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).
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!