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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – August 25, 2017

Whether it’s mythical dragons, rare celestial events or a new album from a musical mega-celebrity, the bar for getting peoples’ attention this past week felt significantly higher. Of course, against the backdrop of so many big events DIY investors are looking for places to talk finance and trading – and astute online brokerages in Canada and the US are finding a way to tap into this desire in some new and exciting ways.

In this week’s roundup, we check in on an interesting social media/content-based contest from one of Canada’s bank-owned brokerages to see how the first month is shaping up. From there we take a look at a new technology solution being deployed in the U.S. that could change the face of online brokerage customer service here in Canada. For good measure, we’ll also take a look at the latest discount brokerage tweets and see what Canadian DIY investors were chatting about this week.

Make it Happening

Earlier this month we reported on an interesting contest being run by Scotia iTRADE as part of a new venture into user generated content. Their “#MyMakeItHappen” campaign seeks out submissions from Canadians on their personal finance stories, with entrants then being eligible to win an Apple iWatch Series 2.

Given the excitement that follows all things Apple as well as the lively conversations we track online every week about personal finance in Canada, we were curious about the progress thus far of Scotia iTRADE’s latest venture, in particular, what is being displayed online. Though not a perfect measure, the participation of DIY investors serves as an indicator of the level of interest and engagement with DIY investor audiences.

For a quick refresher, as part of this campaign, Scotia iTRADE will be posting stories about personal finance that individuals submit to iTRADE on the contest landing page. Specifically, those stories that meet the submission criteria will be selected for posting. At the time of publication, and just under a month into this contest, we have spotted one submission that has gone live.

A post from user, “Vanessa B” from Ontario, was posted to the stories section of the contest website and on Twitter, there have been a handful of user generated comments.

We checked on social media to see what kind of traction the hashtag received. Here’s what we found:

So far, the early results – at least on Twitter – suggest either participation is low or that people aren’t tweeting about their participation. Fortunately, this contest runs through the end of October so there is ample time for Scotia iTRADE to continue to build awareness of this competition and to generate more interest from DIY investors as there are numerous personal finance discussions happening online all the time.

Taking a step back, however, it is interesting to observe that part of this contest may rely on connecting with younger investors, in particular those that would be on Twitter to notice the hashtag, something that might prove to be particularly challenging for Scotia iTRADE.

One of the biggest challenges for Scotia iTRADE in gaining traction on social media, where millennial investors are largely present, boils down to pricing. Standard commission pricing at Scotia iTRADE ($24.99+ per trade) is almost 2.5x higher than at peer bank-owned brokerage institutions and almost 5x higher in some cases than firms such as Questrade.

While Scotia iTRADE does offer lower commissions for individuals with at least $50,000 in assets or relatively active trading levels, this generally doesn’t characterize the beginner or younger investor. The relatively high standard commission fee force DIY investors to carefully consider the value proposition put forward by Scotia iTRADE as a bank-owned brokerage. There is also another hurdle for Scotia iTRADE and Scotiabank to clear with social media users – reviews by other users.

As the post above (from Facebook) shows, online brokerage pricing strategy can also act as a drag on the banking side of the business underscoring how important it is for bank-owned brokerages to get the service and value experience consistent between services. The reverse is also true, the banking side of the business can impact whether or not investors may take their business elsewhere or not.

Ironically, the first user generated post published as part of the new campaign is about saving money, something that high commission rates make more difficult for the very demographic likely to come across the publication on Twitter.

While the lure of a contest will capture the interest of certain individuals, whether or not these folks turn into Scotia iTRADE clients (which is the hope behind this campaign) will largely depend on their financial situation. Many might find themselves looking at the minimum balance required to avoid fees or high commissions and saying ‘money just doesn’t happen.’

TD Ameritrade launches Facebook messenger chatbot

Now that robo-advisors are a thing for investors, could robo-customer service be next? For DIY investors, it very well could be.

This past week U.S.-based online brokerage TD Ameritrade, released a new chatbot feature enabling clients to ask a bot to provide updates on their investments and to get stock quotes. While the functionality of the chatbot is limited right now, there’s little doubt that the data provided by users will help improve the experience over time.

For the near future, however, TD Ameritrade will still have human representatives on standby to handle interactions deemed too complex or volatile for the chatbot to respond to. Amusingly, it appears that the use of “salty language” will automatically result in the chatbot escalating the session to a human representative.

With Canadian online brokerages generally lagging their US counterparts when it comes to technology and features, there doesn’t seem to be a definite time horizon to bring chatbots to DIY investors in Canada. Additionally, the technology is still in early stages, so there’s still a lot that needs to be learned about integrating a robo touch into a chat/client service role.

That said, there’s nothing quite like a functional demonstration of a technology in action to motivate decision makers and executives into seriously looking at a solution that might end up reducing the operating cost of an online brokerage client service program. Some estimates peg chatbots to be able to automate up to 46% of the tasks done by financial services contact centre staff.

Another data point to watch is the increasing number of individuals who rely on mobile banking rather than traditional banking options. Recent data from the Canadian Bankers Association measuring mobile banking usage found that 52% of individuals anticipate using a mobile device to do more banking over the next two to three years.

In an upcoming article on, we’ll be reviewing the client service options for DIY investors at Canadian online brokerages. Early data already shows, however, that there are major differences in the technologies made available by Canadian online brokerages as well as the time that ‘live chat’ services are available. With chatbots, online brokerages could conceivably add software-based resources at a fraction of the cost of a human service agent which could then provide coverage and support to clients trying to reach support personnel.

The “bot”tom line for investors is that whether it is a human or bot on the other end of a chat window, if it can handle basic requests easily and quickly, it probably won’t matter to most investors. For Canadian online brokerages, however, the potential for cost savings or for performance enhancement is compelling. Eyes will be on how this bot works with TD Ameritrade and if the initial feedback appears positive, it will then be a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’ Canadian customer service chatbots start to appear.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

Some of the comments from DIY investors were ‘off the charts’ – specifically because the charts were off. Mentioned by Canadian DIY investors were CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, Scotia iTRADE and TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

Risk-free parking

When it comes to getting a good deal, asking around can pay off. In this post on the Canadian Investing Forum, one CIBC Investor’s Edge client was rewarded for asking around about their plan to get more mileage out their savings strategy.

Rebutting heads

A debate between friends as to which brokerage was better – Questrade or Interactive Brokers, spilled over into reddit in this post on the personal finance Canada section. Find out what other DIY investors had to say about the pros and cons of each brokerage.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on another controversy-filled week. Of course, this weekend the biggest controversy will be whether to spend it indoors or out: UFC star Conor McGregor dukes it out with (yet to be) undefeated boxing star Floyd Mayweather and the season finale of Game of Thrones takes place on Sunday. For a lot of folks, there will be plenty of spoiler warnings, memes and time spent on social media. Ironically, that might also describe the U.S. President’s  schedule this weekend too. Wherever the last weekend of August takes you, have a safe and enjoyable few days off!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – August 18, 2017

Right now, a lot of news in the US and from around the world seems bad. Rightfully so. This week, however, after many weeks of discounting the rhetoric, it seems that along with headlines, markets are also making a formation to look to the future with pessimism. For DIY investors and for online brokerages, however, figuring out how to adapt and ride out the storm is par for the course.

In this week’s roundup, we take a look at some of the interesting developments emerging from the US online brokerage market which might offer the promise of something the look forward to for DIY investors here in Canada. First, we look at the move of one very popular online brokerage into the world of traditional banking services and the potential impact it might have on how DIY investors manage more than just their investments. Next we shift gears to look at one rapidly growing online brokerage’s  creative approach to reach younger investors while also growing their client base on the cheap. As usual, we’ll also review the latest discount brokerage related tweets and see what DIY investors were chatting about in the investor forums.

Interactive Brokers plays an interest-ing card

One of the major reasons that individuals choose a particular online brokerage, especially a bank-owned brokerage, is because they have the convenience of accessing additional (and very useful) financial products or services.

This past week, however, Interactive Brokers sent a shock wave through the traditional online brokerage space by announcing their launch of a MasterCard-branded debit/credit card. Specifically, Interactive Brokers is ‘banking’ on being able to compete against big bank ‘convenience’ by offering IB clients a way to manage their daily finances through the IB platform with a low interest credit card or debit card.

As part of the roll out of this new initiative, chairman, founder & CEO of Interactive Brokers, Thomas Peterffy, took a personal approach to pitching the new ‘integrated’ value proposition of Interactive Brokers with a four-minute video in which he describes several reasons why he believes Interactive Brokers is a leading online brokerage.

Currently, the Interactive Brokers Debit MasterCard is only available to US residents, so unfortunately Canadian residents wanting one are out luck at this time. That said, the fact that an online brokerage has built the infrastructure and is now rolling out this kind of product, means that a genie has been let out of the bottle. Observers will be keenly monitoring what kind of traction this offer gets and if the model itself is a profitable one. In the event that it is, other online brokerages might be inclined to follow suit.

For clients who have a cash account, the new Interactive Brokers Debit MasterCard works like a debit card with a limit available equivalent to the amount of free cash that is in the account.

For margin account holders, individuals can borrow against the equity in the account so long as they can continue to meet margin requirements. Interest rates for borrowing against securities, at this time, range between 1.41% and 2.5%.

Interactive Brokers has put together a calculator on the information page related to this new feature to assist individuals in calculating what the amount borrowed will be. Shown below, for example, is the approximate spending limit under the Reg-T margin account option with a stock value of $100,000.

In addition to the simple ‘banking’ feature, Interactive Brokerage appears to be shifting its messaging to taking an “integrated” approach to personal financial management. Specifically, the functions that can be accomplished with Interactive Brokers account include borrowing, earning, spending and investing – the combination of which starts to sound much like a bank-owned online brokerage.

There is, of course, a catch (or two), the main one being that all of this takes place seamlessly within a ‘brokerage’ account. So, depending on whether your assets are in cash or securities, you can still access ‘cash’ for real world purposes the same way you would at a bank, but at substantially lower borrowing rates (if need be) and with the ability to earn interest on idle cash (i.e. the dry powder). There is no need to switch back and forth between accounts or providers.

Whether or not something like this can be replicated in Canada at a different brokerage is debatable.

At best, Canada’s non-bank owned online brokerages might emulate what E*Trade Financial had done several years ago by starting to offer other banking services, such as bill payments, to clients. As for Canada’s bank-owned online discount brokerages, thus far the best that individual clients can do is to access cash from their accounts or even pay bills from their online trading accounts. Using an online brokerage account card to purchase a cup of coffee the same way that one can with a credit card or deriving the same benefits (e.g extended warranties on purchases) is not yet a reality.

It will be particularly interesting to monitor if Interactive Brokers can roll this program out to other locations – including Canada. If they are able to do so, individual traders might find themselves asking a slightly different one than Peterffy posed, namely: “why not manage your finances on the Interactive Brokers platform?”

Robinhood online brokerage goes looking for friends

Refer-a-friend programs from online brokerages are generally a way for the brokerages to offer an incentive (such as cash back or free trades) to an existing client to help bring in new clients, often at a fraction of what it would normally cost to do so through other means.

Earlier this month, US-based startup online brokerage Robinhood, continued to disrupt the online brokerage space with an innovative and millennial-friendly promotional offer: namely a chance to get shares in popular companies as compensation for referring a friend.

One of the hallmarks of Robinhood is that it doesn’t charge commission fees on trades. While consumers love it, the flip side is that Robinhood has to get creative to ensure that the cost to acquire a client stays as low as possible. Being ultra-low cost will always get the attention of investors, however at the end of the day, Robinhood will have to be profitable to be sustainable.

The stocks that they’re putting up for grabs as part of this referral promotion are popular and predominantly large cap stocks. Value of the shares is between $2.50 and $200 however stocks are randomly selected so it’s more of a lottery based reward.

Referring parties who successfully get another party to sign up for a Robinhood account receive compensation in the form of a single share from an assortment of shares that Robinhood has in its inventory. There are shares from a number of companies representing, where possible, high market capitalization in various ranges of share prices between $3 and $175. Interestingly here is the probability of getting stocks of certain value according to their terms and conditions:

Stock Price Range Probability Min Expected Cost Max Expected Cost
$2.50 – $10.00 98%  $       2.45  $       9.80
$10.00 – $50.00 1%  $       0.10  $       0.50
$50.00 – $200 1%  $       0.50  $       2.00
Total 100%  $       3.05  $    12.30

Fans who enjoy calculating the expected value can see that the acquisition cost for the referral ranges between $3.05 and $12.30 (which might average out to $7.68). Stocks received as compensation, according to users on Twitter, include Sprint, Sirius XM, Groupon and others.

Interestingly, in looking at the fine print, there were not the same kinds of restrictions on defining what or who could be considered a friend for Robinhood as there are in Canada. For certain Canadian online brokerages, such as Scotia iTRADE, the terms and conditions of the refer-a-friend program explicitly define who can be designated as a ‘friend or family’ member. By comparison, Robinhood’s referral terms are similar to that of Questrade’s referral program.

Robinhood is an online brokerage that has clearly excited a large number of investors in the US. Since launching publicly in 2015 they’ve already managed to open more than two million accounts, an impressive feat considering other online brokerages such as Interactive Brokers report have over 436 thousand accounts (as of July 2017) but who’ve been around much longer and are substantially larger in terms of valuation.

Interestingly, like Interactive Brokers’ latest moves (see above), Robinhood is also seeking to disrupt more than just the online brokerage space by also setting its sights set on the traditional banking world.

According to a quote by Vladimir Tenev, one of Robinhood’s cofounders in a recent article in Fast Company, “Anything that you would be able to get walking into your local Bank of America branch office, you should be able to get faster, better, cheaper, with a much better user experience, from Robinhood.”

Ultimately, Canadian DIY investors would like to know if it could happen here. Could Robinhood realistically make a move into the Canadian marketplace?

Perhaps the better question is “could Robinhood move into the Canadian marketplace before a Canadian online brokerage enables commission-free trading?”

The reality is that there are already signs Canadian discount brokerages are experimenting with commission-free trading in one form or another. Certain ETFs at several Canadian online brokers, for example, are already completely commission-free; purchases on all ETFs at Questrade and Virtual Brokers, and all trades of Canadian ETFs at National Bank Direct Brokerage for example, are commission-free.

Robinhood’s growth has demonstrated that DIY investors have been looking for a cost conscious alternative to existing banks/brokerages. With so many Canadians hungry for low cost financial services,  it seems inevitable that zero-commission trading, akin to the Robinhood model, will come to Canadians.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

Technical difficulties rattled investor nerves on Twitter this week. Mentioned by Canadian DIY investors were CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, Scotia iTRADE and TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

Spot the difference

One of the downsides of certain online brokerages is the foreign currency exchange fees that can add up when trading or converting currency for US trades. In this post, from Red Flag Deals’ investing forum, one user was nervous about an upcoming change by RBC Direct Investing in the way foreign currencies are exchanged. Fortunately, another user helped provide an important clarification.

Banking on advice

Thinking about the best route to manage one’s financial future means having to consider who should be ‘in charge’ of handling the decisions for investing. In this post from reddit’s Canadian Investor thread, an interesting discussion ensued when one contributor asked for opinions on going the managed advice route and whether there’s good value in doing so.

Into the Close

It’s hard to fathom that the week could get any stranger than it already has, but it’s Friday and by now, we know better. It is certainly challenging to seek out stories of courage and human progress and to remember the good that people can and do carry out. Just like investing – what people do in life comes down to choices, which is why having the freedom to choose is as valuable as it is. Heading into the weekend, take a deep breath and find a way to stay positive. Hopefully this will help…

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – August 11, 2017

With the chaos in the Oval Office and the specter of nuclear war being played out on the world stage, Canadian DIY investors may’ve seen this short week as a week to either be short, enjoy wearing shorts or perhaps change shorts. To paraphrase a reference to Game of Thrones, to some, chaos is a ladder. For Canadian discount brokerages, perhaps the most enterprising among them will be looking for a way to climb up a rung.

In this week’s roundup, we take a look at interesting data from the US that seems to show that there might be more DIY investors willing to venture into the market rather than retreat from it. Next, we highlight one upcoming event for DIY investors that might help offer some much needed perspective on how to navigate markets and how certain Canadian online brokerages are hoping it will help give them some much needed visibility with DIY investors. As usual we’ll review the latest tweets about Canadian discount brokerages and find out what was being said in the forums.

A lesson from Mr. Market

As any seasoned investor or trader knows, “Mr. Market” always has a lesson (or three) to share for those who are observant enough to pay attention.

Despite the political uncertainty in one of the world’s most important economies, it appears that rising markets are trumping ‘Trump’ and drawing more folks into the market faster than the rhetoric and prospect of instability are pushing them away.

One of the interesting data points that crossed our radar this past week came from US online brokerage TD Ameritrade in the release of their most recent trading metrics (from July 2017). Specifically, compared to this point last year, the number of accounts is up (+6%) as is the average number of trades per day (+10%). While the latter might signal more volatility, the former suggests that more individuals are either jumping back or are stepping into the market, despite some of the negative news dominating headlines.  Additional data from other brokers might also support this assertion.

Earlier this month, Interactive Brokers, another US online brokerage, also reported yet another increase in the total number of accounts (+21% y/y) as well as the number of Daily Average Revenue Trades (+15% y/y).

For observers of the industry, it may not be surprising that the continuing uptrend in the major US market indices would stoke investor interest in entering the markets or to incentivize greater activity.

That said, it is an important lesson to observe that in spite of the negative headlines dominating the news, that markets and their participants continue to carry on. Markets attract opportunists and for now, they continue to discount the risk (rightly or wrongly) of economies going off the rails.

Whether the sentiment in the US DIY investor market can help inform what’s going on in Canada is hard to say for sure. If Canadian investors are as confident as their Southern neighbours, however, Canadian discount brokerages may want to (or need to) step up their efforts to win the attention of Canadian DIY investors.

Heading into the fall, if the world is still around, it seems that Canadian online brokerages will be stepping up efforts with something all market participants pay attention to: bargains.

MoneyShow coming to Toronto

The 2017 Toronto MoneyShow will be taking place in just under a month from now. As with previous shows, this year will feature a full lineup of speakers consisting of market analysts, traders and more, each providing their particular take on the direction on the markets.  Though the show will have a familiar feel to it, there are a couple of interesting observations about this year’s MoneyShow that will highlight what’s hot with investors.

One of the first things that stands out about this year’s show is the attention given to one of the most popular stories: the cannabis sector.

At this year’s MoneyShow, there are seven presentations focusing on cannabis investments including topics on the world’s first marijuana ETF and a panel discussion on the Canadian cannabis industry. In addition to speakers and panel discussions, there will also be a handful of cannabis-sector companies exhibiting at this year’s show.

With dozens of publicly-listed companies in the cannabis space, it will be a challenge for many of these companies to stand out to DIY investors, so it is likely that publicly traded cannabis companies will be a more common site at investor conferences going forward.

Another interesting observation is what Canadian online brokerages are up to at this year’s show.

For example, the presentations by BMO InvestorLine for their advanced trading platform – BMO Market Pro as part of the options trading offering may be a signal that BMO InvestorLine will be stepping up its efforts to compete directly against TD Direct Investing’s advanced options trading offering.

As a side note, for options enthusiasts, there will be a presentation by Montreal Exchange on the options trading simulator, Options Play, as well as what’s sure to be a large draw, an ‘up-close-and-personal’ session with Tom Sosnoff, founder of TastyTrade.

The fact that there will be at least four Canadian discount brokerages in attendance including BMO InvestorLine, Interactive Brokers Canada, National Bank Direct Brokerage and CIBC Investor’s Edge, is a signal that online brokerages are hoping to make a personal connection with attendees.

Interestingly, data from the MoneyShow demographic data of attendees show that TD Direct Investing (37%) is the most popular online brokerage with attendees by a factor of 3 over the second-most popular brokerage (Scotia iTRADE – 12%). Curiously neither TDDI nor Scotia iTRADE are listed on the exhibitors list (at the time of publication).

For DIY investors considering attending the show, the price of admission (free) is definitely ‘right’ however the tradeoff is that information about an attendee can be shared with companies exhibiting at or sponsoring the show.

Individuals who can’t make it to the show in person can also still participate. The MoneyShow Toronto will also be available in a ‘virtual’ show floor. There are streams available online to tune into what presenters have to say about topics of interest. Given the high level of uncertainty in the news, attendance and interest in figuring out how the ‘pros’ are approaching the markets will be popular draw and worth tuning into.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

It was a ‘quiet’ week by Twitter standards. Nonetheless, there were still many interesting comments. Mentioned this week were CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE and TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

No Takebacksies

For DIY investors, navigating the maze of personal finance inevitably leads to some ‘teachable moments’. Case in point – this post from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada thread in which one DIY investor opened a Questrade RRSP only to realize it was not the right move. Worth a read to see how Questrade stepped in to help and what others had to say about the situation.

A Simpler Approach

In 2017 it is now possible to have a conversation about where money can be managed for what seems to be a much more reasonable rate. In this post, from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada thread, one user was curious about the ever popular TD E-series funds and how the DIY approach stacked up in terms of cost and convenience against the new comer Wealthsimple. Worth a read.


Into the Close

That’s a wrap on a very intense and very fiery week. From the battleground of Westeros to the battleground of social media, this week had its fair share of dragons. Heading into the weekend, however, it’s safe to say that there’s only one fire-breathing dragon that just about everyone is looking forward to seeing. Have a great weekend!


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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – August 4, 2017

August is finally here and what a month so far. The Dow Jones touched a new all-time high, the US President’s popularity is finding a new low, and Canadian online brokerages are already stepping up their game in anticipation of the end of 2017. With only one month to go before September rolls around, a select group of Canadian online brokerages appear to be trying to capture as much of the spotlight before the DIY investing busy season begins its kickoff in the fall.

In this edition of the roundup, we look at the latest iteration of the deals & promotions being put forward by Canada’s online brokerages – including a rare sneak peek at one bank-owned brokerage’s offer set to launch next week. Following that, we’ll wade into the world of content marketing and the maneuvers that another bank-owned online brokerage is using to build out investor content and interest. From there we’ll see what DIY investors had to say on social media as well as in the investor forums.

The Chart of the Deal

As the calendar flipped to August this past week, the Canadian discount brokerage deals and promotions activity signaled that the news is still good for DIY investors shopping for an online investing account. Weekly roundup readers are in for an added bonus, however as, this edition of the roundup features an exclusive first look at a new BMO InvestorLine offer set to hit the tape next week.

First a recap. Heading into this month there was a little bit of turnover from Scotia iTRADE and Qtrade Investor, both of which had offers that expired.  Offsetting the decline was a new contest offering from Scotia iTRADE, which is profiled in more detail below, as well as an extension in the managed ETF department coming from BMO SmartFolio which extended its discounted management fee promotion through to the end of October.

From a numerical standpoint, however, the deals crop is still healthy, with 23 on the board for investors to choose from. An interesting observation, however, is that while there is participation from a wide array of brokerages in the transfer fee promotion category, it is a narrow group of online brokerages competing in the most popular segment with DIY investors: the cash-back or commission-free trade space.

This month (so far) it’s BMO InvestorLine, Desjardins Online Brokerage, Questrade and Virtual Brokers who are offering up either a cash-back or commission-free trade offer into the general marketplace. Scotia iTRADE, who previously did have an offer in this category, does offer a cash-back arrangement but this is done through its refer-a-friend program and as such is not quite part of the same group of offers as the cash back or commission-free trades open to the general public.

Drilling down further, it appears that the larger institutions, such as BMO and Desjardins, have offers targeting (or accommodating) individuals with higher deposit amounts (at least $100,000), whereas non-bank-owned brokerages such as Questrade and Virtual Brokers have offers with much lower thresholds to qualify. Interestingly, in the referral program category, there are two bank-owned brokerages, Scotia iTRADE and BMO InvestorLine and only one non-bank-owned brokerage, Questrade. It is the latter, however, which has an offer for deposits over $100,000 ($250 cash back).

Behind the Curtain: A look at BMO InvestorLine’s Upcoming Promo

For avid readers of the roundup, this month’s deals recap comes with an added treat, namely an exclusive first look at BMO InvestorLine’s latest offer that’s slated to go live next week (August 8th).

So, what’s under the hood of BMO InvestorLine’s upcoming cash back deal?

The latest promotion from BMO InvestorLine offers new or existing clients either $300 or $750 cash back depending on the deposit size. Deposits ranging between $100K and $249K qualify for the $300 cash back while deposits of $250K or more may qualify for the $750 cash back. In terms of timing, this new fall promotion runs from August 8th to October 31st.

This new ‘fall promotion’ replaces the outgoing summer cash back offer which offered up to $1200 in cash for deposits of at least $200K. While the new offer is not as high from a cash rebate point of view, it does have a lower qualifying deposit tier of $100K which opens cash rebate up to a wider user base.

What is interesting to note about this new offer, however, is that there are few extra perks that this promotion can be combined with which can increase the value by up to $250.

As part of their latest offer, BMO InvestorLine is willing to cover up to $200 for individuals switching from another online brokerage. The fact that BMO InvestorLine is now advertising their transfer fee coverage is somewhat new.

While it has been offered for quite some time, transfer fee coverage has not been widely publicized (BMO InvestorLine’s outgoing offer also advertised that users could also qualify for $200 in transfer fee coverage) by InvestorLine. A comparison of the current transfer fee offers shows, however, that $200 in transfer fee coverage is higher than any currently advertised transfer fee amount.

Another interesting feature of BMO InvestorLine’s latest promotion is that it can be combined with their “Refer a Friend” program. This means that new clients who are referred to BMO InvestorLine by an existing BMO InvestorLine client, can also receive an additional $50 in cash back (the referring party also gets $50 cash back for the referral). Currently, BMO InvestorLine, along with Scotia iTRADE, enable their referral offers to be combined with another promotional offer.

In addition to the self-directed investing promotion news, BMO SmartFolio, their online managed ETF portfolio service, also kicked off the month with an extension of their ‘no management fee’ promotion which offers the first $15K managed for free for one year.

The latest moves by BMO InvestorLine show that they’re continuing to target larger deposit sizes for their cash back offerings. With this fall campaign extending almost to November, it will be interesting to watch the response from online brokerage competitors to see if more cash back offers will be coming to the table. In particular, we will be watching to see just how long the bank-owned brokerage group will let BMO InvestorLine’s cash back promotion go unchallenged especially when competition for DIY investor attention and business is higher than ever.

[*disclosure note: has a referral program in place with BMO InvestorLine and BMO SmartFolio and may receive compensation for individuals opening a BMO InvestorLine account with code SPARXCASH or a SmartFolio account with code STSF and/or clicking through to the BMO InvestorLine or BMO SmartFolio websites]

Scotia iTRADE’s Making Content Happen

Many investors are familiar with the phrase: nothing ventured, nothing gained. As the world of online brokerages continues to evolve to rely more heavily on content to capture the attention and interest of DIY investors, the latest move by Scotia iTRADE appears to be yet another signal that they’re actively looking to sidestep some more traditional marketing in favour of something more content-rich.

This past week, Scotia iTRADE launched their latest foray into the content world, the #MyMakeItHappen campaign. Normally advertising or marketing efforts aren’t quite a story, but what is interesting about this particular approach is that Scotia iTRADE is looking for individuals to share their stories about how financial products or services are a part of reaching their personal milestones. Rather than take the approach of characterizing ‘personas’ the approach taken by Scotia iTRADE focuses on “life’s moments.”

In an environment where competition between online brokerages is quite fierce, and the service provided (trade execution) is fairly commoditized, the need to make things interesting, relevant and unique is what may ultimately sway individuals to try one brokerage over another. For Scotia iTRADE, this new campaign offers a fresh voice to online brokerages talking ‘at’ customers and instead lets investors talk to each other. In many respects, it’s a sign that the thinking has shifted to the “web 2.0” model of user generated content can offer deeper engagement than something an internal team could cook up.

Screenshot from Scotia iTRADE #MyMakeItHappen

Of course, to help incentivize individuals to participate, Scotia iTRADE has also incorporated a contest draw for one of three Apple iWatch series 2 smartwatches – something that will likely pique the interest of Apple fans (and perhaps a few Android fans as well). This contest is open to residents of all provinces except Quebec, and that, according to Scotia iTRADE, is because the current social media channel for Scotia iTRADE is offered in English only and would not provide the kind of user experience they would hope for their French speaking client base.

How things are supposed to work is that individuals can submit (for free) a story about they’re “achieving short-term investment goals, realizing long-term dreams – and everything in between.” This intentionally broad guideline enables many different types of stories to be shared and, frankly, will make for an interesting compilation assuming a large number or variety of stories are shared.

To control for the risk of essentially opening up a microphone to the investing public in Canada, Scotia iTRADE’s marketing team will review and curate the stories submitted. The terms and conditions themselves spell out what is or isn’t permitted, and the content will be policed so there’s a good chance that what makes it through is safe for general consumption. What will be interesting to watch for is if individuals share not just positive, inspirational messages but also realistic ones too – like being caught in an investment in a company that didn’t end up succeeding, or being charged high fees.

For Scotia iTRADE, this experiment, regardless of the outcome, will be sure to provide some interesting lessons in the world of content management, and especially in the world of user generated content.

We will continue to monitor this campaign as it progresses but for now, individuals interested in keeping an eye on what’s happening can follow the hashtag #MyMakeItHappen on Twitter or monitor the landing page for the contest. In all likelihood, many of Scotia iTRADE’s competitors will also be watching with intrigue to find out exactly what will happen next.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

An interesting blip this week as bank-owned brokerages saw an uptick in DIY investor chatter. Mentioned this week were Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE and TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

Looking for an online brokerage

This past week there was an interesting appearance of a couple of posts by DIY investors asking about online brokerages. One of these posts, for example, from reddit’s personal finance Canada section, looked at the pros and cons of familiar dance partners Virtual Brokers and Questrade.

Too much robo?

In this post on reddit’s personal finance Canada thread, one user asked when is it worth it to give the robo-advisor a try and when it is worth it to go it alone. For individuals on the fence or curious about robo-advisors vs DIY investing, it’s worth a read.

Into the Close

That does it for another week. A quick reminder that Canadian markets will be closed on Monday in observance of the Ontario Civic holiday. With lots of options to enjoy the weekend, hopefully you can have some fun with people that you enjoy spending time with (see pic below). On behalf of everyone here at, have a safe & enjoyable long weekend!


[*Editor’s Note: The article has been updated to include Scotia iTRADE’s as another online brokerage that enables their referral plan to be combined with existing promotions in provinces where the referral plan is eligible]

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – August 1, 2017

It’s hard to believe but August is already upon us. That’s right, this is the last full month of summer and in just a few weeks, activity in the markets and with investors is poised to ramp up as summer vacations come to an end. For Canadian online brokerages (and robo-advisors too), however, they’re still hard at work figuring out how to win the attention of Canadian investors.

Heading into a new month, there is still a healthy selection of discount brokerage deals and offers for DIY investors to choose from. Encouragingly, there are some new (and soon to launch) offers to replace a handful of expired offers. For the most part, however, it’s steady state from July – for now.  Keep reading to get the latest information on offers from Canada’s discount brokerages and as always, let us know in the comments section below if there are any offers that Canadian DIY investors might want to hear about.

Expired Deals

There were two offers that expired at the end of July. The first, from Scotia iTRADE, was their free trade + free movie points offer. With Scotia iTRADE’s ability to tap into the ‘free movie’ well, pairing trades with free movies was an interesting and unique offering for the bank-owned online brokerage to put forward.

The second offer to officially expire at the end of July was the commission-free trading of Canadian ETFs from Qtrade Investor. Offering an ‘all you can trade’ approach was an interesting venture by Qtrade Investor into ‘commission-free’ trading of all Canadian ETFs and is reminiscent of the strategy National Bank Direct Brokerage used and ultimately predated the move to allow for commission-free trading on all Canadian ETFs a few years later.

Extended Deals

In the robo-advisor department, BMO SmartFolio extended their offer to waive management fees for the first $15K deposited into a new account. The new expiry date to take advantage of this offer has been extended to October 31st.

New Deals

*Update: Aug. 21 – BMO InvestorLine has added a new cash back promotion for the fall. The deal launched on August 8th and will run until October 31st and features two tiers of cash back incentives. The first tier requires a deposit of at least $100,000 to qualify and features a cash back of $300. The next tier starts at deposits of $250,000+ and offers up a cash back rebate of $750. Both offers may also be combined with a refer a friend bonus. See details below*

Out of the gate, Scotia iTRADE is taking a very creative approach with a new campaign to hear from investors about their money goals. Tied to this campaign is a contest for an Apple iWatch (series 2) which is valued at $549 CAD. There’s lots to unpack about this contest, but for DIY investors interested in a chance to win an Apple iWatch, Scotia iTRADE’s latest promotion could be an interesting way to do so.

For those interested in BMO SmartFolio (and those who already have an account), there is a new refer-a-friend bonus that gives $50 cash to both the referrer and referee. Most notably, this referral offer can be combined with the existing BMO SmartFolio promotion.

Also officially launching this month will be another offer from BMO InvestorLine. We can’t release details on it just yet, but it will be a cash back offer that will replace the soon to expire offer currently being offered until August 8th.

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
Qtrade Investor is offering commission-free ETF purchases for all clients (new and existing) for July 2017. See details link for full terms, conditions and pricing. $1,000 commission fees waived on Canadian listed ETF purchases Valid for Canadian listed ETF purchases made in July 2017. For more information, click here July 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 September 30, 2017
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 up to A) $300 or B) $750 cash back. In addition, eligible individuals can receive an extra $50 as part of the refer a friend program. Use promo code SPARXCASH when signing up for the cash back offer. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. A) $100,000 B) $250,000+ A) $300 B) $750 Cash back will be deposited the week of June 11, 2018. Fall cash back offer October 31, 2017

Expired Offers

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
Last Updated: Aug. 21, 2017 10:30 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
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, 2018

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Aug. 1, 2017 12:30 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 September 30, 2017
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account, by transferring in at least $200,000+ in net new assets and you may be eligible to have transfer fees covered up to $200. Use promo code SPARXCASH when signing up to also be eligible for cash back offer. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. $200 $200,000 Fall cash back offer October 31, 2017

Expired Offers

BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account, by transferring in at least $200,000+ in net new assets and you may be eligible to have transfer fees covered up to $200. Use promo code SPARXCASH when signing up to also be eligible for cash back offer. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. $200 $200,000 Summer cash back offer August 7, 2017
Last Updated: Aug. 25, 2017 10:30 PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
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
Scotia iTrade Share a story about a personal finance goal or moment (max 1000 characters) and complete the contest submission form and you may be eligible to win one of three monthly prizes of an Apple Watch Series 2. Contest is open to all Canadian provinces except residents of Quebec. Be sure to read contest terms and conditions for full details. n/a Terms & Conditions available here: Scotia iTRADE #MyMakeItHappen Contest; Entry link available here. October 31, 2017
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

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Aug. 1, 2017 12:30 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 STSF October 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.
Last Updated: Aug. 1, 2017 12:30 PT