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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – June 30, 2017

Not everyone would look forward to turning 150 the way Canada does. That’s simply because us Canadians love to do things our way – including the Canadian discount brokerages and DIY investors. Of course, defining what ‘Canadian’ looks (and trades) like is quickly changing and gladly it looks like most Canadian online brokers are keeping up with the times.

There’s all kinds of excitement in this week’s roundup. Starting first with a shiny new website for one of Canada’s non bank-owned brokerages that showcases a more human approach to the world of finance. From there, at least one Canadian online brokerage decided to celebrate Canada turning 150 by offering up a great deal to DIY investors, because who doesn’t love a deal? Though it’s a tough act to follow, there are also interesting tweets and forum chatter that illustrate Canadians love to talk about DIY investing (and most of them are pretty polite!) in the tweets and forum roundups.

Credential Direct launches new website

It may have taken some time, but Credential Direct has officially rolled out its new website this week. Gone is the dated version of their website, a remnant of the features and priorities of the mid 2000’s and in its place, a modern layout as well as some interesting new features. In their own words, the new Credential Direct site is “simple, smart and so, so pretty” – for the most part we’d have to agree.

Side by side snapshots of Credential Direct’s old and new website.

Having covered (and even participated in) a number of different website upgrades and refreshes from Canadian online brokerages over the past three years, taking on the project of replacing a website is no easy feat.

In 2017, a ‘modern’ website – especially one for DIY investors – has to be aesthetically pleasing and seem ‘contemporary’ on the one hand, but also render and behave well across different screen sizes and consider user interaction that accommodates existing clients as well as possible new clients.

Credential Direct’s new website is clearly a radical overhaul from its predecessor. Aside from some of the more obvious changes, however, there is also a significant branding and messaging evolution that the new website brings with it. With so many drastic changes, there’s lots to speak to. That said, here are a handful of the observations about this updated website that we found to be most interesting.

One of the first things that jumps out about the new website is that the typography and styling of the text has been simplified and harmonized. While that might sound a bit like design-jargon (and it is) the decision to use a consistent colour and font means that the site instantly feels less busy than the version before it. Information is clearer, easier to read and has been broken into “essential” elements. In this case, less is definitely more.

Of course, anyone who has had to design a website knows that there are literally hundreds if not thousands of small decisions to make when it comes to organizing the information.

As we had reported in April, the design decisions, in particular around information organization, were helped along by a survey that helped test how users would interpret different menu headings and information tasks.

In that light, it is interesting to note that the new navigation puts a focus on platforms ahead of pricing, the latter of which is the most influential component of the value proposition for DIY investors. Not that information on pricing is hard to find. For users who scroll, pricing is the first thing under the header image that appears.

Fortunately, most of the information in the new site is easy to find for individuals looking to learn more about the Credential Direct experience, so the menu navigation choice was a curiousity. Of course, it is likely that with the new website, there will also be more measurement and testing, and as such, the new menu ordering is going to evolve based on data rather than being ‘carved in stone’.

Another thing that features prominently is the imagery of the people.

In a savvy design and marketing move, the new website places a strong emphasis on people but then goes a step further to name them and humanize the experience of learning about Credential Direct.

Personas used by Credential Direct to segment DIY investors

Going with pictures of people instead of icons is a bold move, and certainly not without some risks. Credential Direct’s decision to use personas and images that break the mold of what an investor typically looks like, is in keeping with a trend in financial services generally. It is particularly encouraging to see the diversity in imagery choices, with pictures of women investors, investors of different age groups and various ethnicities – something that is a welcome departure from the world of investing imagery in the 2000’s.

In fact, for anyone who’s had to look at thousands of stock photos to decide on what images to use, however, the choices of imagery were also smart and interesting.  Credential Direct’s design team did not fall back on stock photos of individuals with calculators and papers sprawled everywhere struggling to understand their statements. Instead they managed to find everyday people doing everyday things. And, it is unlikely these same photos showing up in other people’s marketing materials, especially online brokerages. Kudos.

Of course, the persona-based approach still breaks the world down into three main categories – novice, intermediate and expert investors. In this case, however, the categories have names and stories. So Susan (novice), Raymond (intermediate) and Nadira (expert) are much more approachable than just category names. Further, clicking into the particular personas, the “features” are branded as the individual’s “favourite features.” In this way, reading about investing with Credential Direct feels more like a story than a sales pitch.

Of course, the website refresh is one in a list of many big (and sometimes small) digitization efforts from Credential Financial (the parent/owner of Credential Direct). For example, a robo-advisor is on the list of things that will be launching – itself no small project. Despite this latest move with the website, and all of the work that went into it, there is still some ground to cover to become ‘cutting edge’.

For example, one of the first hurdles to overcome is the ability to open an account online. Despite the current setup of the website and the efforts they’ve made to simplify the process, individuals looking to open an account with Credential Direct still need to be prepared to print, sign and send paperwork and wait.

The second is carving out a section for promotional offers or deals. Credential Direct’s previous site did have a section for special offers but the new site does not. Given where Credential Direct sits in terms of market share and general awareness, if they’re hoping to grow their client base, promotional offers are almost a must, so it will be interesting to see how and where they call attention to this in their new design.

Finally, there’s investor oriented content. Credential Direct has reorganized much of their existing ‘investor’ content and the new addition of a section called “The Ticker” seems promising, but other Canadian online brokerages – especially close competitors, have fully embraced content production into their offering. Out of the gate, Credential Direct’s first post on their “Ticker” section was dated April 2017 and discussed the launch of their new website. To compete with their peers, Credential Direct will have to find more to say, more often and in more depth.

From a design perspective, the new Credential Direct website does deserve to be called pretty. For DIY investors or traders, however, personality has constantly proven to be more important.

Specifically, ‘personality’ comes in the form of product functionality and bold thinking (aka innovation). The front-end is a good start but it might be secondary to pricing, actual ease of finding the right information and operating an account.

While Credential Direct can feel good about their latest site roll out, the industry around them is moving very quickly. So, when it comes to innovating and getting ahead of their competitors, the thinking and features, like the type and font of their new site, must be bigger and bolder.

Deals preview and updates

With a new month and new deals literally around the corner, there’s already action on the deals front to report.

Qtrade Investor kicks off July deals action by offering up commission-free trading on Canadian ETFs. If it has a familiar feel, National Bank Direct Brokerage tried something similar in 2013 when they offered commission free trading on ETFs, eventually rolling out a permanent commission-free Canadian ETF trading program in 2016.

Screenshot of Qtrade Investor homepage featuring free ETF offer

This offer by Qtrade Investor is yet another commission-free ETF promo that has come to market. Earlier this month, Virtual Brokers launched two new deals, one of which was also a commission-free trading offer for US or Canadian ETFs.

And, while Qtrade Investor is one of five Canadian discount brokerages with some kind of commission-free ETF program (Scotia iTRADE, Questrade, Virtual Brokers and National Bank Direct Brokerage are the others), this latest deal might be a signal that ‘commission-free’ trading continues to take root in Canada. For the moment, it appears to be in the form of ETFs rather than in equities generally but trends seem to be pointing in the commission-free direction.

Another interesting deals update comes from the BMO InvestorLine refer-a-friend program, which will be extended through June 2018. The refer-a-friend program at BMO InvestorLine is unique among Canadian brokerages that offer deals/promotions in that it can usually be combined with other offers as well. For reference, this refer-a-friend promotion offers $50 cash to the referring party and $50 to the new client.

On the downside, with the roll out of Credential Direct’s new website, it appears that the links to previous offers are no longer working, an indication that perhaps these deals are no longer being offered.  The specific offers in question were the ‘special offer’ of a discount for the Trend Micro antivirus software and, more importantly, the transfer fee coverage offer. We will watch to see if one (or both) of these offers were just lost in the shuffle or if they’re going to stage a comeback soon.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

A quieter week heading into the long weekend, but still enough action to keep things interesting. Mentioned this week were BMO InvestorLine, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Credential Direct, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

From the Forums

RBC Direct Investing vs. Questrade

Bank-owned brokerage or independent? It’s a popular question with DIY investors deciding between the convenience of banking and the pricing of free ETF buying at Questrade. Find out what one DIY investor learned by asking redditors in this post from the reddit Personal Finance Canada thread.

Cross Border Shopping

Norbert’s Gambit, the infamous maneuver to convert currency without having to incur the regular currency exchange fees, was the topic of this post on reddit, where one DIY investor was looking for guidance on how to do this at TD Direct Investing with an interesting fund choice.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on the week, the month of June and the first half of 2017. Canadian markets are closed on Monday but anyone trading actively in the markets is undoubtedly going to be watching what happens come opening bell in the US. Of course, for those who are actually long on the long weekend, have a safe and fun Canada Day weekend! Cheers to Canada turning 150 in style and to another 150 equally eventful years ahead!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – June 23, 2017

With summer officially arriving this week, it also brought with it the longest day of the year. Of course, that is literally what happened on summer solstice, but for some traders (Sears, Home Capital?) and even several online brokerages facing outages, there were also some pretty long days that didn’t feel quite so sunny.

This weekly roundup is filled to the brim with news from Canadian discount brokerages. In this special (and extended) edition, we take a look at the Questrade outage that interrupted so many traders last Friday and what the folks at Questrade were able to share about what happened. From there we take a look at more exciting deals news with the official launch of two deals from Virtual Brokers that are bound to get DIY investors’ and competing online brokerages’ attention. Up next, we take a look at the roll-out of a new trading platform for active traders in what is quickly becoming a very crowded trade. With the finish line in sight, we take a quick look at some of the latest developments in the robo-advisor space in Canada and end off this roundup with some fascinating tweets from Canadian DIY investors.

School of Hard Knocks: Questrade Faces Off Against DDoS Attack

For many DIY investors, and active traders in particular, the idea of ‘risk’ when trading online usually extends to thinking about managing position size. The more paranoid among us might take the extra step to ensure they have a backup plan for connecting to the internet in case their ISP randomly cuts out, print out copies of trades or do some due diligence on their online brokerage account insurance and fraud coverage (e.g. CIPF or more if required).

At a certain point, however, seasoned traders understand that with the increasingly connected technical infrastructure, multiple computer networks talking to each other and a big target on the backs of major financial organizations, there is lots that can go wrong. As such, being in the markets as an online trader is intrinsically risky.

This month, however, there was yet another category of risk that appeared that may require online traders to adjust their calculus of risk – Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks.

Questrade confirmed on Twitter (and other channels) this past week that they were the target of a DDoS attack on Friday June 16th and it was that attack which was responsible for knock trading platforms and the website offline throughout the trading day. And while having trading systems go offline during trading hours is never good, it didn’t help matters for Questrade’s clients that the DDOS attack also fell on options expiry day – something that seems particularly nefarious.

According to Questrade representatives, although this was a disruptive and hostile cyber-attack, the DDoS was not a hack and no client data was compromised.

When we asked for some additional details of what happened on that day, the Questrade team was obviously cautious about sharing too much, however they did confirm that there were actually multiple DDoS attacks that took place that day. And, while their team was successful at repelling earlier attempts to disrupt access, the subsequent attacks were much larger and increased traffic levels to a point that began to impact service.

Many users took to Twitter and popular investing forums to share their frustration, including several users who shared images of their wait times to deal with customer service agents. Questrade did confirm that “all orders placed across the day were unaffected and executed.”

Of course, this was cold comfort for DIY investors and traders who were left to determine what was happening while positions were open and trade opportunities came and went.

While it is a tough lesson to learn on both sides, the biggest takeaway is that it is possible for a DDoS attack to happen to just about any online organization. True, it would be harder to thwart some configurations (e.g. Cloudflare) rather than others, but the massive DDoS attack in October 2016 that managed to cause outages to sites/services such as Twitter, Netflix and Paypal should serve as a reminder that even the most tech-savvy firms are vulnerable and that the sophistication of attacks continues to evolve as do the protocols put in place to protect against them.

If there is a silver lining for Canadian DIY investors, it is that in Q1 2017 DDoS attacks targeting Canada made up a very small (<1% according to Kaspersky Labs) portion of attacks globally.

Source: Kaspersky Labs

Importantly, according to Kaspersky Labs, the days of the week that are the most likely targets are Saturday and Friday – something that options traders should pay particular attention to come expiry dates.

Whether another DDoS attack could interfere with Questrade or even another Canadian online brokerage (or brokerages) is hard to say. Unlike a hack, DDoS attacks make use of the growing number of internet connected devices, many of which have varying degrees of security, which means that the possibility of increasingly larger attacks is plausible. Understandably, financial services firms are cagey about their security infrastructure. For their part, Questrade has scheduled maintenance and has confirmed that they’ve enhanced protection layers to guard against future disruptions.

That said, a little bit of paranoia can go a long way for active traders. One of the scenarios that online traders should take note of is planning for a full outage and ensuring they have alternate means of communicating with their brokerage. Having their brokerage’s phone number programmed on a phone (or on a post-it note on the monitor) or being able to DM on Twitter (if they have it) seem like reasonable precautions. That and a good luck charm probably wouldn’t hurt either.

Virtual Brokers New Deals Make Waves

As mentioned in last week’s roundup, Virtual Brokers was on the cusp of launching two new promotional offers for DIY investors. This past Thursday, Virtual Brokers officially took the wrapping off their new deals and in doing so, they’ve managed to show that it’s not only the weather that’ll be hot this summer, but the discount brokerage deals action too.

The first promotion from Virtual Brokers is an ETF-focused offer that enables qualifying individuals to trade 20 ETFs (either Canadian or US) commission-free. Specifically, new clients to Virtual Brokers must deposit a minimum of $5,000 and be on the classic commission plan ($9.95 per trade) to qualify. When registering, users must enter the promo code that corresponds to either the commission free US ETF trading or commission free Canadian ETF trading.

Importantly, commissions will be charged at the time the trade is placed but will be rebated to clients in February 2018 provided they meet the eligibility conditions at that time.

Virtual Brokers’ second promotion is a very interesting cash back offer, which rebates $50 every quarter for every 20 trades that are made in that quarter, for up to one year. Again, new clients need to deposit a minimum of $5,000 and will receive rebates on the commissions they incur during the specified intervals.

What makes both of these offers so compelling for DIY investors is the almost unprecedented value being put forward.

In the case of the year-long commission rebate, clients are receiving a $200 cash back offer for 80 trades. At the standard commission rate of $9.99 per trade, that means that for a spend of $799 ($9.99 x 80), there is a rebate of $200 which works out to a 25% discount on trading commissions.

So, while there are deposit and trading hurdles to qualify for the cash back, for somewhat active traders or swing traders, this is essentially a way to get 80 trades at $7.46 flat (i.e. no ECN fees) for a year, plus have the option for commission-free buying of ETFs (which would be required to hold for at least one business day).

Similarly, for those that elect to take the ETF deal, from a ‘value’ point of view, users are getting a rebate of $50 on essentially 20 trades. At the standard commission rate of $9.99 per trade, this also works out to be a 25% discount.

As we had alluded to at the beginning of the June deals report, Canadian brokerages are getting more creative with their offers. In this case, Virtual Brokers put their creative efforts to good use as this is one of the first offers that blends trading minimums and commission rebates over the span of a year.

With lots of time left in the summer months, it will be really interesting to see how other brokerages respond and what kind of ramp-up in promotional activity takes place industry-wide to start winning over DIY investors.

Disnat Direct Launching Market-Q Platform

 

Screenshot from Desjardins Online Brokerage

This past week, Desjardins Online Brokerage began migrating active trading clients away from their Nexxa-based Disnat Direct trading platform onto a sleeker, more modern interface called Market-Q.

If the Market-Q name sounds familiar, it is because it is the same platform that National Bank Direct Brokerage rolled out for active traders in 2014 – albeit with a few enhancements that make the switch from Disnat Direct less disruptive. And, it looks familiar, it is because the trading platform is similar to the one powering BMO InvestorLine’s Market Pro.

Of course, for Desjardins Online Brokerage, especially the active traders, there are a number of upgrades the new trading platform brings, not the least of which is the ability for users to access this platform across devices (read: Mac friendly)

Based on the famous active trader platform, eSignal, Market-Q is incredibly feature rich.

According to the makers of Market-Q (Interactive Data), this platform is described as “A browser-based, real-time, streaming market data desktop terminal for financial institutions, Market-Q can be accessed anywhere via a PC and web browser, with no software download required. Market-Q has custom workspaces, interactive charts, research, option chains, a market depth feature, searchable news, alerts and data export capabilities.”

On the Desjardins Online Brokerage connection, users can monitor up to 500 symbols simultaneously – which really is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to platform functionality. For active traders, this seriously upgrades the charting, monitoring, position monitoring and trading experience from the previous active trading platform.

Over the next week there are numerous webinars intended to provide an in-depth orientation to the essential features of the platform, including how to set up watchlists, charting, enter and monitor orders as well as navigate the platform generally. Transitioning from the previous platform to the Market-Q configuration is going to be a drastic change so it is great to see that Desjardins Online Brokerage is providing more than just pre-recorded webinars – they’re actually providing numerous training and orientation opportunities where clients (and non-clients) can tune in to learn about the new platform and, importantly, ask questions to a product expert.

Now that both Desjardins Online Brokerage and National Bank Direct Brokerage offer the same advanced platform, it will be even more of a challenge for very active DIY investors to separate these two firms.

That said, for active traders, the good news is that there is yet another top-shelf trading platform on the market.

Ultimately, the ‘trading’ experience – ie functionality, speed of execution, stability and pricing will dictate which platform active traders will turn to.

In a space where ThinkorSwim (TD Direct Investing), Trader Work Station (Interactive Brokers), Power Trader (Virtual Brokers), Market-Q (NBDB & Desjardins Online Brokerage), Market Pro (BMO InvestorLine), Advanced Dashboard (TD Direct Investing) and FlightDesk (Scotia iTRADE) are now battling it out for the active trader segment, it will be up to the marketing teams to determine whether or not they can get the highly demanding active trader segment to pay attention – and ultimately pay for the platform.

Robo Roundup

It’s been an interesting week for Canadian robo-advisors.

The big news this week was the news that WealthSimple is not only peering over the fence to the US but is now also peering further afield into the UK as a possible market to expand into.

Competing in Canada is one thing but the boldness of the WealthSimple franchise to take on two of the largest English speaking markets speaks to their confidence and war chest. Going global is a strategy that’s worked well for Interactive Brokers however there are countless daily updates of firms across the globe pouring money into the robo-advisor space. Case in point, this week Blackrock also managed to raise $33.6M (USD) to expand its push into Europe’s robo-advisor game.

Closer to home, bank-owned robo-advisor BMO’s SmartFolio has expanded its list of supported account types by adding added RRIF (Registered Retirement Income Fund) and spousal RRIF accounts to the menu. With this new addition, there are 8 account types that are supported by SmartFolio with plans to add LIRA and Corporate/Non-Personal accounts on the horizon.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

It was a bumpy week for many online brokerages with trading interruptions and disruptions getting the attention of investors. Mentioned this week were BMO InvestorLine, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE and TD Direct Investing.

Into the Close

Sometimes Friday is a marathon, other times a sprint. If you’ve managed to make it through this marathon edition, congratulations! Have a great first weekend of summer and get some relaxation in – it seems like this summer is going to be a wild one.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – June 16, 2017

Amazon buying whole foods, meanwhile Sears Canada expressed concerns it would be able to carry on. The law of the jungle is simple: eat or be eaten. This week, Amazon decided to do some eating while Sears Canada let the market know that they’re officially a wounded gazelle. In the highly competitive world that is the Canadian discount brokerage industry, the metaphor is equally applicable, which is why very few players are standing still heading into the summer.

In this week’s roundup we take a broad snapshot of a number of developing stories in and around the Canadian online brokerage space. First, we provide an exclusive look at two interesting pieces of news that came our way this week – one on deals at an independent brokerage and another on new features at one of Canada’s most popular bank-owned online brokerages. From there we take an interesting look at the latest development by one bank-owned robo-advisor making a splash in the social media pool. Next on the docket is a fascinating and evolving story on regulation of online brokerages that could drastically redraw the map for DIY investors and the online trading experience. Finally, we’ll cap this week’s roundup with a larger-than-usual dose of online brokerage tweets, triggered by a significant trading outage.

Virtual Brokers Dealing Themselves In

It’s expected that within the next week or two, Virtual Brokers will be releasing a pair of new offers for Canadian DIY investors. While we can’t report on the full details of what these offers contain, we can say that one will be a cash back offer for new clients that is linked to trading activity and the other is an ETF-based offer which will definitely raise some eyebrows when it goes live.  Stay tuned!

Coming Soon: Enhancements to TD Direct Investing Active Trading Platform Features

Good news is in the works for active traders at TD Direct Investing. There appears to be a few new features due to be released on the horizon, one of which is the ability to cancel all open orders at the click of a button. Another feature in the pipeline to be delivered soon is the ability to access the Active Trader platform directly (without having to go through Webbroker). While they may be incremental improvements, they’re nonetheless a signal that the trading experience at TD Direct Investing continues to evolve and more importantly, provide greater functionality to platform users.

Be on the lookout for an upcoming piece that will take a closer look behind the scenes at how technical features and upgrades get developed and rolled out at TD Direct Investing.

Robo-advisor Gets the Social Treatment

Thursday evening Twitter was abuzz with chatter about online investing from an interesting source: a robo-advisor. Specifically, BMO SmartFolio was in the spotlight as part of a conversation about investing – using the hashtag #investsmart.

Co-hosted by BMO and blogger/writer Lena Almeida (@Listen2Lena), this online event drew quite a crowd (including the president of BMO InvestorLine) – something that many investing chats on Twitter have generally not been able to do. The Q&A session lasted from 8pm to 9pm EST and included giveaways of prepaid Mastercard credit cards – something that likely helped attract, retain and encourage the audience to participate for the duration of the chat.

Here are the questions that were covered (along with engagement stats at the time visible at the time of publishing the weekly roundup):

  • How comfortable are you with online investing? (100 replies, 26 retweets, 41 likes)
  • Why did you start investing? (105 replies, 36 retweets, 43 likes)
  • Do you feel you have to be an expert to invest online? (106 replies, 32 retweets, 39 likes)
  • What are your investment goals for 2017? (66 replies, 26 retweets, 38 likes)
  • Are you an online investor? How is it working out? If not, what’s holding you back? (102 replies, 33 retweets, 43 likes)
  • Is online investing the way to go? What else is an #investsmart question mark for you? (106 replies, 38 retweets, 43 likes)

In between the questions, there were also tips and videos supplied by BMO related to investing online, explaining ETFs and taking a measured approach to financial planning.

Regular readers of the weekly roundup can probably appreciate that there were a number of elements about BMO SmartFolio’s Twitter chat session that stand out as intriguing.

What is perhaps most interesting about this session, this was a very well attended and highly engaging Twitter chat on personal finance (specifically on investing online) generated by a bank-owned robo-advisor.

Compared to Canadian online brokerage Scotia iTRADE’s Twitter chat on sustainable investing held in April (see table below), the BMO SmartFolio session drew a larger and more active audience. Specifically, there were 16x more replies, 6x more retweets and 7x more likes with the BMO session than with the Scotia iTRADE session.

It should be stated that there were lots of differences between these two events so comparisons should be taken with a grain of salt. Even so, on a relative basis, the conversation about online investing generated by BMO SmartFolio was noteworthy.

Likely the combination of a noteworthy personality along with incentives (a shot at a $500 gift card is great reason to tune into a chat about money) helped to get (and keep) the attention of Twitter users. Of course, subject matter also probably had something to do with engagement, as the pattern of questions asked by BMO were directed to the audience (i.e. tell us about you) rather than describing a product feature (as was the case with iTRADE). This more personal tone generated many more personal reactions that provided a window into the attendees’ thoughts and perceptions of online investing.

Scotia iTRADE (#FairTrader) BMO SmartFolio (#InvestSmart)
Question 1 What is Sustainable Investing? Replies: 6
Retweets: 4
Likes: 3
How comfortable are you with online investing? Replies: 100 Retweets: 26 Likes: 41
Question 2 What is ESG and why does it matter? Replies: 9
Retweets: 5
Likes: 6
Why did you start investing? Replies: 105 Retweets: 36 Likes: 43
Question 3 Sustainalytics, tell us more about the research behind Scotia iTRADE’s Sustainable Investing Tools Replies: 3
Retweets: 5
Likes: 7
Do you feel you have to be an expert to invest online? Replies: 106 Retweets: 32 Likes: 39
Question 4 Where can you find more information about Sustainable Investing & ESG? Replies: 6
Retweets: 5
Likes: 7
What are your investment goals for 2017? Replies: 66 Retweets: 26 Likes: 38
Question 5 Can you tell us how Scotia iTRADE’s Sustainable Investing & ESG tools work? Replies: 6
Retweets: 5
Likes: 7
Are you an online investor? How is it working out? If not, what’s holding you back Replies: 102 Retweets: 33 Likes: 43
Question 6 Is online investing the way to go? What else is an #investsmart question mark for you Replies: 106 Retweets: 38 Likes: 43
Average Replies: 6 Retweets: 5
Likes: 6
Replies: 98 Retweets: 32 Likes: 42

 

One of the biggest challenges that robo-advisors face in the Canadian online investing landscape is generating interest and awareness in a product that has to compete between DIY investing services and traditional financial advisors.

The latest move by BMO SmartFolio shows that bank-owned robo-advisors can also successfully leverage social media to engage audiences. It is this point in particular that should demonstrate to the social savvy newer robo-advisors that there is still a lot of “fin” left in fintech and that bank-owned products can and will likely narrow the social media gap.

What a Difference a Recommendation Makes

Since 2014, there’s been an evolving conversation involving Canadian online brokerage industry and their principle regulatory body (IIROC) that could drastically change what DIY investors have come to expect from Canada’s discount brokerages.

While it is a longer story than will be covered here, at the heart of the issue raised by IIROC was how best to proceed on updating its guidance on the notice MR-098 – What Constitutes a ‘Recommendation’? (September 6, 2001). In particular, the view from the regulators appears to be that since 2001, there have been many features that now accompany the online trading experience that go beyond the “order execution only” experience that may have characterized the online trading world in its earlier days. For example, model portfolios, “educational” tools, trading alerts and other features that been developed for DIY investors may, according to regulators, blur the line between being a resource for a DIY investor and recommendation to choose a particular investment.

Most of Canada’s largest and most visible online brokerages have submitted a response to IIROC’s request for comment (IIROC Notice 16-0251) on this matter, including, for example, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing and TD Direct Investing.  In addition to a written submission, there are also a number of articles that have been written about this issue and, this past week, Morningstar Canada published a video interview (conducted in French) of Laurent Blanchard, President of National Bank Direct Brokerage, describing his thoughts on possible changes to the industry.

In this video, Blanchard provided many points that echoed the comments provided in writing by the online brokerage industry participants – namely that DIY investors access the online brokerage firms because they want to trade or seek out investment opportunities on their own.

It will be interesting to monitor this story further and to see what additional commentary and conversation arise, from all stakeholders. There have been numerous lengthy submissions to IIROC, so observers are keenly awaiting additional information and direction on this matter, which is scheduled for this summer.

While there appears to be a great deal of uneasiness as to what could happen, one thing is for certain, the upcoming decision may have a drastic impact on the Canadian online brokerage space and the kinds of tools and added features DIY investors may have access to when trading online.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

No doubt about it – when a trading platform falls, everybody hears it. Mentioned this week were Questrade (extensively), RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on yet another crazy week. The good news, however, is that summer is just around the corner and even better the weekend is here and with it Father’s Day. So, whether you say it with socks, a tie or some other perfectly dad-appropriate gifts, to all the awesome dads out there (including my own!!), thanks for all of the great things big and small you’ve done and continue to do!

via GIPHY

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – June 9, 2017

In a slight pause from presidential shenanigans, we kick off this weekend alongside the Canadian Grand Prix rolling into Montreal to celebrate its 50th anniversary. In many ways, the world of elite car racing mirrors the online brokerage space, both here in Canada and especially in the US. Both are subject to constant improvements and the reality is that both require constant adaptation to man and machine to perform incrementally better year after year.

In this edition of the roundup there are both grand prizes and intense competition which create the formula for a very interesting recap. Starting first with some big news in the deals arena, we profile the launch of a custom offer that is bound to get on the radar of the deal hunting crowd in the months to come. From there, we recap the highlights and insights on the US online brokerage landscape from a recent convention that provided some privileged access to the thoughts of leaders of major US online brokerages. To gear down, we’ll take a lap around Twitter track to see what DIY investors had to say about and to Canadian discount brokerages and we’ll wave the checkered flag alongside some forum posts into the close. Start your engines, here we go.

Eyes on the Prize

Great news for DIY investors heading into the summer, not only is the weather hot, but so too are the deals. In what is typically described as the ‘slow’ season for online brokerages, this year it appears that things are a bit different.

Not only are markets (at least in the US) continuing to push record highs, they are doing so in spite of uncertainty with the US presidential state – something that would otherwise leave markets rattled. And, while there are certainly the naysayers saying the rally in stocks has gone well beyond where it should have, the fact remains: prices continue to rise and assets continue to be poured into the markets.

What this means for DIY investors is that despite the looming uncertainties, there is an inevitable pull into participating in the move upwards. While there may be lots (and lots) of bad news, for DIY investors the good news is that Canadian online brokerages are anteing up all kinds of promotional offers to make opening an online trading account more worthwhile.

On that note, the big news this past week was the launch of the SparxTrading.com exclusive offer with Questrade where individuals who sign up for an online trading account can receive up to $88 in commission-credits, which are good for up to 60 days from the point of account opening.

One of the most appealing facets of this offer is that individuals can qualify with a minimum deposit of $1,000. That said, it is important to understand that Questrade does charge inactivity fees (of $24.95 per quarter) if a client’s total assets with Questrade are less than $5,000. Fortunately for Questrade, there are numerous ways to have the ‘inactivity’ fee waived, all of which can be found here.

As far as commission-free trade offers at Questrade, this current offer is one of the (if not the) best offer for individuals interested in a sign-up promotion with Questrade. Since this offer was put together via the Questrade affiliate program, SparxTrading.com may receive a payment for individuals who sign up using the promotion code Sparx88.

Compared to the current (and standard) affiliate offers of $50 in commission credits that are widely available online, however, the $88 commission-credit promo offers DIY investors significantly better value. In addition, the standard term to use the $50 commission-credit offer is 30 days whereas the Sparx88 commission-credit offer is good for 60 days. In short, those looking to open a Questrade DIY investing account will be hard pressed to find a better offer.

Of course, those DIY investors shopping around for an online trading account offer will be pleased to find out that there are also more deals from other brokerages on the horizon. Although we can’t confirm publicly which brokerages are launching offers soon, we can say that there is a high probability that June will have a few more pleasant surprises in store for DIY investors.

Made in Manhattan

Every so often, a window into the inner workings of the online brokerage industry opens up to reveal the fascinating activities that take place behind the scenes. Even more intriguing, however, is when the normally guarded CEO’s of the US online brokerage industry are the ones providing the insights. Admittedly, this next piece is going to appeal to the online brokerage enthusiasts, but there some very noteworthy scenarios that were uncovered.

This past week the Sandler O’Neill 2017 Global Exchange & Brokerage Conference took place in New York City and offered up a unique snapshot of the current state of the online brokerage industry in the US. Interviewed at this year’s conference were CEO’s of three of the largest US online brokerages: Thomas Peterffy (Interactive Brokers), Tim Hockey (TD Ameritrade) and Karl Roessner (E*Trade Financial).

Having the opportunity to listen in on the comments and insights from the respective heads of these US online brokerages offered some clues into where the industry south of the border is heading and what that might mean for Canadian discount brokerages as well as for DIY investors.

While there was certainly a lot of ground that was covered in each of these interviews (which lasted about 25 minutes a piece), there were three main themes that emerged about the landscape for online brokerages in the US.

The first, and widely acknowledged development, was the wave of price drop events that took place earlier this year and the resulting fallout. Specifically, the lowering of commission pricing across the board provided an interesting look at the reactions and responses from each of the respective heads of the interviewed brokerages.

Perhaps most interesting reactions came from Tim Hockey and Karl Roessner, who acknowledged that the increased attention that the pricing war received in the media potentially helped to contribute to more clients engaging with either firm and more new clients coming on board. It seems somewhat counter intuitive that the online brokerages would see lower commission pricing revenue as a positive, but there was a definite spin on the benefits of increased account growth. For Interactive Brokers, low commission pricing appears to have been part of the strategy from the get-go, and as such, Thomas Peterffy seemed to communicate that he will continue in the same direction of focusing on low cost execution, margin and excelling at automation in order to win over new clients.

Stepping back to assess the big picture on pricing, the writing appears to be on the wall for the US online brokerage industry that commission pricing can – and will likely – continue to drop. All three brokerage heads felt that their respective enterprises could withstand pricing drops and that diversification strategies (such as increasing efforts to onboard managed wealth clients) are already in play.

The next big theme discussed by the three brokerage CEO’s interviewed was the role that technology continues to play in the operations of their respective online brokerages as well as what it means for the future of their organizations. In some ways, it seems obvious that an ‘online brokerage’ would rely on technology quite extensively – and while that is true, there appears to be a substantial transformation taking place in financial services to become more ‘tech’ savvy. One example cited by both E*Trade and TD Ameritrade, for example, was the move to a more ‘agile’ workflow structure for technology solutions deployment. A particularly detailed example of this work in action was provided by Tim Hockey, who highlighted a doubling in ‘throughput’ that came from a combination of a 36% increase in agile run projects and 25% increase in budget for technology projects.

What this means for DIY investors is that responsiveness to feature change requests will likely improve and the time for innovative features and user experience enhancements to ‘go live’ will decrease.

Finally, the third major theme that was discussed was the general absence of volatility in the stock market and how that has impacted the online brokerage industry (by a lack of trading). While there were theories advanced as to why this might be the case, what was particularly interesting was that both Thomas Peterffy and Tim Hockey alluded to volatility returning.

In the case of Peterffy, he had mentioned that while algorithmic traders and options traders are currently equipped to handle the current market conditions, an outsized move could potentially displace many of the trading strategies that have done so well in a low volatility environment. From Hockey’s point of view, the ‘reversion to the mean’ case was made in which  volatility would be likely to return to long term historical averages (i.e. the VIX at 12 – 14).  In either scenario, however, online brokerages would stand to benefit from increased trading activity. And, for DIY investors, it is a good reminder that planning a strategy ahead of time for a higher volatility period would be prudent thinking.

Clearly, there was lots of interesting ground covered at the most recent Sandler O’Neill Brokerage Conference. For Canadian DIY investors, one of the key takeaways is that some of the changes in the US are also taking place here in Canada and that service levels as well as pricing can be expected to improve, albeit at a slower pace. When it comes to selecting an online brokerage, however, one of the new markers for making that choice would appear to be how proficient the organization is at managing technological change – since it appears that the only certainty confronting the online brokerage space is the necessity to adapt quickly to changes in technology.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

This week it looks like the usual suspects were in the spotlight with DIY investors. Mentioned in the tweets (some more angry than others) were CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

From the Forums

A Marginal Strategy

The combination of the right online brokerage that can offer the right price and a low cost of capital bears all the hallmarks for a winning strategy. Whether or not the recipe works is another question altogether. That was the basis behind this post from redflagdeals.com’s investing thread in which one user was curious about a passive strategy using Interactive Brokers to pull it off. Worth a read for what the community had to say.

Not Your Average Couch Potato

Planning out investments that take little time and effort can itself take an upfront investment of time and effort. That said, it is time well spent and especially so when creating a detailed post to put in front of the reddit community to have them weigh in on it. Such was the case in this post on a passive strategy that certainly generated a lot of active discussion on the personal finance Canada subreddit.

Into the Close

If you made it this far, congratulations! It’s been an eventful week and even though all of the exciting and mundane news has been ‘trumped’ by the media frenzy, there are still many very interesting things happening across this great planet of ours. Whether you tune into the online world or actually get out and enjoy the great weather, have a great (and tweet free) weekend! Of course if you’re looking for a little inspiration for that weekend drive (or that longshot position), here’s a little video to get you on your way.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – June 2, 2017

There seems to be no way around it, what happens on social media has now become ‘the news’ cycle the world over. Curiously, the news cycle this week focused on deciphering covfefe as well as the art of the deal – or rather the art of pulling out of the deal. For Canada’s discount brokerages, there may (or may not) be covfefe to worry about, but fortunately there are lots of deals, which is something all DIY investors can look forward to.

As an homage to keeping people guessing and to deals, this week’s roundup is full of teasers as well as great info on the latest deals and promotions to kick off the new month. Keep reading to find out about an exclusive preview of a soon-to-be released promotional offer, as well as additional features and an exclusive promotion that’s close to launch. Speaking of launch, after the deals roundup we rocket through some minor (but soon to be major) developments over the past week in the Canadian online brokerage space. As always, we’ll take a look at the latest DIY investor chatter on Twitter and on the forums.

Spotlight on Deals

Despite Wonder Women tearing up the box office, some of the biggest blockbusters of this summer are still to come and a few of them will actually be in the online brokerage space. Although there might not be any talking robots, there are, ironically, robots making an appearance in the deals section – roboadvisors to be exact. Here are some ‘teasers’ of deals and promotions coming down the wire this month.

Rise of the Machines

Of several big announcements for this month’s deals & promotions section is the news that SparxTrading.com will be starting to cover the deals being offered by roboadvisors. Specifically, Canadian discount brokerages who’ve also deployed (or are affiliated through a parent with) a roboadvisor or ‘digital advice’ investment service.

The list at the time of publication includes four known entities: BMO SmartFolio, National Bank Direct Brokerage’s Investcube, Questrade Portfolio IQ, and VirtualWealth from Qtrade. Not too far on the horizon, however, is also a robo-advisor from Credential Direct and rumour has it another Canadian online brokerage is on the cusp of rolling out its own robo-advisor product. Interestingly, HSBC announced this week it too would be launching a robo-advisor however there are no details on whether this will be coming to Canada any time soon – more on that below.

Crazy 88’s

The second big announcement is the launch of a SparxTrading.com exclusive commission-rebate offer with one of Canada’s online brokerages. Full details of this promotion (including which brokerage it will be with) will be made available shortly. In the meantime, stay tuned to the SparxTrading Twitter feed and the deals & promotions section to find out when it goes live.

The Legend of Zero

A third interesting sneak peek announcement comes in the form of a promotion from Virtual Brokers, who recently held a webinar jointly sponsored by the Independent Investor Institute.

As part of signing up for that seminar, registrants were offered access to 3 months of commission-free trading for either Canadian or US ETFs (to a maximum of 20 trades) . The last time we saw a promotional offer that featured free ETF trading was from National Bank Direct Brokerage who subsequently went on to offer commission-free trading on all Canadian ETFs.

screenshot from promotional offer sent to webinar attendees

While the Virtual Brokers’ latest offer is not yet being advertised to the general public, it may likely be something opened up to the public in the near future. Regardless of how many people take advantage of the offer or the timeline for its release, it raises the question, is Virtual Brokers testing the water on commission-free ETF trading and could this be the next shoe to drop in the online brokerage commission price battle?

Walking the InvestorLine

Finally, as we mentioned in the most recent deals & promotions post, there are several promotions that are scheduled to end in June. The earliest is from BMO InvestorLine, which will see their cash back and free trade promotion expire on June 5th. Fortunately, there is already another offer ready to go to replace this promotion as of June 6th.

SparxTrading.com has an exclusive first look at BMO InvestorLine’s newest promotion which offers up to $1200 cash back for a deposit of at least $200,000 in net new assets. In addition to the cash back component, qualified applicants get a 60-day trial of the BMO InvestorLine 5 Star Program and its active trading platform, BMO MarketPro as well as a transfer fee rebate of up to $200 to cover switching fees from another brokerage. To boot, savvy individuals can also take advantage of the Refer-a-Friend offer to get an extra $50 stacked on top of the $1200 cash back.

According to the offer’s terms & conditions, the accounts that are eligible to take advantage of this promotion are cash or margin accounts (individual or joint), corporate, sole proprietorship, RRSP and spousal RRSP accounts. Importantly, TFSA accounts and clients with PRO accounts are excluded. This summer promotional offer expires on August 7th.

At this point, BMO InvestorLine is the only Canadian online brokerage offering up a cash back promotion of this magnitude (>$1,000) for deposits of this size (>$200K) for an online trading account. The only alternative to receive a cash back (currently) is through one of the referral cash back offers, the highest being from Questrade ($250 for deposits of $100,00+).

With asset gathering clearly being a primary goal of all the players in the online brokerage space, having incentives in place to compensate investors makes sense.

For the moment BMO InvestorLine remains unchallenged among their bank-owned peers and, to a large degree, by most of Canada’s other online brokerages with an offer for the $200K+ deposit range. It will be interesting to see if other offers start to show up at this higher “mass affluent” deposit tier or if BMO InvestorLine will be able to put this offer on autopilot for the better portion of the summer.

Autumn in New York

This month’s deals and promotions saw a slight uptick courtesy of a contest sponsored by Desjardins Online Brokerage for a trip to New York City in the fall (autumn in New York anyone?). No purchase is required for entry to the contest. To enter, users have to register for Desjardins Online Brokerage’s newsletter (D Bulletin) and/or alerts for webinars/seminars. Prize value (including the spending money) for this contest is $3,000. More details are available in the deals & promotions section here.

Interestingly, Desjardins’ choice to run a contest may be a response to their close rival, National Bank Direct Brokerage, who is running a contest in conjunction with Horizon’s ETFs and which focuses on a fantasy ETF portfolio.

Sidebar: for individuals interested in participating in a fantasy stock challenge related to cannabis and medical marijuana companies, the Canadian Securities Exchange in conjunction with Stockpools and the Lift Cannabis Expo, are running a competition from July through September. There are weekly cash prizes as well as a grand prize trip to Las Vegas.

Bottom Line

The good news for DIY investors is that there are still lots (24) advertised offers to choose from in June and if May has been any indicator online brokerages are getting more creative with their offers/incentives. We’ve also caught wind of at least two other offers that have been targeted to launch in June from a Canadian online brokerage, signaling more fireworks to come well before Canada Day. Don’t let the warmer weather fool you, it seems like Canadian discount brokerages will be working just as hard, not only to roll out new promotions during the typically quieter summer months, but also in preparation for the busy fall season.

*Disclosure: SparxTrading.com may receive compensation for individuals signing up for an online brokerage account with BMO InvestorLine or from Questrade’s refer-a-friend program mentioned above.

Lightning Roundup

Here’s a quick recap on what else was taking place this week around Canada’s discount brokerages.

Mobile on a rollout

The rollout of Questrade’s mobile app was made official earlier in the week. In last week’s roundup, we reported the soft launch of the app and positive early reviews. Now with another week under its belt, the reviews for the Android (4/5) and iOS (3.5/5) appear to have remained relatively positive.

Recognia expands to China

As posted on their social media accounts, Trading Central, parent of the of the popular stock analysis tool company, Recognia, announced they’ve opened up an office in Shanghai, China (officially as of March 20, 2017). The launch party will be on June 22. Recognia, based out of Ottawa, was acquired by Trading Central in 2014.

Digital bench press

It looks like the trend towards ‘going digital’ continues across the Canadian online brokerage space. In the past two weeks we’ve spotted Canadian discount brokerages CIBC Investor’s Edge, Credential Direct, Qtrade Financial and Scotia iTRADE seeking to build their bench in the digital, social and content arenas. Of course, they’re not the only ones.

In a recent interview with Investment Executive, the vice president and head of retail banking and wealth management for HSBC Canada Larry Tomei stated that HSBC Canada has been spending “a significant amount of money” on digital initiatives, including revamping HSBC InvestDirect.

What this all points to is that Canadian online brokerages (as well as their parent financial brands) have to make the transition into being adept technology companies as well as publishing companies while retaining their financial services roots. This recent spike in staffing up the digital benches suggests that some very interesting features and upgrades are just around the corner.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

While the environment was on the minds of many, it also managed to spill over into the online trading world too. Mentioned this week were CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing and Virtual Brokers.

From the Forums

Exit Strategy

Looking before you leap is a sound strategy. In one DIY investor’s case, they wanted to know what the leap from Scotia iTRADE to Questrade might be like in this thread from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada section.

Time to split

While there are always two sides to a story, for one DIY investor, it seemed their online brokerage was having difficulties dealing with a share split. When asking aloud if other DIY investors on reddit encountered any customer service issues in this post, it was interesting to see how other investors weighed in and what they had to say about this online brokerage.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on the week. What better note to end on than record market levels in the US, national donut day, and a weekend full of playoff hockey and basketball. Of course, watching the French government troll DJT also makes for a pretty fun spectator sport as well. Whatever you happen to watch this weekend (even if it’s cryptocurrency prices) have fun!

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – June 1, 2017

*Update: June 27* Summer is the best time for blockbuster movie hits. And, just like these feature productions, this month’s deals & promos section will be filled with big announcements and teasers on offers coming soon from Canada’s online brokerages as well as from SparxTrading.com!

Before getting to the new features and deals, here’s a quick recap of the landscape heading into June.

Although there was lots going on in the background, May was relatively quiet on the deals front. Last month saw 23 promotional offers in play with Qtrade Investor opting to extend their transfer offer until the middle of this month.

Heading into the new month, it seems like June could have more deal turnover and volatility. For example, BMO InvestorLine has an offer set to expire on June 5th (more on that below) as well as another (refer-a-friend) at the end of the month; Qtrade Investor’s transfer fee offer expires June 14th and Desjardins Online Brokerage’s long-standing 1% commission credit promotion is scheduled to conclude at the end of June.

The good news, however, is that there are still many promotional offers for DIY investors (24 at the time of publication) in the market for an online trading account. Better still is the fact that the deals/incentives being put forward are getting more creative. For example, this month Desjardins Online Brokerage has launched their first (at least in recent memory) contest-based program (no purchase required either!) – perhaps in response to the contest by National Bank Direct Brokerage. Also, Virtual Brokers ran a limited promotion in conjunction with their investor education webinar (with the Independent Investor Institute) in which they were offering up 3 months of commission-free ETF trading (buying and selling) for new clients.

Also hinted at last month was the launch of a SparxTrading.com exclusive offer.  This month we’re happy to report the official launch of a commission-credit promotion with an online brokerage coming just around the corner. We’ll provide updates here in the deals section when the promo goes live as well as announce the launch of this new offer on the SparxTrading Twitter account.

Another exciting announcement is the addition of Canadian roboadvisor/digital advisor deals & promotions into our deals section.

The landscape for Canadian online brokerages has evolved and now the automated/digital/robo [product line] is quickly becoming integrated into the suite of services offered by online brokerages.

As such, this month we’re launching coverage of special offers for the digital/roboadvisor services linked to firms that also have a DIY/self-directed investor service. Thus far, this group includes BMO SmartFolio, Questrade Portfolio IQ, National Bank Direct Brokerage’s InvestCube, VirtualWealth (from Qtrade) and a soon to roll out robo-advisor from Credential (name tbd) powered by NestWealth Pro.

While we can’t confirm that more roboadvisor players will be on the way, the announcement today that HSBC is launching a roboadvisor (in the UK), National Bank’s recent investment into NestWealth and the whispers of another Canadian online brokerage on the cusp of a roboadvisor launch, suggests there is still plenty of action left in this space in the near future.

As always, if there are any Canadian discount brokerage deals or promotions that we’ve missed, let us know and we can add them to the list for all deal-hunting DIY investors to be aware of.

Expired Deals

*Update: June 24th – Qtrade Investor’s discounted transfer fee ($10,000 deposit to have transfer fee covered) offer officially closed on June 14th and was not extended. Their transfer fee minimum deposit moves back to $25,000.*

No deals expired heading into June.

Extended Deals

No deals expired heading into June.

New Deals

*Update: June 27th – There’s a new kid on the block for the deals & promotions section, and it likes to do the robot. We’re pleased to launch the new section covering roboadvisors that are linked to or run by Canadian discount brokerages. At the time of publication there are currently four online brokerages affiliated with a roboadvisor (or digital advice) platform. We’ve combined the various offer types, which include cash back promotions, discounted management fees and transfer fee coverage. Scroll down to scan the latest roboadvisor promotions currently available to investors.*

*Update: June 24th – Virtual Brokers made a splash at the outset of summer by launching two big commission-credit offers. The first offers up 20 commission-free ETF trades for new clients. Specifically, this promo offers 20 commission-free ETF trades for either Canadian or USD ETFs. The second promo is another commission-credit offer that rebates $50 for 20 commissionable trades made within a quarter, for up to four consecutive quarters. The deadline for signing up for this promotion is September 30th. See the table below for more details.*

*Update: June 7th – Exciting news! SparxTrading is pleased to announce the launch of our exclusive $88 commission-free trade offer with Questrade. Individuals signing up for a new qualifying online trading account with Questrade and depositing $1,000 or more in net new assets can receive up to $88 in commission credits which can be used towards equity, options and ETF (sells) trades. As far as we can tell, this is the best Questrade commission-credit offer currently available – and as an added bonus, individuals have 60 days to use the commission-free trades (as opposed to the standard 30-day window for current commission-credit offers). See table below for more info.*

*Update: June 5th – BMO InvestorLine has launched their latest promotion, a cash back offer for $1,200 for new or existing BMO InvestorLine clients depositing at least $200,000 in net new assets. In addition to the cash back offer, this promotion includes a 60-day access to their 5-Star program (including a trial of the MarketPro platform) and up to $200 in transfer fees covered from another brokerage. Finally, this offer is also eligible to be used with a refer-a-friend offer currently available to BMO InvestorLine clients meaning that referred individuals can get an extra $50 cash back added onto their bonus. See table below for offer links.*

Although technically not a new account opening offer, Desjardins Online Brokerage is sponsoring a draw for a trip to New York City (from Montreal), accommodation, a special tour of Wall St. and $500 CAD in spending money. Total value of the prize is $3,000 CAD and the contest is open until July 14, 2017. To enter, individuals have to register to receive at least one of several email communications from Desjardins Online Brokerage (notably their D-bulletin) as well as provide their email address, postal code and phone number. So, in terms of entry, it is very quick and straight forward. For full details, see terms and conditions here: https://www.disnat.com/en/wall-street-contest

Lots coming around the corner, check out the weekly roundup for advance notice on two special offers set to drop next week. One (very big offer) from BMO InvestorLine and the other being a SparxTrading.com exclusive promotion. Stay tuned!

Discount Brokerage Deals

  1. Cash Back/Free Trade/Product Offer Promotions
  2. Referral Promotions
  3. Transfer Fee Promotions
  4. Contests & Other Offers
  5. Digital Advice + Roboadvisor Promotions (new!)

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 $88 in commission credits (up to 17 commission-free trades). Use promo code SPARX88 when signing up. Be sure to read terms and conditions carefully. $1,000 $88 commission credit 60 days Access this offer by clicking here: $88 commission-credit offer . For full terms and conditions, 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, 2017
Open and fund a new account at Virtual Brokers with at least $5,000 and you may be eligible to receive a $50 cash back rebate per quarter. To receive the cash back rebate, at least 20 commission generating trades must be made within a specified quarter. Use promo code: CSHBKQTR17 to access this offer. This offer is open to new clients only. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 $50 commission rebate (cash back) per quarter (up to $200 cash back over the total period) To qualify 20 trades must be made within a quarter. $50 cash will be rebated in the following quarter. Eligibility period ends June 2018. For more information, click the terms and conditions here September 30, 2017
Open and fund a new account with Virtual Brokers with a deposit of at least $5,000 and receive cash back commission rebates on the first 20 Canadian or US ETF trades made by September 30, 2017. For commission-free Canadian ETFs use promo code: CADSETF2017 and for US ETFs use promo code: USSETF2017. This offer is open to new clients only. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 $50 commission rebate (cash back) Trades must be completed by Sept. 30, 2017. Cash rebates will be deposited in Feb. 2018. For more information, click the terms and conditions here September 30, 2017
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 June 30, 2017
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account, with at least $200,000+ in net new assets and you may be eligible to receive $1,200 cash back. In addition, eligible individuals can receive a 60-day trial of BMO MarketPro and have transfer fees covered up to $200. Use promo code SPARXCASH when signing up for cash back offer. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. $200,000+ $1,200 Cash back Cash back will be deposited the week of March 12, 2018. Summer cash back offer August 7, 2017
Scotia iTrade Open and fund a new account with Scotia iTRADE 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) 5,000; B) 7,500; C) 20,000; D) 35,000; E) 50,000 or F) 100,000 scene points as well as 50 free trades. In addition, new clients will also be reimbursed up to $150 in transfer fees. Free trades will be valid for 90 days. Use promo code 17SC when signing up to be eligible. 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 – $499,999 E) $500,000 – $999,999 F) 1,000,000+ SCENE Points A) 5,000 B) 7,500 C) 20,000 D) 35,000 E) 50,000 F) 100,000 + 50 Free Trades 90 days Free Movie & Free Trade Promotion July 31, 2017

Expired Offers

BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account, with at least A) $100,000 or B) $250,000+ in net new assets and you may be eligible to receive A) $200 cash back or 20 commission-free trades; B) $1,000 cash back or 100 commission-free trades. Use promo code SPARXCASH when signing up for cash back offer or SPARXTRADES to be eligible for commission-free equity trade offer. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. A) $100,000 – $249,999 B) $249,999+ A) Cash back: $200 OR 20 commission-free trades B) Cash back: $1,000 OR 100 commission-free trades. Cash back will be deposited the week of January 8, 2018. Commission-free equity trades are eligible for use up to August 6, 2017. Cash back or Free trade offer June 5, 2017
Last Updated: June 24, 2017 12:50 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
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: June 1, 2017 21:30 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 $20,000 or more to a National Bank Direct Brokerage account and they will pay up to $135 plus taxes in transfer fees $135 $20,000 Transfer Fee Rebate 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
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
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 tbd
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
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 DisnatFlex. See details link for more info. $150 $50,000 Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo June 30, 2017

Expired Offers

Last Updated: June 24, 2017 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 [email protected] 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: June 1, 2017 21:30 PT

Digital Advice + Roboadvisor Promotions

Robo-advisor / Digital advisor Offer Type Offer Description Min. Deposit Reward / Promotion Promo Code Expiry Date Link
Discounted Management Open and fund a new Questrade Portfolio IQ account with a deposit of at least $1,000 and the first month of management will be free. For more information on Portfolio IQ, click the product link. $1000 1st month no management fees KDKFNBBC None Questrade Portfolio IQ Promo Offer
Discounted Management Open a new account with BMO SmartFolio and receive one year of management of up to $15,000 free. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $5,000 1 year no management fees SPSF July 31, 2017 SmartFolio New Account Promotion
Cash Back Open and fund a new Investcube account with National Bank Direct Brokerage and deposit with at least A) $10,000; B) $50,000; C)$200,000; or D) $300,000+ and you may be eligible to receive a cash back deposit of either A) $50; B) $200; C) $400 or D) $600. See offer terms and conditions for full details. A) $10,000 B) $50,000 C) $200,000 D) $300,000+ A) $50 cash back B) $200 cash back C) $400 cash back D) $600 cash back CUBE2017 August 31, 2017 Investcube Cash Back Promotion
Transfer Fee Coverage Transfer at least $25,000 into Virtual Wealth when opening a new account and you may be eligible to have up to $150 in transfer fees covered by Virtual Wealth. $25,000 up to $150 in transfer fees covered None None Contact customer service directly for more information.