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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – July 13, 2018

It’s Friday the 13th and National French Fry Day. Just like a market, depending on your perspective this is either a pretty awesome way to end the week or a fittingly ominous one. One thing is for sure, perception rather than reality drives the bus when it comes to market moves.

In this edition of the roundup, we profile the latest new trading platform to come to market from a Canadian online broker – likely just in time to play the uptick in trading volatility. From there, we take a summer-style approach to interesting news from around the online brokerage world, including shortening of customer service hours, bullish investor sentiments and crypto-currency trading that might inspire a Canadian brokerage or two.

Virtual Brokers Making Waves with New Platform

For most of Canada’s online brokerages, progress, in the near term, will likely be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. We’ve already observed this trend over the past several years in website upgrade/refresh after website upgrade, and a concerted effort by many online brokerages to focus on continuous fine tuning of user experience.

One important incremental change was recently spotted at Virtual Brokers, with the unveiling of a new trading platform, called VB wave.

We first spotted the presence of Virtual Brokers’ new trading platform on their website a few weeks ago and mentioned it on Twitter. Since that time, we’ve gathered a few more details on what has been a rather quiet unveiling of this new product.

VB Wave (1.0) is a desktop-based trading platform that has been developed for Virtual Brokers to be able to cater to active or very active traders. Like most active trading platforms, VB Wave provides a lot of features traders like, including a customizable dashboard that consists of trading charts, market depth, watchlists as well as important account and position details. Users of VB Wave can trade equities and options.

It is worth noting that Virtual Brokers is somewhat unique among Canadian online brokerages in that VB offers a variety (8 in fact) of trading platforms – with several notable professional grade platforms. So, on a number of levels, it is interesting to see the launch of what is a key differentiator to their brand (i.e. another trading platform) emerge so quietly.

One of the reasons for the subdued entry is likely that the platform is still very much at the 1.0 stage. In an industry where users are very quick to note technical difficulties loudly and publicly, the VB team may be playing it safe by getting the feedback from early users.  As such, VB Wave appears to be in an ‘open-beta’ style situation where early users will help in identifying potential issues, bugs or enhancements that might need to be made before the marketing machine fully ramps up

Another interesting angle to the launch of the new platform is where it fits into the VB family of trading platforms. On either side of the new VB Wave, there is VB WebTrader which is a web browser based application that caters to the essential needs of a user. Then, on the active side, there is the application-based PowerTrader Pro which is billed to handle active and professional traders alike.

So where exactly does VB Wave fit in?

Simply put, it appears that VB Wave offers a desktop application experience for active investors or traders. A key area where VB Wave does differ from PowerTrader Pro, however, is in pricing.

VB Wave comes with a monthly platform fee of $75 CAD for standard commission account holders and $150 CAD for users on the commission-free plan. Compare that to the pricing on PowerTrader Pro, which is $250 USD and immediately there is a significant difference. Data fees apply on top of the platform fee so total pricing depends on the desired market data.

Currently, VB Wave is available only to clients on the standard commission plan however when VB Wave officially goes live – which is scheduled for the beginning of September – both commission plans will be supported on the platform.

As part of the initial roll out, there is a promotion that waives (no pun intended) the platform fee until September 1st.

The timing of the launch of VB Wave for the beginning of September also coincides with the time of year when marketing efforts pick up, so there is a good chance DIY investors will hear and see more about this platform then.

In the meantime, it’s a safe bet that VB will be refining and optimizing the platform until things roll out in a major way in September. Fortunately, there will also undoubtedly be some curious active traders who’ll be looking to kick the tires on Virtual Brokers as a result of the new platform, so one way or another, word of the platform is sure to ‘make waves’ this summer.

Lightning Roundup

Like a refreshing summer salad, we’ve got a light but fulfilling mix of interesting developments across the online brokerage space that might be of interest.

Scotia iTRADE Dials Back Client Service Hours

The days might be brighter but when it comes to customer service hours at Scotia iTRADE, it looks like the sun has set on reaching client service reps later on in the day and on the weekend.

Scotia iTRADE announced that as of June 30th their contact centre hours would change from 8am to 9pm ET (Mon-Fri) and 8am – 6pm (Sat) to new hours of 8am to 8pm ET (Mon-Fri).

This shift in client service rep availability is an interesting move, especially in an era where accessibility of a rep is still fresh in the minds of many DIY investors who were caught waiting in long call queues earlier in the year and who were told to try contacting their broker at less busy hours.

US Online Investors Bullish According to E*Trade

Economic and trading indicators can come from all over the place, however an interesting survey from US online brokerage, E*Trade Financial, points to somewhat optimistic investors south of the border.

According to E*Trade’s most recent survey of active investors, US online investors don’t see the current negative news headlines as a reason not to be optimistic about the direction of the stock market.

Bullish sentiment for Q3 was reported at 57%, 5 percentage points higher than Q2 of 2018 (52%). By comparison, however, bullish sentiment was at 68% in Q1 of 2018 and 63% in Q4 of 2017 indicating that while still positive, there’s definitely a pullback in the percentage of folks who see a rise in markets relative to the end of last year.

Robinhood Adds More Coins to Trade for Free

An interesting piece of news for followers of cryptocurrency trading emerged this week as no-commission online brokerage Robinhood added the ability to trade Litecoin and Bitcoin cash into its lineup of tradeable cryptocurrencies.

Robinhood continues to highlight the massive and pronounced appeal of the commission-free trading model, something that might yet be a signal to Canadian online brokerages to consider doing the same.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Free trades agreement?

Getting something for nothing often feels too good to be true. In this post from reddit’s Personal Finance Canada, one user managed to not get dinged the usual commission from CIBC Investor’s Edge for purchasing an ETF but couldn’t quite deduce why.

Making money moves

With mo money, comes mo problems – like insurance on said monies. One reddit user queried whether Questrade was an appropriate destination for a large portfolio and received a slew of interesting and generally well-behaved responses.

Into the Close

That’s it for another wild and crazy week. With so much activity happening in Europe this weekend, it’s going to be anything but dull and realistically anything but relaxing. So, if you manage to find a way to take it easy and enjoy the summer weather, good work. For the traders out there, though, it looks like this will be a weekend to start shopping around (and because Prime day is coming up!).

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