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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – April 27, 2018

For traders of Canadian securities listed on the TSX/TSX-V and Montreal Exchange, the weekend showed up a little earlier than anyone expected. With trading on these markets halted, it was an opportune time for the Toronto crowd to tune into the wizardry of the Toronto Raptors. Of course, online brokerages in Canada are used to throwing a few surprises at the DIY investing space and this week, some pleasant surprises came to market that spell interesting times for active traders.

In this edition of the roundup, we take a look at an acquisition deal that beefs up one online brokerage’s war chest and is part of a new and exciting chapter for Canadian online brokerages. From there we’ll review some interesting developments with a bank-owned online brokerage that’s turning its efforts to Western Canada. Also, we’ll report on a new active trader feature that offers an interesting approach to short-selling at one independent online brokerage. Speaking of surprise developments, this will be the final week we roll out tweets of the week in the current format – we’ll be switching things up and putting this feature on pause. Not on pause though will be chatter from DIY investors which will close out this edition of the roundup.

Jitneytrade to be acquired by Canaccord

After years of treading water, it appears the Canadian online brokerage market is now on the move. This week, a big name in Canadian wealth management, Canaccord Genuity, made a very interesting play by initiating an acquisition of Jitneytrade, a Canadian online brokerage that caters primarily to active traders.

The deal, which was announced by press release, will see Canaccord Genuity acquire both Jitneytrade as well as FinlogiK, the parent to Jitneytrade.

According to the press release Jitneytrade will continue to operate independently however the release also states that the acquisition “serves to support Canaccord Genuity’s mid-market share of equities trading and providing access to new areas of growth through accelerating its development of an enhanced fintech product offering.”

There’s certainly a hint in there that Canaccord, with its strong book of deals and deep client base, could present a genuine challenge to other Canadian online brokerages who cater to active trading clients – in particular options trading clients. Of course, there’s also the fact that through Jitneytrade, Canaccord clients may now be inclined to reconsider which online brokerage they want to actively invest with.

What makes this deal between Jitneytrade and Canaccord all the more interesting is that it is yet another example of smaller Canadian online brokerages integrating with larger financial services players in Canada.

In September 2017, for example, CI Financial announced that it was acquiring BBS Securities, parent to Virtual Brokers. And, in December of 2017, Qtrade Investor and Credential Direct announced they would be merging under the umbrella of wealth management firm Aviso.

Clearly the days of the smaller online brokerage players in Canada are numbered.

“Smaller” non-bank-owned online brokerages are now better capitalized to take on bank-owned online brokerages’ dominance of the wealth management space which should make things even more competitive for DIY investors going forward.

On a more speculative note, Questrade is now the only independent online brokerage to be standing on its own two feet – and given the recent activity in online brokerage space in Canada, one wonders if it too will become acquisition target.

National Bank Direct Brokerage looking west

Sometimes it’s the little things that actually turn out to be interesting signals of things to come in the online brokerage space in Canada.

This past week, a sponsorship by National Bank Direct Brokerage of a conference in Vancouver crossed our radar.  Specifically National Bank Direct Brokerage is a sponsor of the “Investment in Innovation – GCFF Vancouver Conference” which caters to Vancouver’s Chinese investor community. Included in the conference are companies from a number of headline-making sectors, including blockchain, fintech, medical marijuana and more.

Event sponsorships for online brokerages have become increasingly rare, so it was telling that NBDB would be reaching out to this particular event. The combination of a number of small-cap companies as well as connecting with a critical mass of investors from the Chinese community is an interesting choice for a bank-owned online brokerage that is much better known in Quebec and Ontario and is likely a clear signal of greater intentions to explore how to make inroads in Western Canada, specifically in BC. It’ll be interesting to see how other brokerages with deeper footprints in BC respond and whether the critical mass of Chinese investors represents a compelling niche to stir up competition amongst Canadian online brokerages interested in connecting with this market demographic.

Questrade enhances short-selling experience

Based on an announcement made at the end of last week in Questrade’s community blog, enhancements to its IQ Edge trading platform that include an automated way to determine the cost of selling shares short took effect.

According to the feature announcement, the borrowing rate (and therefore cost) of short selling will be a floating one which will vary based on a security’s value, demand and available inventory. For traders interested in maintaining a short position, Questrade’s platform will be able to display what that carrying cost will look like as long as the trade is live.

When it comes to short-selling, one of the recurring comments from active traders is the challenge obtaining securities – however with this new program in place there might be an interesting mechanism for Questrade to monetize interest in short-selling and/or moderate the availability of shares to short.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

After just about three years and close to 150 weekly stories of DIY investor reactions on Twitter, this is the last edition of the tweets of the week in the current format. Our platform provider as acquired by Adobe and as a result the platform that we used to curate and deliver these tweets has been decommissioned.

We’re hoping we can continue to bring interesting insights about the online brokerage space to you from Twitter and are looking forward to being able to start publishing this segment again soon.

Mentioned this week were CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, Scotia iTRADE, and TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

Fine Print

For DIY investors contemplating being an active investor, there’s an important set of requirements you ought to be aware of. In this post, from RedFlagDeals.com’s investing thread, one user points out the fine print at a big online brokerage that shows how vulnerable traders can be when it comes trading on margin.

Pay for Parking

When it comes to parking cash in an online investing account, there’s a limited number of choices for safely growing your investment. In this post from reddit’s personal finance thread, one user gets an interesting reply to a question about low fee options.

Into the Close

With this week now in the books, it’s one that Canadians and Torontonians won’t soon forget. Another week and another terrible tragedy. To the victims, their families and loved ones as well as to all Canadians impacted by the horrendous van attack that took place in Toronto, the SparxTrading team offers our deepest condolences.

 

 

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – April 20, 2018

For many sports fans, playoffs are the time of year when things get really exciting. Fortunately, sports fans aren’t the only ones being treated to contests as DIY investors and online brokerages have contests of their own making headlines. Of course some games take longer than others to win and require some creativity to get ahead (amirite Westworld fans?).

In this edition of the weekly roundup, we look at the return of a popular online trading competition that one Canadian online brokerage is putting up big prize money for. Next, we take a look at some recent earnings from a popular online brokerage and what an earnings call revealed about DIY investor sentiment in Q1 as well as some hints to how the online brokerage space is poised to change this year. As usual we’ll be taking the pulse of DIY investors on Twitter and in the investor forums, so be sure to check out what folks were talking about this week.

Biggest Winner Competition is Back

Just in time for the playoff season (and perhaps the end of season), the Biggest Winner competition from Horizons ETFs and National Bank Direct Brokerage is back. Fun fact, Horizons ETFs also is the exclusive ETF sponsor of the Toronto Raptors.

Officially kicking off on May 7th, this popular contest features healthy cash prizes for top performing participants. The grand prize is $7,500 while the runner up prize is $2,500. There are also six weekly prizes of $500 each which will keep things exciting from week to week over the course of the challenge.

Contestants will have a fantasy balance of $100,000 to start off with and can only trade Canadian ETFs trading on the TSX. The contest runs between May 7th and June 15th so the ‘buy and hold’ strategies may not fare as well as those who take a more active approach.

Of course, with market volatility levels being as high as they are, this could make for a very interesting competition – especially given the performance of leveraged ETFs in these conditions.

To keep things interesting, the competition does have some important limits. For example, the maximum allocation of a portfolio in any one ETF is 25% and investors will be charged fantasy commissions at the rate of $9.95 per trade. Also, the maximum limit of trades over the competition is 5,000 which is still a pretty high bar for scalp traders. Of course, it’s fairly onerous to generate that many orders manually but trader types are known to be competitive, so someone just might be able to max out.

Another fun fact, the sponsor of the competition, National Bank Direct Brokerage, actually allows for totally commission free trading (with some conditions) of Canadian and American ETFs, so in this case, reality has an edge over the fantasy world.

For DIY investors looking to have a little fun and learn about investing, this is a great way to do both. And, who knows, it might be possible to win big with a volatile market and lots of ways to play it.

Volatility Rules for Interactive Brokers in Q1

There’s an old farmer’s saying that goes ‘make hay while the sun shines.’ For many investors, the stock market volatility over the start of 2018 has been anything but sunny, however like anything in the markets, there’s always another side to the story. In this case that other side is that with all of this volatility, traders in the US have come back into the market in a big way.

This past week, US online brokerage Interactive Brokers held their quarterly conference call to review and discuss the results from Q1 of 2018. As with most conference calls, there were certainly more than a few nuggets of information that showed how the online brokerage business in faring for Interactive Brokers, but more importantly, where they are looking to next for opportunities and what this means for both investors and Interactive Brokers’ competition.

First things first, the numbers. Compared to the same quarter last year, Interactive Brokers crushed it when it came to revenue, earnings and trading metrics. Suffice it to say that with year over year growth in accounts of 27% (to 517,000), growth in customer equity of 33% (to $129B) and pretax income for brokerage this quarter was 291 million, up 57%. Importantly, both trading commissions and net interest revenue were significant contributors to earnings and the rise in interest rates helped to bolster earnings.

In addition to the strong numbers, there were two other noteworthy observations from the conference call.

First, there appears to be an interesting marketing strategy that looks to be directed to shareholders or stock watchers to become clients of Interactive Brokers. It is something we noted in previous roundup, but the direct nature of pointing out the benefits to being a shareholder as well as a client mean that Interactive Brokers is tapping into an already attentive audience to mobilize more clients.

A second, and perhaps most interesting observation is that Interactive Brokers continues to move towards offering traditional banking services in an effort to encourage clients to bring more assets into Interactive Brokers. Not only did they launch a trading-account-linked Mastercard, they also offer interest on cash balances (over $100,000) of 1.19% which is huge for people who like to keep their powder dry. The biggest reveal in the conference call, however, was when CEO and founder, Thomas Peterffy mentioned that Interactive Brokers would soon be rolling out a direct deposit (through payroll) feature and the ability to pay bills from a client’s trading account. This last feature is significant because it is a direct play on the convenience of having access to trading funds to do everyday financial management without having to transfer money to another institution.

Based on their latest numbers, the combination of Interactive Brokers’ efforts to chase profits but also to mitigate risks has helped them skate through an exceptionally volatile quarter with lots of profits to show for it.

In a world moving quickly towards technologies that are seeking to disintermediate, being an online brokerage is a tricky proposition. To succeed in the online brokerage market of the future, firms will require scale and critical mass – otherwise as Peterffy astutely remarked – other brokerages will turn to Interactive Brokers to handle the order execution and technology while those firms focus on client service and acquisition.

The latest financial results for Interactive Brokers show that the writing is on the wall for all online brokerages – and for the broader financial services sector – that pulling ahead of the pack requires technology and a trading experience that gets clients excited. Interactive Brokers has demonstrated that it can do that while passing on savings to clients, which in turn results in their pockets getting pretty full in the process.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

An interesting mix of tweets this week. There were the regular client service and technical difficulty tweets, but there were also some interesting hints dropped by Questrade on future features and some great coverage of a financial literacy event (also featuring Questrade). Mentioned this week were BMO InvestorLine, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, and TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

Feed Up

Before opening an online brokerage, it’s important to understand how much it will cost to trade there. Unfortunately, for one eager beaver, the FOMO of getting into a hot sector won out over reading through the details of trading costs. This post from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada thread shows how one Scotia iTRADE user is looking for a way to minimize fees on the way out.

The drop on DRIPs

Maintaining healthy skepticism is important to surviving the investing world long term. So, one thoughtful forum user in this post from the RedFlagDeals Investing thread posed a question about the downside to using DRIP investing at Questrade. The responses offered a variety of interesting perspectives.

Into the Close

Seeing that it’s 4/20, it only seems appropriate to end the week on a high note (ba-dum-tsh). Yes there were many green puns today but with recreational marijuana legalization just around the corner here in Canada, investors were also weighing in on prospects for this sector. Of course, once all the smoke finally clears on Friday, there’s a whole weekend of hoping and cheering to get to. Good luck Raptors (and even the Leafs) – it’s a great weekend to get on a roll. Ok I’ll stop. Have a great weekend!!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – April 13, 2018

Friday the 13th seems like an unlucky date for those in the path of a spring-time ice storm (sorry Toronto!) and for others, well, the search for ice is really just to keep drinks cold.  Yes, this edition of the roundup is coming to you from the sunny and warm beaches of Huatulco, Mexico where the struggle to stay cool is real.

In this edition of the roundup, we thought we’d do something a little different. With so much happening in the online brokerage space already in 2018 (and because I am in Mexico while writing this roundup) this was a great opportunity to pause and reflect on some of the biggest stories and emerging trends that shaped the first quarter of 2018. Below are four of the biggest and most interesting things that have happened so far in Canada’s online brokerage space.

Outages & outrage kick off the new year

Many Canadian online brokerages faced a perfect storm at the outset of 2018. Caught up in the groundswell of interest in cryptocurrencies and marijuana stocks, DIY investors were definitely in a risk-on mood to kick off the year.

As a result, trading activity surged beyond the capacity of many of Canada’s (and some of the US’s) largest online brokerages’ systems to handle the order flow.

On an “ordinary” trading day, outages to DIY investors are annoying and occasionally tempers flare, but, when the bulls were stampeding, sidelined DIY investors were left seeing red when their platforms weren’t able to connect or trade on their online brokerage’s network.

For the better part of January, outages at Canadian online brokerages made headlines with major news outlets, including BNN, with Canada’s large bank-owned online brokerages such as TD Direct Investing and RBC Direct Investing in the crosshairs.

A consequence of trading platform outages was that DIY investors had to turn to customer service  phone lines and Twitter channels to either execute trades or to find out what was going on. The result: wait times on the phone surged – stretching to hours in some cases before calls were being answered.

The tough lesson for DIY investors caught in the mix was that regardless of online brokerage size, online trading is not without risks, including the risk of being disconnected.

While a few online brokerages managed to NOT make headlines by maintaining business as usual, this scenario was a wake-up call for Canadian online brokerages on the business case for properly resourcing both online trading capacity and failover systems on phone channels.

Here’s a list of editions of the weekly roundup that outages & wait times made headlines in:

January 5th, 2018

January 12th, 2018

January 19th, 2018

February 2nd, 2018

February 9th, 2018

Online brokerages battle it out with promotions during RSP season

If you think RSP season is a myth, think again. Just like flu season, interest in RSP-related information, and accounts, starts to climb in November and peaks in the first 60 days of the new year.

Google search trends for RRSP’s in Canada over the past five years

While chicken soup offers paired with RRSP deals are likely not coming anytime soon, this year, DIY investors were being wooed by an incredibly high volume of offers, ranging from cash back to commission-free trading. Specifically, this year’s crop of cash back offers stood out as bank-owned brokerages stepped up their use of this promotional offer and smaller non-bank owned players also were prepared to ante up.

Highly savvy investors who typically look to open accounts across providers to access features unique to each and to diversify where their money is parked, were provided with an especially unique scenario this year. Specifically, by splitting up where deposits were made, DIY investors could enjoy substantially higher cash back bonuses than putting all of their assets with one brokerage.

Canadian discount brokerages reviewing the deals & promotions landscape will likely also see that incentive offers are yet another ‘battleground’ that’s opened up and that smaller players looking to win market share will make strides by raising the stakes with cash bonus offers.

At the very least, DIY investors will be willing to look at what’s being offered, especially if the headline numbers are big.

Discount brokerage deals and promotions were another big story last quarter so here is a list of weekly roundups in which deals and promos were referenced and analyzed:

January 5th, 2018

January 12th, 2018

January 19th, 2018

January 26th, 2018

February 2nd, 2018

February 23rd, 2018

March 2nd, 2018

March 23, 2018

Rankings and Ratings Roundup

After much anticipation, the Globe and Mail’s annual online brokerage rankings were published in mid-February.

As the most popular and highly sought out rankings of Canada’s online brokerages, the 19th edition of the assessment did not disappoint with some new comparison features and inclusion of Interactive Brokers Canada. Qtrade Investor walked away with top honours in the Globe’s rankings and of the top five, three were non-bank owned brokerages.

Of course, once these rankings were published, and perhaps even in anticipation of them, the marketing departments at Canada’s online brokerages were busy listing off the various ratings, rankings or accolades that position each respective brokerage as ‘the best’ at one feature or another.

In our roundup on March 9th we featured 8 online brokerages who had listed off awards or recognition that claimed each brokerage was the best at something if not the best online brokerage outright.

Not too long afterwards, our roundup on March 30th featured a deep dive on Interactive Brokers’ win of the Barron’s annual online brokerage rankings in the US. Despite the victory taking place in the US, Canadian online brokerages should pay attention to since interactive brokers Canada offers most of the trading technology and analysis tools as the US version does.

In fact, the high ranking in the Globe and Mail’s assessment, the top finish in the Barron’s ratings and the much more visible advertising presence here in Canada (which we noted here on February 23rd) suggests that Interactive Brokers is going to be getting and generating more attention in 2018.

For DIY investor’s the tip here is to read the fine print on the date of the award because we noted several instances where awards from previous years were being used to justify being characterized as ‘the best.’

BMO breaking through on social media & digital

When it comes to social media and investing online, only one of Canada’s bank-owned wealth management arms successfully managed to execute on an effective social media-based influencer campaign in Q1 of 2018. BMO Wealth Management (parent to BMO InvestorLine) and BMO SmartFolio were able to generate a highly engaged, interactive online Twitter chats on investing online.

The Q&A format did well as did the session thanks in part to the fact that the host of the Twitter chat was Lena Almeida. In January, BMO SmartFolio’s session on investing online helped spark a lively conversation on topics related to investing online. Fast forward a few weeks to March 5th, and BMO Wealth Management was on Twitter with an #InvestSmart session in support of International Women’s Day.

Just prior to the end of Q1, BMO InvestorLine also rolled out a new homepage which was a significant iteration to its previous design.

Screenshots of previous BMO InvestorLine website homepage (left) and new BMO InvestorLine website homepage (right).

Although we covered this new site in more detail in last week’s roundup (here), the latest moves by BMO InvestorLine online showcase that they are not standing still when it comes to embracing digital channels to better connect with DIY investors.

*full disclosure: Sparx Publishing Group Inc. the parent company to SparxTrading.com, may receive affiliate or referral bonuses for individuals signing up to BMO InvestorLine or BMO SmartFolio services via SparxTrading.com, however no compensation from BMO InvestorLine or BMO SmartFolio was received for writing this article.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

Interesting chatter as usual, with technical issues and client service challenges prompting the majority of Twitter comments. Mentioned this week were BMO InvestorLine, CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, and TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

Making moves

How easy is it to switch online brokerages? This post, from reddit’s personal finance Canada thread, highlights one user’s question about transferring from TD Direct Investing to Questrade and offers insights into timing and costs.

Tips on RESPs

DIY investing usually means a lot of research to figure out how to maximize the return on investment. When it comes to savings vehicles, like the RESP, however, there’s lots to consider. In this post, also from reddit’s personal finance Canada thread, users weigh in to help one expecting parent navigate the tricky world of investing for their child’s education.

Into the Close

As we head into another weekend, we wanted to take a moment to extend our deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathies to the teammates, families, friends and communities who tragically lost loved ones in the heartbreaking Humboldt Broncos bus accident.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – April 6, 2018

Welcome to April 2018, where the invisible hand has taken to typing away tweets to move markets. The power of digital platforms and the importance of making deals coincidentally happen to be two important themes that Canadian online brokerages are also picking up on, although in a far less blustery manner.

In this edition of the roundup, we take a look at the bullish indicators to come out of the latest online brokerage promotions numbers. From there, we take a deep dive into one bank-owned brokerage’s timely refresh of a website which could be a savvy move to attract active investors seeking to participate in market volatility. And, speaking of volatility, there were some very intriguing tweets from DIY investors about what’s happening in the discount brokerage space as well as some great posts on the investor forums.

Deals Update

Despite the turmoil and uncertainty in the stock market, the Canadian discount brokerage deal offers continue to look bullish for DIY investors.

The latest snapshot of deals for new online investing accounts is now live and this month’s action saw two online brokerages extend offers that were set to expire at the end of March as well as the release of a rare cash back and commission-free trade offer.

Starting first with the extensions, HSBC InvestDirect and Desjardins Online Brokerage both pushed the deadline for their offers out to April 30th and May 31st respectively. What is especially interesting about the HSBC InvestDirect renewal is that it is a cash back offer and now one of only two cash-back offers (the other is from BMO InvestorLine) that DIY investors can choose from that is not part of a refer-a-friend program. Given the attention DIY investor deal hunters place on cash back offers, the absence of competition in this offer segment works out well for both bank-owned online brokers.

The other bullish indicator was the latest offer from BMO InvestorLine, which went live shortly after the roll out of their new front-end website. This latest offer is a rare cash back AND commission-free equity trade promotion that combines a tiered cash bonus and up to 20 commission-free equity trades, which are good for up to two months.  Conveniently, this kind of offer doesn’t force users to choose between either a cash bonus or commission free trade, which is nice, and the cash offer itself is fairly competitive alongside the current cash offers. Also interesting to observe was the minimum deposit amount to qualify for the promotion is $50,000, which is lower than the typical threshold of $100K+.

Once again, it appears that transfer fee promotions have stepped back into the lead as the most common offer available at just about every Canadian online brokerage. As we noted last month, Qtrade Investor now sits atop this list since they lowered their deposit threshold to $15,000 from the common watermark of $25,000. It will be interesting to see which online brokerage decides to match this offer – especially Credential Direct and/or Desjardins Online Brokerage as they move through the process of merging together with Qtrade Investor.

The only deal that didn’t make it through to the end of March was the discounted trading commission offer from Virtual Brokers. Not known for staying on the promotions sidelines for too long, Virtual Brokers may already be cooking something up for the not too distant future.

In fact, we’ll be watching to see what unfolds in April. As stock market turmoil heats up, online brokerages may have to turn to some very creative offers and incentives to encourage investors to open an online investing account rather than sitting out the Twitter storm and market volatility.

BMO InvestorLine Rolls Out New Website

The reality for brands to be online today requires staying fresh to stay interesting. For financial service providers, this presents a unique challenge.

On the one hand, financial services rely heavily on conveying trust, reliability and consistency and as a result, keeping changes to a minimum. On the other, considerations such as user experience and design elements are being considered as metrics of trust now more than ever before in the organization and delivery of online brokerage websites.

Screenshot of new website for BMO InvestorLine

It is against this backdrop, as well as an ongoing evolution in digital strategy, that BMO InvestorLine’s recent website refresh highlights some important trends in design and communicates some key stakeholders BMO InvestorLine is looking to reach.

Although there is lots to dive into, three of the most interesting components of the website refresh fit neatly into the following categories: personas, perks and platforms.

Fair warning, talking about website design might seem overly technical, but when competition between providers is so close, this refresh serves as an example that small changes can make a big difference in how easily users find information and how useful it is when they find it.

Personas

One of the more noticeable changes on the new BMO InvestorLine website is the space dedicated to investor ‘personas’ – or depictions of typical kinds investors. While personas are not new, it is interesting to see the variation in how they’re used. In a refresh that Credential Direct undertook last year, for example, personas were an important part of how the content on the website connected more meaningfully with website visitors.

With BMO InvestorLine’s new layout, these personas feature prominently and use an interesting combination of pictures of individuals as well as text to explain the features/benefits of the category of investor each persona is meant to represent. For example, in terms of writing style, the language used more directly addresses the reader or an approximation of the reader’s investing experience level (e.g. ‘you’ve got the basics and now want more insights…”). It is a subtle thing but as mentioned earlier, it also helps to connect a little more directly with a reader.

Screenshot of investor persona types described by BMO InvestorLine

Another interesting visual element is how DIY investors are portrayed.

Historically, investors have typically been portrayed as older men, however the choices of imagery selected here clearly communicate that DIY investors are more diverse. This trend towards greater diversity and inclusivity is not unique to BMO InvestorLine but reflective of a larger trend in financial services providers doing a more effective job of representing the diverse nature of the Canadian population.

Further, the pictures chosen are of individuals staring into the camera and smiling – not reading a screen or doing some other stereotypical “investing” activity. This was an interesting and powerful choice as it psychologically connects viewers with the person in the image, and communicates safety and satisfaction (as opposed to communicating, “this is what investors look like when they’re investing”).

Perks

Another interesting angle on the new page is how promotional offers as well as “perks” are featured.

BMO InvestorLine is one of a handful of Canadian online brokerages that consistently puts forward promotional offers (see below for more on the new InvestorLine promotion) throughout the year, so promotions are an important part of the brand offering.

Also intriguing was the positioning of added features as “perks”. This is somewhat rare as other online brokerages generally don’t refer to the features associated with either increased trading activity or larger account sizes as perks (or if they do, it’s certainly more muted), but labeling these features in this way enhances the feeling of receiving a bonus. It may be a small change but it is an important one as it makes the idea of getting something seem a bit more special. And, after all, who doesn’t like ‘perks’?

Platforms

A third interesting feature on the new BMO InvestorLine website is the increased prominence of their active trading platform, BMO Market Pro.

Screenshot of active trader platform offering (BMO MarketPro).

This trading platform offers an enhanced trading experience with charting tools, alerts, streaming data, order entry and watchlists. Active traders might be interested to know that the bar to qualify for access to Market Pro is 30 trades per quarter or at least $250,000 in assets with BMO InvestorLine. Interestingly, while the threshold to qualify for this advanced platform (30 trades per quarter) is standard at peer bank-owned brokerages, BMO Market Pro also includes level 2 streaming quotes for TSX-Venture-listed stocks. This data stream generally costs extra (between $25 to $50/mo) on active/advanced platforms (e.g. Scotia iTRADE and TD Direct Investing charge for this) so having it included is a plus for active investors interested in trading small cap stocks.

The competition between online brokerages extends beyond just pricing and features. As the latest refresh from BMO InvestorLine’s website shows, it also is now in the digital experience arena. Ultimately for the site to be a step forward, it needs to improve how quickly individuals locate the information online that they are looking for.

When looking at the ‘big picture’, the new website shows an interesting shift toward highlighting the ‘platform’ and ‘tools’ offered by InvestorLine, as well as feature-rich offerings like the Market Pro platform and 5-star program. Is it a coincidence that with the market volatility picking up, the messaging is turning more to trading rather than buy-and-hold? Perhaps. But for BMO InvestorLine, it’s certainly good timing to be broadcasting their active trader features.

For DIY investors comparing online brokerages, the key takeaways from this website refresh are that BMO InvestorLine is not standing still when it comes to staying current with online experiences – a metric that is increasingly becoming the standard by which brokerages are going to be judged on. Also, there appears to be a greater emphasis on letting the active traders out there know that BMO InvestorLine has a feature set that they might find worthy of a test-drive.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

There were a number of interesting tweets from DIY investors this week. Among the items people were talking about (beyond technical difficulties) were revisions to terms of service, new features with yahoo and money disappearing from an account (not from trading). Mentioned this week were BMO InvestorLine, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE, and TD Direct Investing.

 

From the Forums

Insight-er Trading

Every so often when an online investor turns to the internet for help, there’s a great resource that emerges. In this post from the reddit Personal Finance Canada thread, one user was experiencing some frustration getting an RDSP setup properly. Fortunately, there was a happy ending and an incredibly thoughtful post that helped walk through the experience of setting up a self-directed RDSP at TD Direct Investing.

Ticked Tax

When it comes to getting documents ready for tax filing, nothing gets DIY investors agitated like delays in receiving tax forms. In this post, from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada thread, we spotted a few users waiting for Questrade forms to filter in.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this week. While the traders playing volatility had a fun week, there were lots of moments that made it feel like Friday could come fast enough. Of course, there’s probably a soundtrack on Spotify available for those traders out there trying to get out in front of the hot mess that is the news cycle. Wherever the weekend takes you, hopefully it is filled with better news than what’s trending online! In the meantime, here’s a little something to end the week on a fun note.

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – April 2018

*Updated April 2* Spring is officially here and for DIY investor’s it’s already off to a great start. To begin with, there was a bullish sign heading into April as two online brokerages, Desjardins Online Brokerage and HSBC InvestDirect, elected to extend offers that were scheduled to expire at the end of March.

In fact, of the four deals set to expire at the end of March, two have already been extended and at least one more, from BMO InvestorLine, is on the way to replace the deal that officially expires on April 1st (it is still live at the time of publication). The only offer that is officially expired at the time of publication is from Virtual Brokers, however there is a strong likelihood that they will not be out of the promotions section for very long.

So, at the kick off to April, there are still two cash back offers on the board, and if the referral promotions are included in there, technically there are five offers on the deals board that DIY investors could use to get a cash bonus upon getting into a new account.

The category with the most offers, by far, is transfer fee coverage offers. As we observed last month, Qtrade Investor lowered the required minimum for investors to qualify from $25,000 to $15,000 and as such, are one of the most competitive offers of the group.

Investors looking for a trading commission-related offer – such as commission free trades or a discounted commission rate, have seven offers to choose from (not including referral offers) so there’s a healthy mix of bank-owned or independent brokerages to choose from in this category.

As always, if there are any other offers that we’ve not listed that might be of interest to other readers, feel free to leave a comment below.

Top cash back promotions at Canadian discount brokerages - April 2018
Top cash back promotions at Canadian discount brokerages – April 2018

Expired Offers

At the time of publication, Virtual Brokers’ discounted commission promotion offer expired.

Extended Offers

HSBC InvestDirect, which is normally somewhat selective in timing offers through the year, elected to extend their cash-back promotion making it and BMO InvestorLine the only two cash-back offers available to all investors.

Also extended was Desjardins Online Brokerage’s popular 1% commission credit offer. The timing coincides with the launch of their new logo as well – a positive sign they’re positioning for interesting activities to come.

New Offers

*Updated April 2: BMO InvestorLine just launched their latest promotion and it is an interesting one! Starting today (April 2nd) and going until May 31st, BMO InvestorLine is offering a cash back and commission-free trade combination promotion. This tiered deposit promotion offers between $50 and $500 for deposits ranging from $50,000 to $300,000+ as well as up to 20 additional commission-free trades which are good for 2 months. Combo offers are rare and the relatively close expiry date signal something very interesting for DIY investors looking for an online trading account to consider. See table below for more details.*

There were no new offers to report at the time of publication, however we’re on the lookout for possible offers coming soon from BMO InvestorLine.

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

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, 2018
Open and fund a new account with Virtual Brokers with at least $5,000 and you may be eligible to receive up to two months of trading at $4.99 per trade (maximum of 15 trades per month). Use promo code 499COM2017 when signing up to qualify. See terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 Up to 2 months of trading at $4.99 per trade (max 15 trades per month) Commissions will be reimbursed after June 30, 2018. For more details, click here March 31, 2018
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 DisnatTransfer 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 May 31, 2018
Open a new account at National Bank Direct Brokerage with at least a) $10,000 or B) $20,000+, and you may be eligible to receive up to A) 10 or B) 25 commission-free trades. For the 10 free trades offer, enter promo code FREE10 and for the 25 free trades offer enter promo code FREE25. This offer is also available to existing clients. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. A) $10,000 B) $20,000+ A) 10 commission-free trades B) 25 commission-free trades 12 months Free Trades Campaign April 30, 2018
Open a new account with HSBC InvestDirect by transferring in at least A) $25,000; B) $100,000; C) $250,000; D) $500,000 or E) $1,000,000 or more from another Canadian financial institution and execute at least three commission-generating trades by April 30th, 2018, and you may be eligible to receive a cash bonus of up to A) $88; B) $188; C) $288; D) $688 or E) $988. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. A) $25,000 B) $100,000 C) $250,000 D) $500,000 E) $1M+ A) $88 B) $188 C) $288 D) $688 E) $988 Transfer-in bonus will be deposited by November 30, 2018. Winter Offer – Transfer-In Bonus April 30, 2018
Open and fund a new qualifying account with at least $25,000 and you may qualify for one month of unlimited commission-free trades and up to one month free of an advanced data package. Use promo code ADVANTAGE14 when opening a new account. Be sure to read terms and conditions for full details. $25,000 commission-free trades for 1 month + 1 month of advanced data. 1 month Active Trader Program December 31, 2018
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account, with at least A) $50,000; B) $100,000 or C) $300,000+ in net new assets and you may be eligible to receive up to 20 commission-free equity trades plus A) $50 cash back; B) $150 cash back or C) $500 cash back. Commission-free trades are good for up to two months. In addition, eligible individuals can receive an extra $50 as part of the refer a friend program. Use promo code SPRING when signing up. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. A) $50,000 B) $100,000 C) $300,000 20 commission-free equity trades AND A) $50; B) $150 C) $500. Commission-free equity trades are good for up to two months. Cash back will be deposited the week of January 21, 2019. BMO InvestorLine Spring 2018 Campaign May 31, 2018

Expired Offers

BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account, with at least A) $100,000; B) $200,000 or C) $300,000+ in net new assets and you may be eligible to receive up to A) $200 or 20 commission-free equity trades; B) $400 or 40 commission-free equity trades; or C) $750 cash back or 75 commission-free equity trades. Commission-free trades are good for up to two months. 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 or SPARXTRADES when signing up for the commission-free equity trade bonus. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. A) $100,000 B) $200,000 C) $300,000 A) $200 or 20 commission-free equity trades. B) $400 or 40 commission-free equity trades. C) $750 or 75 commission-free equity trades. Cash back will be deposited the week of Nov. 12, 2018. Commission-free equity trades are good for up to two months. BMO InvestorLine Winter 2018 Campaign April 1, 2018
Last Updated: Apr. 2, 2018 21:45 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 B) $10,000 C) $25,000 D) $50,000 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 October 31, 2018

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Apr. 1, 2018 18:45 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 Qtrade Investor from another brokerage and Qtrade Investor may cover up to $150 in transfer fees. See terms and conditions for more details. $150 $15,000 Transfer Fee Rebate none
Transfer $15,000 or more to HSBC InvestDirect, and they will pay up to $150 in transfer fees. $150 $15,000 2018 Winter Offer – Transfer-In Bonus April 30, 2018
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
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 April 30, 2018
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 DisnatTransfer. See details link for more info. $150 $50,000 Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo May 31, 2018
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 or SPARXTRADES to be eligible for the commission-free trade offer. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. $200 $200,000 BMO InvestorLine Winter 2018 Campaign April 1, 2018

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Apr. 1, 18:45 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
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

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Apr. 1, 2018 18:45 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. $1,000 1 year no management fees STSF April 1, 2018 SmartFolio New Account Promotion
Cash Back – Referral BMO SmartFolio clients will receive $50 cash back for every friend or family member who opens and funds a new SmartFolio account. Friends and family referred to SmartFolio will receive $50 cash back for opening and funding an account, plus automatic enrollment into SmartFolio’s mass offer in market at the time. See offer terms and conditions for more details. $1,000 $50 cash back (referrer) $50 cash back (referee) Unique link generated from SmartFolio required. None SmartFolio Website
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: Apr. 1, 2018 18:45 PT