+ and they’ve increased the maximum cash-back amount from $50 to $75. See table below for more details.

Qtrade Investor has also launched an upgrade to their transfer-fee rebate offer. The threshold to qualify for this offer has been reduced from $25,000 down to $10,000 making switching to Qtrade much more accessible. See table below for details.*

Nothing to report at the moment.

Extended Deals

Two offers from BMO InvestorLine that were scheduled to conclude at the end of October have been renewed and extended. BMO InvestorLine’s commission-free/cash-back offer has been extended into January whereas their refer-a-friend program has been extended well out into 2017, ending in June. See tables below for more information.

Expired deals

Qtrade Investor promotion in which DIY investors could purchase ETFs commission-free in October officially concluded at the end of the month. That said, it appears that Qtrade has also added 40 new commission-free ETFs into its lineup bringing the total number of commission free ETFs to 100.


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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 equity trades. Use promo code PROMO200 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 August 7, 2017. Fall 2016 Promotion Phase 2 January 3, 2017

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Nov. 1, 2016 13:30 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 $1,000 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) $1,000 – $24,999; B) $25,000 – $49,999 or C) $50,000+ may be eligible to receive A) $25; B) $50 or C) $75 cash back. Be sure to read the full terms and conditions carefully for full details. A) $1,000 – $24,999 B) $25,000 – $49,999 C) $50,000+ Referrer: $25 per referral; $50 bonus for each 3 or more referrals. Referee: A) $25 B) $50 C) $75 Cash to be deposited to VB account by March 31, 2017. Cash Referral Program January 31, 2017
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 June 30, 2017

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: Nov. 23, 2016 08:30 PT

Transfer Fee Promotions

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Transfer $10,000 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 $10,000 Transfer Fee Rebate December 31, 2016
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 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: Nov. 16, 2016 12:30 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

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Nov. 1, 13:30 PT