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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 30, 2018

To some, the word boring means something unexciting. For the Elon Musks of the world, however, boring is really exciting. Of course, that second kind of boring requires doing some digging to yield interesting results.

In case you didn’t see this one coming, this edition of the roundup digs deep into an interesting set of developments in the US online brokerage market that, at first blush, might seem small but actually reflect a new playbook for brokerages here in Canada. From there we’ll cruise through some interesting investing-on-auto-pilot-related news as well as present the latest updates from Twitter and what investors where chatting about in the forums.

Thinking Big by Thinking Small

As anyone in Canada who’s ever shoveled a driveway or sidewalk full of snow knows, small changes add up.

A recurring theme that we’ve observed in the online brokerage space is that change is taking place with online brokerages incrementally rather than in a sweeping fashion. With the exception of commission price drops, there hasn’t been an incredibly exciting product or feature that has gotten people talking or investors clamouring to sign up for an online brokerage account.

This month, there were two modest developments that took place among two popular US online brokerages that stood out not so much because they were “big” but rather because they were small yet still reported on.

The first was from Robinhood – the zero-commission online brokerage – which announced that they have developed a new “news filtering” system that rapidly screens and delivers ‘meaningful’ news about stocks or cryptocurrencies that investors are invested in or are watching. This feature was mentioned on not one Robinhood blog, but two. On their primary blog but also on their data team blog. More on that in a moment.

Their new news delivery system is the kind of thoughtful feature that, in theory, should improve the user experience of a DIY investor – especially the active kind. Active investing is interesting in part because it relies on being able to digest a lot of information very quickly and make decisions based on that information.

Even for technical traders who focus primarily on charts understand the value of a good news feed.

Unfortunately plug and play RSS feeds are often unwieldy and embedded news streams are middling at best. Alongside the growth in interest in DIY investing and trading has also come the hyperfragmentation of information sources to the point where it is remarkably difficult for a DIY investor to find fast, reliable (trustworthy) news on particular stocks.

Often times stories are generated about a particular company by bots that report on the movement of a company’s share price or earnings but lack real depth or insight. The sites are also crammed with advertising so the user experience is often terrible without an ad-blocker.

Enter Robinhood’s new news filtering feature. Robinhood has developed a new ‘smart’ filter that incorporates machine learning to intelligently filter out news stories that appear to be generated by bots and can do so incredibly quickly so that online investors can receive relevant information soon after it gets published from its source

A second, less obvious, observation about this feature release is that Robinhood pushed the information out on its company blog as well as on a more specialized company blog that focuses on the ‘nitty gritty’ details of the projects or products they’re working on.

This level of transparency and coverage on seemingly small developments reflects the ‘tech’ approach of fintech.

Technology is constantly improving and iterating, and many technology startups are not afraid to share what they’re working on or talking about the details of what they’ve worked on. So, for Robinhood to push out two blog stories on this feature release reflects that they not only ‘get technology’ but they also understand that telling people about what they’re working on enables the evangelists to stay connected to the brand. The people who love Robinhood have something to read about and are reassured that Robinhood is constantly evolving instead of being a static enterprise.

On the other end of the news spectrum when it comes to reporting market information, TD Ameritrade marked an important milestone in their own content and news feed ambitions – namely the one year anniversary of the launch of their TD Ameritrade Network.

The network consists largely of original market-driven content that now stretches across 14 hours each weekday. Coinciding with the anniversary is the small but important expansion of their network to the Amazon Fire TV platform. In its first year, TD Ameritrade’s network received just over 1.8 million unique visitors. Estimates on the number of Fire TV exceed 19 million monthly users internationally, so the opportunity to expand their content presence is certainly what Ameritrade is banking on.

Interestingly, as part of the press release announcing the update, one of the stats of a survey conducted on behalf of TD Ameritrade revealed that 62% of investors ranked “expert market analysis” as the most important content in financial or market news and that for 14% of investors, irrelevant content is considered a barrier. While these stats reflect US audience dynamics, it is nonetheless interesting to see that filler content or ‘irrelevant’ content can get in the way of people tuning into (or even reading) content.

The takeaway lesson here for online brokerages in Canada is that what counts as “news” in terms of feature developments is likely to be too small for major news outlets to cover. As such, the tendency to wait for a big development means that unless you have your own audience tuning in, very few people are likely to pay attention. Conversely, when technology fails, that WILL get headlines and coverage (see earlier in 2018 for evidence of that). The smarter move, it appears, is to put out smaller pieces of content more frequently.

As Robinhood and TD Ameritrade have both shown, it is possible to sidestep or work in parallel with traditional media by publishing stories about what’s happening, as Robinhood so aptly put it, “under the hood.” In TD Ameritrade’s (and even TD Canada’s) case creating custom video content to compete with traditional news streams is possible and audience growth, while modest in size, is likely prominent when considering who those viewers are and what kind of assets they bring with them.

Trust and transparency in the new world will be defined not so much by the ‘established’ reputation per se but rather the reputation for producing content on a regular basis. Scanning a Twitter or Instagram feed is just one of the due diligence tasks that younger investors are prone to doing since those are the channels they themselves will turn to.

If discount brokerages are able to effectively share that they are working on interesting or new things, then that in and of itself should boost the credibility of their firm as an innovative one. Fortunately, for Canadian (and US) online brokerages, there are likely lots of little improvements being made all the time. Similar to shoveling the snow in the driveway, it’s best to do it in stages rather than wait until its all on the ground to try and dig out from under it.

Lightning Round

No Longer a Tease

This week, the big news from RBC was the public roll out of the InvestEase robo-advice platform. After a year of testing pilots with staff and select groups, the new digital advice service is live. And, to sweeten the deal for individuals to try it out, for anyone who opens an account by March 31st, 2019, the annual management fee of 0.5% will be waived until October 2019 (hooray for new deals!).

Still a Tease

Rumours of Wealthsimple Trade now going live for some users are starting to trickle out. The zero-commission trading option appears to be surfacing for some DIY investors in Canada. Stay tuned as we find more chatter on the platform as it continues its rollout into RSP season.

Penalty Box

As we reported last week, Questrade Wealth Management got dinged by market regulators for violations of the best interest standard as part of its digital advice program Portfolio IQ. This week, the fine Questrade Wealth Management agreed to pay was made public and came out to $2.9M along with $100,000 in associated legal costs. Interestingly, even though there was some news pick up on the story, the response by investors in the forums was largely indifferent.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Testing Patience

Yet another DIY investor took to the forums this week enquiring about their index funds performance (or lack thereof) with Tangerine as well as interpreting their dashboard. Check out this thread to see the useful advice offered from other redditors and why being passive requires active effort.

Ease on Fees

The week of Cyber Monday seemed apropos for the launch of RBC’s new robo-advisor, InvestEase.  The reddit Personal Finance Canada forum weighed in on the arrival of InvestEase as well as the introductory promotion. Read more here.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on a very busy week for investors. Even though Cyber Monday is in the rear view mirror, be sure to keep your deal radar on  as a new month is starting as is the ramp up to RSP season. On top of the offers from online brokerages, it appears that there are still interesting deals cropping up in the market – the best part is the shipping charges and delivery times are much better than a certain postal services. Whatever screen you find yourself at this weekend, stay warm and have fun!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 23, 2018

Welcome to the Black Friday edition of the weekly roundup! No crazy lineups to fight here however if you were inundated with offers and merchants trying to get your attention, you’re certainly not alone.

In keeping with the spirit of the day, this edition of the roundup has more that you might have bargained for. Specifically we take an in-depth look at the most potent form of attention grabbing media – commercials – being put forward by Canada’s discount brokerages and robo-adivsor firms. With so much going on we’ve also included quick snapshots of important developments and close out the roundup with a look at the investor forums and tweets for the week.

Commercial interest

Heading into RSP season, Canada’s discount brokerages and online investing firms are ramping up their battle for the eyeballs and attention of online investors. This month, we’ve noticed an interesting uptick in video activity among online brokerages and robo-advisors that highlight some interesting trends in the way that online investors are being depicted and the kinds of messages that are being sent their way.

Before diving into the commercials themselves, it’s interesting to get some context. When online trading first launched and for a good portion of its lifespan, the visuals painted a very distinct portrait of ‘fast money’ or ‘action packed’ markets. While this brand of ‘exciting’ pace still exists on financial news stations like CNBC, within the Canadian context the messaging from online brokerages – the conduit into the markets – has shifted to become more about ‘personal finance’ and ‘wealth management’ than the exciting and dynamic world of online trading.

Interestingly, fast money sectors like cryptocurrency and cannabis have emerged in a similar fashion to the ‘dot com’ era, bringing with them the volatility and the lure of getting rich quick. In turn, younger investors have been pulled off the sidelines from late 2017 and through most of this year.

Aside from the catalysts of cannabis and crypto, millennial investors are also interested in messages of purpose, equality, inclusiveness and social responsibility. So, it is interesting to see what the latest crop of commercials/videos from online brokerages and digital advice firms are doing to depict the conversation around ‘money’ and investing.

RBC Direct Investing

We spotted two videos posted to Vimeo that are presented from the perspectives of two different investors – both of whom are women.

The first video tells the story of “Milene”. Her story highlights her approach to investing, what got her started as well as what her goals are as someone who has recently turned 40. The approach of “being boring” is her preferred route to building wealth over the long term.

RBC Direct Investing w/ Milene from Official Pictures on Vimeo.

The second video tells the video of Carrie. At 33, she recounts her path into investing as well as what her experience was like when placing her first trade. Like the first video, Carrie shares her goals with respect to investing and what she hopes it will translate into at retirement.

RBC Direct Investing w/ Carrie from Official Pictures on Vimeo.

There are several interesting points about these videos that provide some insight into the strategy of RBC Direct Investing. The first very interesting thing is that they use the stories and voices of women who work for RBC Direct Investing. This is powerfully authentic and even though it comes from people who work for RBC Direct Investing, there isn’t a direct sell or push to consider RBC DI. This doesn’t sound like a commercial for RBC’s DIY investing solution so much as it sounds like a story of an everyday investor.

In addition to being highly relatable, they’re also very well targeted to people at the age or life stage of the two people featured in the videos. With powerful ad technology in place that enables advertisers to show content to particular users based on their demographic profile (e.g. video advertising through Facebook) this is an especially powerful medium (video) and message.

Last but not least, the production quality on the videos is excellent. The videos are colourful, engaging and feel like a well narrated story rather than a forgettable series of stock photos or footage of people checking their balance from a coffee table.

There’s a good chance that this will be an impactful campaign for RBC Direct Investing and will certainly raise the bar on ‘story telling’ for other online brokerages who are hoping to use video to make compelling stories about personal finance resonate with DIY investors.

Scotia iTRADE

What to rocks, blocks, cards and candy have to do with DIY investing? These childhood staples play a key part in the sentiment that Scotia iTRADE is hoping to connect with. Specifically, the recurring theme in their most recent set of commercials is that “trading” is familiar and almost nostalgic.

Scotia iTRADE Rock from Paul Constantakis on Vimeo.

It is an interesting approach to use childhood as a base around which trading takes place. Perhaps it is to communicate that trading can be a win-win or that trading is something that many of us remember mastering as children. Nonetheless, the messaging is clear about positioning Scotia iTRADE alongside the messaging that ‘there is a trader inside all of us’.

It is encouraging, once again, that there is a visual direction that embraces diversity – both ethnically and with gender, that reflects a more modern and progressive view of what an everyday investor “looks like” and where they live.

Unlike the focal point of RBC Direct Investing, this messaging appears to be targeting traders rather than investors, and evoking the emotion associated with making a winning move.

It’s a tad cynical to read too deeply into the accuracy of the transaction portrayed in the advertisements. For example, there are no intermediaries in the trading portrayed in these commercials. No portions of a caramel are eaten by a broker as commissions, nor are there appendages of a robot or pieces of a plastic block taken by the facilitator. Nonetheless, when it comes to making an emotional connection with active investors and traders, the ‘joy’ of trading is definitely long-standing.


Scotia iTrade | Caramels from Marie-Eve Tremblay on Vimeo.

Caramels 2:

Scotia iTrade | Caramels from Marie-Eve Tremblay on Vimeo.

Yellow Piece:

Scotia iTRADE Yellow Piece from Paul Constantakis on Vimeo.


Questrade has certainly ramped up its video presence over the past two to three years, with a noticeable uptick in visibility around major sporting events here in Canada. While the ‘online brokerage’ side of their brand hasn’t been in the spotlight nearly as much, their digital advice / roboadvisor now known as Questwealth Portfolios has been receiving a fair bit of coverage.

In terms of what an investor “looks like” in their videos, Questrade is targeting young adult investors. While there is a gender balance that shows a young man and young woman as the investors, the notion that only a woman would be caring for a young baby or that two men should be having a conversation in a board room seem a tad anachronistic and run somewhat contrary to the message that “times have changed.”

Their latest set of Questrade’s videos clearly depict millennial investors telling their financial advisors that ‘times up’ when it comes to paying for investment fees and specifically naming Questrade as the solution. The setting of “the conversation” is in keeping with their recent campaigns that depict that moment when an investor meets with an advisor.

On an emotional level, Questrade’s commercials continue to pass along that uncomfortable and awkward feeling of being privy to watching someone about to lose their job. Some may feel it is deserving however it is a bit of an emotional tight rope to vilify people who charge money for financial services. Nonetheless, these commercials to evoke and provoke responses (especially on social media) so for better or worse they do get people talking about Questrade.


This brand was originally not going to be included since these videos were geared, it seems, towards a US audience however they were too compelling a counter-point to not share. That in and of itself is a sign of a winning piece of content however in a broader context, Wealthsimple has been dictating the pace for content among financial service providers for the better part of two years.

With this latest video, Wealthsimple is asserting its identity as a challenger-brand in the financial services space. In fact, when contrasted with any of the videos mentioned above, this video takes a genuinely resonant approach to messages that would connect with millennials who are aware of and passionately advocate for equality and change.

This video takes the emotional impact of finance an order of magnitude deeper to challenge the viewer in a way that the Collin Kaepernick video did for Nike. Wealthsimple takes social responsibility, in this case with regards to pay equity, and weaves it into the conversation about money and demonstrate why they are gaining popularity and mindshare with younger investors.

Wealthsimple “Equal” from Public Record on Vimeo.

Investing in focus

While Canadian online investing firms don’t have the same scale of budgets set aside for marketing and advertising that US online brokerages do, the handful of online brokers and investing firms here that are using video to connect with investors show a more contemporary view of what investors look like and the things that they are interested in. To stand out in a noisy world of content, videos have to be engaging and impactful. Heading into RRSP season and with a bump to TFSA contribution levels,  Canadian online broker commercials are likely going to be more frequent and visible. The real question for online investors though is which will leave a lasting impression.

Important Bits and Pieces

Robo-advisor Comparison

Personal Finance columnist at the Globe and Mail, Rob Carrick, published his comparison of 14 Canadian robo-advisor firms this week. The comparison looks at 18 different parameters of the robo-advisor experience including:

  • Provinces and territories served
  • Minimum account size
  • Types of accounts
  • Annual fees
  • Online account setup capabilities and more

The comparison is also available for download as an excel file for even more detailed analysis and review.

Questrade to Settle with Regulators

Questrade Wealth Management was named in a proposed settlement agreement with the Ontario Securities Commission over a misstep with Questrade’s Portfolio IQ. At issue was a transaction that took place in July 2017 that involved Questrade Portfolio IQ purchasing 8 WisdomTree ETFs. The statement issued by the OSC alleges that Questrade executed the purchase without having done the due diligence to determine if the purchase met the ‘best interest’ standard Questrade is obliged to follow. The statement of allegations that outlines what happened is available here.

TFSA Contribution Limit Rises

The annual contribution limit for TFSAs has been raised to $6,000 for 2019, up from $5,500 in 2018. The total contribution limit for someone who was 18 or older as of 2009 and who has never contributed to a TFSA will be $63,500. Click here for a good primer on the update.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Late to the party

A newbie investor took to the forums this week for some advice on getting started in the investment world. Beginning in their late thirties, the thread offers useful information on factors typical at this life stage and as ever, lots of valuable advice and sources for anyone looking to start investing at whatever stage of the game, from ETF’s to help with choosing where to trade.

Conversion Conversation

Earlier this week, a little more news about Wealthsimple Trade surfaced as their forex conversion rates became a topic of discussion. Find out about the rates and what DIY investors had to say about the fees in this post from reddit’s Canadian Investor rates.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on this week’s action. With a shortened week of trading in the US, things were a little quieter here in Canada than normal. Given the slide that stocks have been on, however, that might have been a good thing. With winter weather ramping up, it’s an ideal time to be huddled over a computer in search of a good bargain or three. Good luck with the bargain hunting in stores and the stock market (it looks like both have some interesting sales)! Have a fantastic weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 16, 2018

There’s always two sides to a market. While oil prices continue to run out of gas, people are lining up at Tesla dealerships in Norway. Stock markets are always trying to figure out where the next big opportunity will come from and not unlike the online brokerages that enable investors to trade those markets, sometimes the waters can be choppy when trying to figure out a direction.

In this edition of the roundup, we turn the spotlight onto a recent new deal launched by a bank-owned online brokerage and the impact it could have on investors as well as other online brokerages in Canada. From there we look at a long-awaited security feature that went live at another Canadian brokerage and highlight how one online brokerage is taking the lead in investor education going digital. As always, be sure to check out the latest tweets and forum posts from DIY investors this past week.

Big Deals Keep on Turning

After a few months on the deals and promotions sidelines, Scotia iTRADE jumped back into the mix this week with a new promotion offering DIY investors either up to $1500 cash back or up to 300 commission-free trades.

Unlike many of Scotia iTRADE’s previous offers, and split commission-free trade or cash back offers generally, this latest offer from Scotia iTRADE shows that online brokerages can get creative with how they structure promotional offers as they offer a surprising versatility to work with.

In this case, eligibility for commission-free trades starts at deposit levels of $10,000 and goes all the way up to $1M+. For the cashback offer, however, the minimum deposit required to qualify for the $100 base tier is $25,000. The funding requirements and associated rewards are summarized in the table below.

There’s also another interesting feature on the commission-free trade side that shows up for deposits of $250K or more. At this deposit level and higher, the maximum number of free trades an individual can receive is 300. Capping the number of free trades at 300 is an interesting decision seeing as how there is no incentive for anyone who brings in more money to get more free trades.

Of course, with all promotional offers it’s important to read the fine print – and in this case, the very fine print on the terms and conditions state that the window of time to use the commission-free trades is 120 days or about four months. This might help to explain why offering more than 300 commission-free trades might not be that ‘valuable’ to most clients since only a very active trader could possibly use up this offer.

Scotia iTRADE’s latest offer appears to provide a little something for a wide range of investors. But how does it stack up against other cashback promotions from other Canadian online brokerages?

The answer to that question can be looked at from two vantage points – on a relative basis as well as on an absolute basis; both of which provide interesting insights for DIY investors looking for extra value when opening an online investing account.

First, on a relative basis, Scotia iTRADE has positioned their cash back promotion quite aggressively compared to the other two bank-owned online brokerages who have publicly available cash back promotions currently running, BMO InvestorLine and CIBC Investor’s Edge.

According to the table below, Scotia iTRADE appears to be outbidding BMO InvestorLine and CIBC Investor’s Edge on a cash back basis, especially for deposits of $100,000 or greater. It should be stated that BMO InvestorLine’s current offer includes 30 commission-free trades which can be used in February and March of 2019 while Scotia iTRADE and CIBC Investor’s Edge are purely either cash back or commission-free trades.

When weighed against competing offers, Scotia iTRADE’s cash back incentive is more than twice as much as BMO InvestorLine’s at deposits of $250,000 and almost twice as much at the $500,000 deposit level.

On an absolute basis, it is curious that Canadian online brokerages don’t offer the same proportion of cash-back amounts (or even higher amounts) as investors deposit larger asset amounts.

In terms of which deposit tier is the most attractive from Scotia iTRADE’s latest promotion, for example, the highest ROI for cash back is at the $100,000 ($500 works out to 0.5%) deposit tier. At the $1M deposit tier, however, the ROI drops substantially to 0.15%.

At a time when competition for online investors, and in particular their assets, is only increasing, expecting more for less doesn’t seem like a winning strategy. Getting 10 clients at $100,000 a piece is much more expensive (it seems) than 1 client of $1M.

It will be interesting to see how other online brokerages who are not currently running a cash-back offer approach this particular situation. For a bank-owned brokerage looking to step up to the plate, there is clearly an opportunity to offer proportional cash-back incentives that would make for a very compelling offer for deposits greater than $100,000 (assuming the 0.4% or 0.5% rates were matched to that point).

The commission-free trade option of the new Scotia iTRADE offer is also signalling where in the market Scotia iTRADE is looking to compete. Their latest offer is clearly a much pricier proposition than the offer from National Bank Direct Brokerage, whose 50 commission-free trades (which are good for up to one year) for a deposit of $5,000 is in a league of its own against deposits up to $50,000. Even at the $10,000 deposit level, RBC Direct Investing’s offer (which only requires a $5,000 deposit) offers 20 commission-free trades that are good for a year whereas Scotia iTRADE offers up 20 which are good for up to almost four months. That said, for deposits greater than $50,000, Scotia iTRADE sits uncontested with its offer of 100 or more trades.

Scotia iTRADE’s latest offer definitely spices things up between Canadian bank-owned online brokerages and with several other online brokerages still on the sidelines, the end of this year could reveal even more compelling offers for DIY investors heading into the RRSP contribution deadline.

By not creating proportionate incentive offers, the current set of deals might end up creating an unwanted situation – namely without a value-added incentive to add more capital than would be required to qualify for a deal, why would savvy DIY investors do so? Case in point, for DIY investors with a million dollars to move around, splitting their deposit across the three brokerages’ offers instead of pooling it with one would generate a reward bonus of $2200. Combining these offers with a refer-a-friend offer which is possible at both Scotia iTRADE and BMO InvestorLine means that the total cash back obtained could reach $2350 for a total deposit of $950,000.

The bottom line for DIY investors is that there is additional value that can be asked for when signing up for a new online brokerage account. If an online brokerage is willing to compete for greater share of wallet with investors, it appears they are going to have to start opening their own wallets a bit wider.

Questrade Launches Two Factor Authentication, Finally

For anyone who follows the minutia of the Canadian online brokerage, this week has finally brought to an end a very, very, long, public and sometimes dramatic saga to have two-factor authentication enabled for Questrade accounts.

A quick Google search of Questrade and two factor authentication (2FA) turns up a rich trove of entertaining reading which documents the ongoing “wait and see”.

As seen by the sheer number of comments and upvotes on reddit’s personal finance Canada reddit (58 comments and 178 upvotes at the time of writing) this was an itch waiting to be scratched. To help address this spike in the conversation about Questrade, once again the Questrade support account was present and leaving comments in the discussion on the reddit thread.

Questrade’s new 2FA feature enables users to verify access to their online trading account via SMS or email, as well as via password adding an extra layer of security to the login process. While the choice to use SMS is itself not without controversy (again, see the latest reddit thread for this) the consensus appears to be gratitude (and relief) that this feature is in place.

Attendance Optional: TD Direct Investing Takes Options Education Day Digital

The digitization of investor education continues and this past week, something very interesting happened as TD Direct Investing became the title sponsor of the digital version of Options Education Day.

Earlier this month, the traditional ‘in person’ version of the event took place in Montreal with four online brokerages sponsoring this event, however the tweet shown below from TD Direct Investing shows that TD Direct Investing has managed to be the first sponsor of the digital event and the solo sponsor.

Since TD Direct Investing has been holding webinar-style investor education events for several years, this is a uniquely appropriate fit for them to be hosting/sponsoring. On a number of strategic levels, this helps TD Direct Investing get in front of its competitors and gain exposure in a product segment (options) that many online brokerages are hoping to have their client base start trading.

Given the complexity of options trading relative to ‘plain old’ stocks and ETFs, the biggest hurdles for investors are sufficient understanding of and confidence in trading options, so naturally educational content is going to be critical to supporting beginner and intermediate options traders.

This latest move by TD Direct Investing shows that the Canadian online brokerage space is still dynamic and with downward pressure on commission pricing on the horizon, it may be a sign that online brokerages will push even further into making investing make sense.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Slow Jam

It’s safe to say there are a few hoops to jump through when you’re trying to get started with investing. This unhappy DIY investor took to the Personal Finance Canada Forum this week to ask whether the many bumps in the road of slow progress with their chosen bank were just teething problems or a sign of things to come. See what advice was offered in the forums here.

Side Effects

One new investor posted an interesting question to the Personal Finance Canada forum this week. With the rise of robo-advisors, they outlined their proposed plan – wondering if there is room for self-directed investing on the side and how would this play out with potential market downturns. Read the discussion here. 

Into the Close

Nobody is happier than oil prices that the weekend is finally here – just in time for Black Friday. Not only is this the time of year that folks are out bargain hunting for all sorts of things, but it is also a great opportunity for investors to take advantage of tax loss selling to potentially pick up some portfolio bargains. Whatever you’re shopping for this weekend, stay warm and have fun!

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 9, 2018

Midterms are finally over. It’s a phrase that university students and now most of the world are glad to hear. If there’s one thing that both market and political pundits are obsessed with, its speculation. That said, even though the stock market acts like a big voting machine, the favourite candidate of the market is always growth-focused.

In this edition of the roundup, we take a look at the zeitgeist – or spirit of the times – for online investing in Canada. Kicking things off, we start with a look at a slow-moving trend towards socially responsible investing and how there may be a catalyst for online brokerages to quickly adopt and support this style of investment. And, speaking of support, the next story in this week’s roundup looks at a very interesting snapshot of an interaction with customer support that showcases what life is like for a DIY investor actively trading a hot sector. As usual, we’ve got the latest chatter about online brokerages from Twitter and from the DIY investor forums.

Looking for a Win-Win

Trying to figure out “what’s next” taps into our natural human desire for certainty. In that way markets of all sizes are not that different than the people that comprise them. In the case of major financial service providers such as discount brokerages and robo-advisors, they too would like to have some certainty (even if its just less uncertainty) when it comes to figuring out what features or products their rapidly evolving client base will tap into next.

The good news, is that there may already be a hint of what online investors want and what service providers are gearing up to provide.

One interesting example of a trend that appears to be gathering momentum in the Canadian online investing space – both at online brokerages as well as with digital or robo-advisors – is socially responsible investing (SRI). And, over the past several months, we’ve started to observe a few more important names in the online brokerage space start to deploy some kind SRI-related product offering to their client base.

Within the discount brokerage space, one of the biggest (and perhaps earliest) firms to get behind the socially responsible investing theme for DIY investors was Scotia iTRADE. In early 2017, Scotia iTRADE launched their socially responsible investing tool that enabled DIY investors to research and analyze companies based on their environmental, social and governance (ESG) profiles.

Fast forward to the latter half of 2018 and socially responsible investing has now found its way into two important touchpoints for online investors: the homepage of Desjardins Online Brokerage in the form of Desjardins’ Responsible Investing ETFs; and Questrade’s latest managed portfolio product – Questwealth Portfolios – with a new line of socially responsible investment (SRI) portfolios. Also joining in the SRI space is Interactive Brokers who recently added the ability of traders to use their trading platform, TWS, to scan for ESG factors courtesy of a new integration with Thomson Reuters.

A quick scan of other Canadian discount brokerage sites shows that at this point, the SRI conversation has yet to make it into the spotlight, which means that for the time being there are only a very select group of online brokers who are aligned publicly with ESG or SRI-related themes.

Given the length of time its taken for SRI to take root in the online brokerage space, one might ask whether it is something investors actually want i.e. is there a demand for it? Based on some key data points and some strategy (and speculation), to quote a magic 8 ball, the answer points to yes.

First, and perhaps most importantly, if it matters to millennials, then that ought to be enough to put it on the radar of online brokerages. There are a number of research studies of purchasing habits and expectations of millennials that show that having access to purpose-driven products matters and can differentiate between why they would choose one brand over another.

Secondly, in a world where commission pricing is less of a differentiating factor between online brokerages, what they offer and what they stand for will increasingly influence where the DIY investors of the future place their trades.

Of course, the broader picture for socially responsible investing is also bullish.

A 2018 report from the Responsible Investment Association stated that “Responsible investing now makes up a majority of Canada’s investment industry, as RI assets now account for 50.6% of all Canadian AUM – up from 37.8% two years earlier.” With respect to ETFs from 2015 to 2017, it goes on to state “Assets in exchange-traded funds dedicated to RI have more than doubled over the last two years, from $97.9 million to $240.6 million.”

While Scotia iTRADE tends to be a difficult choice for beginner investors, Questrade – and in particular Questwealth, has a much lower barrier to entry to open an account and to ease into SRI investing. Similarly, popular roboadvisor Wealthsimple also offers up easily accessible socially responsible investing options for investors.

For an online investor who wants to “do good” with their investing dollar (and stretch that dollar as far as possible), they can purchase one of many SRI ETFs through any online brokerage, and if they choose to do so through Questrade’s online brokerage or National Bank Direct Brokerage, they can do so while potentially not incurring trading commission fees to purchase these.

Although it has taken quite a bit of time for socially responsible investing to find its way into the spotlight at Canadian online brokerages, the latest moves by Desjardins and Questrade appear to help serve as a catalyst for broader adoption of SRI. The move by Interactive Brokers also opens this style of investment strategy up to more active traders.

Fundamentally, the data is clearly pointing to market demand for consumers wanting to do good and to do business with brands that are purpose-driven. As such, it will be interesting to see which Canadian brokerages also jump into the SRI pool in terms of content as well as products or incentive offers. There’s clearly a win-win-win for DIY investors as well as the online brokerages and of course, the planet as a whole.

Trading Documentation

With so much happening in terms of feature development or deployment at online brokerages here in Canada and the US, there was one fascinating story that we didn’t get the chance to highlight last week.

One of the more interesting realities of the world in 2018 is the impact of social media. While celebrities, such as Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson can command 120 million followers on Instagram, there are examples of the reach ordinary people have too. Case in point, an Instagram post in March 2018 by Judith Kasiama highlighted a lack of diversity in the popular outdoor brand Mountain Equipment Coop’s marketing and advertising campaigns. That one Instagram post then became a catalyst for change in the way in which MEC represents its clients in their marketing and advertising.

According to a U.S. national parks study, only 7 percent of black folks visit national parks. While 78 percent of all parks visitors are white. There seems to be a narrative that BIPOC don’t enjoy the outdoor compare to their white friends. This is not rooted in actual reality but a myth perpetuated by marketing that caters to predominately white audience. If you don’t believe, check out companies such as @mec, @arcteryx @arcteryxcanada @hellyhansen who fail to diversify their adds. Painting a narrative that people like me don’t enjoy the outdoors. I love nature and spending time outside! I hope these companies can diversify their adds. Sadly I couldn’t find any studies in Canada. #truthfultuesday Pc: @neverbadtimeforchanges

A post shared by Juju Milay (@jujumil) on

Having covered what gets said about Canadian online brokerages on social media (and Twitter in particular) over the past four years, it was a tweet that contained a YouTube video last week that caught our attention.

In the following video there is a YouTuber Richard De Sousa from RichTV Live who also is an active trader who documents his frustration and interaction with TD Direct Investing’s client service representative for almost a solid 15 minutes.

This video is fascinating on so many levels. From the consequences of UX decisions in trading platforms to the kinds of communications scenarios that online brokerages have to be prepared for, being any brand in 2018 means being subject to the very public scrutiny that takes place on social media. Mix in an individual with a substantial subscriber base and an incredibly impactful medium like video, and you have what could be a volatile situation.

So why is it worth watching almost 15 minutes of a customer service call? For starters, because it is possible.

Often times there are only angry rants that are summarized in tweet format or in long walls of text in forums or on Facebook. In this case, even though only a portion of the total call is shown, it offers a unique vantage point into the world of DIY investing and what the experience of talking to a rep at TD Direct Investing is like.

Another interesting angle to this video is that for many DIY investors, there is a lot of DIY learning that comes as a result of trial and error as well as from talking to customer service reps. In this case the trader in the video discovered what was essentially a “problem” with the way in which prices that were longer than 2 decimal places were being displayed. The trader learned the hard way that there can be disparities and surprising blindspots when executing a trade – such as getting the detailed information on the exact price of an order fill. Those blindspots can also be internal – without knowing where on a platform to get detailed information on an order fill, for example, the interpretation of events that something went ‘wrong’ is more likely.

This last point highlights the impact of the importance of user experience testing.

As we referenced last week in the roll out of National Bank Direct Brokerage’s website, there can be bugs or oversight of user issues when a piece of technology rolls out (note that National Bank Direct Brokerage has tidied up those issues we flagged last week) however those bugs can result in customer service agents left dealing with irritated (and valuable) clients for large chunks of time. Clearly there’s a business value to doing more time testing.

A third interesting observation of this interaction is that it captured the professionalism of the representative. Yes, the call started with an irate customer however it ended with a conversation and the client stating their general satisfaction with TDDI. Like volatile stocks, so too are the emotions that active traders experience and bring with them onto phone interactions. Being a front-line service representative is no small feat.

Finally, in terms of zeitgeist, the latest enthusiasm for cannabis (and crypto) stocks has gone beyond just traditional investor forums and made the leap into channels like YouTube where it is now easier than ever to ‘watch’ in real time people trade the market. For a generation of investors (and future investors) that are very familiar with watching how-to’s or consuming content on YouTube, this video showcases how relatively simple it is for anyone passionate enough about what they’re doing to chronicle it online and build an audience.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week


From the Forums

Money across the Miles

A long-term former resident of BC asked the Personal Finance Canada forum this week about options for foreign currency investment in their TFSA. Find out how this tricky request was answered with lots of help from the reddit forum here.

How Safe is a GIC?

It’s always good to learn from the mistakes of others. On that note, this forum user caused a number of responses in this post on the Personal Finance Canada forum on the topic of safety and reliability of GIC’s within large banks. It begs the questions, is anything ever really guaranteed? Check out the advice from the thread here.

Into the Close

That does it for another wild week. In all of the hustle and bustle, please take a few moments to remember and pay tribute to the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice and for those currently serving our country. Have a wonderful weekend.


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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – November 2, 2018

November is here and wow did it ever make an entrance. Stock market and political volatility, the launch of Financial Literacy Month, a new fiscal year for online brokerages and it happens to be the most important milestone in the calendar year for bargain hunters. With so much going on, it happens to be a fitting sentiment for this week’s roundup as there are big moves (and to quote Cardi B) and money moves. Never thought Cardi B would make an appearance here, but it’s been that kind of a week.

This is definitely a marathon edition of the roundup, so it’s worth stating up front, you may want to get comfy. Kicking things off, it’s the start of a new month which means taking a look at the latest discount brokerage deals and promotions as well as a commission-free trading offer that is bound to cause more drama (but less shoe throwing) than a Cardi B encounter with Nikki Minaj. Speaking of bold and provocative characters, the next story dives into the launch of a new website by one bank-owned brokerage looking to reshape its approach to online investors. As always, we’ll supply some DIY investor drama from the discount brokerage tweets as well as look at what people were curious about in the investor forums.

Savings are Coming

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be what November is famous for, but for Canadian DIY investors, the enthusiasm for deals this month has undeniably spilled over to the online brokerage market. Unlike either of the major shopping days, however, what’s taking shape in the Canadian online investing space is much more profound and longer lasting than the fleeting bargain hunting days.

This month’s discount brokerage deals saw the arrival of what might be the first in a set of responses to commission-free trading by Wealthsimple Trade’s announcement in the summer that commission-fee stock trading is coming to Canada.

Specifically, National Bank Direct Brokerage launched an incredibly aggressive offer for new and existing clients: 50 commission-free trades, which are good for up to a year, as well as a threshold to qualify for the offer of ‘only’ $5,000. While all of the features individually are not unique to online brokerage offers, the combination of these offers is. The only other online brokerage that has a commission-free trade promotion that let’s investors take up to a year to use them is RBC Direct Investing – and that promotion (which also requires a deposit of $5,000) is for 20 trades and is currently targeting healthcare workers.

The first important observation is that commission-free trades could be a popular choice for online brokers to turn to and the way they can deliver more utility (and value) to DIY investors is to give them a long time to use them up.  Normally (and even currently), DIY investors would have anywhere from 30 days to 6 months to use commission-free trade credits, with the most popular range coming in at about 60 days, so having one year do any commission-free trading is comforting.

A second important observation here is the threshold to qualify for the deal. By setting the minimum discount so relatively low, this offer naturally appeals to younger investors or those who are just getting started – or who want to experiment – with online investing. What better way to try out online investing than with a little bit of capital and no commissions to pay for 50 trades?

It’s certainly an interesting move to keep a fixed number of trades as opposed to many of the tiered promotions, which offer additional incentives as the deposit balance grows. In the case of NBDB’s offer, there is no financial incentive per se for bringing a larger deposit.

This month NBDB wasn’t the only online brokerage to use commission-free trading to sweeten the deal for investors, BMO InvestorLine also launched a new series of offers for online investors that combined a tiered cash back component with a commission-free trading component.

In the case of BMO InvestorLine, they’re offering between $100 and $1,000 cash back for deposits ranging from $50,000 to $600,000+. On top of the cash back component, individuals are also being offered 30 commission-free equity trades which are eligible to be used in February and March of 2019 – the precise window of time when activity related to RRSPs ramps up ahead of the contribution deadline.

With some notable online brokerages still on the sidelines, the uptick in value of now live offers will almost certainly increase the stakes and urgency to participate.

Currently, CIBC Investor’s Edge and BMO InvestorLine’s uncontested cash-back offers are giving them considerable exposure to DIY investors keen to open an online investing account. With National Bank Direct Brokerage’s latest aggressive promotion also now in the mix, there will almost certainly be new offers coming from bank-owned brokers that will have to ante up to the value being tabled by other online brokers. As we had mentioned in last week’s roundup, there is a clear signal from the parents of Canada’s bank-owned online brokerages that customer growth is a top priority which means the online brokerage arm could be a way to bring those clients into the brand.

For DIY investors, the bottom line is clearly that Canada’s online brokerages are going to have battle harder for new clients and to hang onto existing ones. This is an ideal time to start kicking the tires on an online investing account for those curious about making a switch or simply opening up a second (or third) online brokerage account. Of course, for valuable clients, it is also an ideal time to be negotiating for better commission or margin rates or better promotional offers for bringing assets to a new (or even existing) brokerage. In other words, don’t be afraid to ask for a better deal, this happens to be a moment where online brokers are much more motivated to make one.

National Bank Direct Brokerage Charts a New Direction with New Website

2018 has been a year of many significant changes at National Bank Direct Brokerage. Earlier this year their parent brand, National Bank, put down some serious real estate roots in Vancouver and the online brokerage unit saw a new president join the team to lead the organization through an important digital transformation in wealth management. After many months (feels like longer for those involved), 2018 has also brought with it a new consumer-facing website at NBDB.

The new front end of the website is a complete overhaul with a much more modern look and feel to it than the previous site. Gone is the rotating slider, information-dense homepage and somewhat utilitarian design of the key information pages.

There’s lots of space in the new National Bank Direct Brokerage website and information is well laid out so users can focus on important elements and sections without being overwhelmed. That kind of user experience consideration on new websites must be par for the course. And, it is definitely built around being more mobile friendly rather than desktop friendly. More on that in just a moment.

One of the most interesting elements of the new website that is pointedly different than other brokerages is the focus on women. That tone is set from the homepage hero image that is bold and confident and extends through the imagery on the top-level menu item landing pages of the website that consists exclusively of women.

The sections in the top-level menu are:

  • Invest with NBDB
  • Start investing
  • Pricing
  • Trends and tips
  • Events

Not only are the pictures well chosen, but they represent a diversity of women. This is a stark contrast to many other online brokerages and certainly a deliberate shift in the visual identity of the “typical” online investor. On that note, the pictures of the ‘male’ investors are also ethnically diverse and inclusive of investors younger and older.

In sum, there is strong visual appeal to the design and branding associated with the new website and it feels not just like a more representative and inclusive design, but a forward-thinking one.

Of course, when it comes to design, the devil is always in the details and for the new National Bank Direct Brokerage website, there are a few (easily fixable) rough edges.

The first is accessibility. In reference to what appears to be a heavily mobile-friendly website design, the contrast on the text on the desktop site menu is not as sharp/legible as it should be for older users nor is the text large enough to easily view. So, it is clearly built for younger eyes to be viewing the site on desktop or geared towards being viewed on mobile – again a preferred device for younger investors.

Another series of user experience rough edges encountered are the links pointing to unintended or non-functional pages. There is a neat feature that NBDB has built to let users determine whether they are beginner or advanced investors by taking a short (3 question) quiz. This interactive element is actually quite exciting to see on an online brokerage website, however, getting to the end of the quiz page yields a couple of unfortunate shortcomings.

The first is that it’s clearly unfinished with both English and French copy appearing in what should just be the English version of the site.

The second is when clicking the “learn more” button, an English user gets taken to a French version of the website (see image below). Although there is a translate option at the top of the page, a user would generally have to know that option exists on a multilingual website and then be motivated enough to hunt for it.

Then there’s just the grammar or spelling nut who will wonder how the footer text suggesting folks “stay tunes” made it through to the live version of the site.

Ironically, younger visitors might think elements like this are NBD (no big deal) especially given how much havoc autocorrect has wreaked on a texting generation but for a bank-owned brokerage and financial services provider, getting the details right matters to building trust and confidence.

In the grand scheme of things, these unfinished or quirky roll out bugs are easily fixed. In an agile world, there is a clearer preference to build and publish things and fix as needed – if there’s one thing that can be relied on, its user feedback to point out where things aren’t up to snuff. Interestingly, however, some of these oversights are on pages that face potential clients rather than actual clients, so the impact to the brand if these get left unaddressed could be more negative than they need to be.

Although there are even more interesting angles to cover about this new website, it is sufficient at this point to say that National Bank Direct Brokerage is signalling that they’re moving in a bolder and more assertive direction, visually and functionally.

Their new website won’t make a lot of waves on its own, however, the visual identity choices will have greater impact on new and existing clients as will their new commission-free trade offer which will more than likely drive a lot of curious traffic to the website. So long as NBDB can quickly close the gaps in the front-end presentation of their site, this new design positions them to resonate with the highly prized younger investor segment as well as other segments, like women investors, who can more readily see themselves as clients. For those reasons, with the roll out of this particular website, National Bank Direct Brokerage is setting themselves apart from some of their slower moving peers.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Advice for a Newcomer

A newcomer to investing and to Canada took to the Personal Finance Canada forum on reddit for some advice this week on where to open a TFSA and thoughts on their plan of action for the next 3 years. Check out some interesting discussion points from fellow forum users over questions of timing the market and deciding on long and short-term approaches. Read more here.

Fee Exchange

The questions of fees are always a hot topic in the forums. This DIY investor is looking to cut down on the dreaded mutual fund fee scourge and looks first to switching over to a Robo-advisor. But will paying one fee actually work out to be any cheaper? Read what interesting advice was offered here.

Into the Close

That’s the buzzer on another wild week. Not only were things hectic for traders, there was a lot that we didn’t get a chance to cover in this week’s roundup so stay tuned to SparxTrading over the next few weeks as we shine a spotlight on some really interesting developments we’ve spotted. Fortunately, there’s now an extra hour to get all that extra research and writing in (sounds fun right?). Don’t forget to set your clocks back and to spend the saved hour wisely! Have a great weekend!

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – November 2018

*Update Nov. 17th* If there’s one month of the year known for deals, it’s November. With Black Friday and Cyber Monday, shoppers are getting geared up for some serious savings. For Canadian DIY investors, the fun has already started as Canada’s online brokerages gear up for their busiest shopping season – RRSP season – and offer some compelling promotions in the process.

This month’s crop of discount brokerage deals is numerically close to where things were last month, however within those numbers lies a very interesting development that could touch off a local, if not national, deal battle-royale. The good news for DIY investors is that the new offers that came to market are definitely full of value so for anyone hunting for an online trading account, there are some very tempting offers on the table to choose from.

While they’ll be detailed further below, BMO InvestorLine and National Bank Direct Brokerage both start the month with new promotional offers – each putting an interesting twist on commission-free trading.  In the minus column, Desjardins Online Brokerage, who, as of publication of this deals update on November 1st, have allowed their long-standing 1% commission credit offer to officially expire.

Historically, Desjardins Online Brokerage has almost always extended this long-standing offer prior to the expiry date hitting, so unless there was a major Halloween candy hangover to blame, this would mark the first time in a few years that Desjardins Online Brokerage hasn’t posted a significant commission-free trading offer. While it is just speculation at this point, the move by their close rival National Bank Direct Brokerage, might prompt an even bolder offer to come to market.

Of course, there is still some ambiguity around the RBC Direct Investing commission-free trade offer. This deal, which was mentioned last month in the Weekly Roundup, is being marketed to healthcare workers, however online investors interested in the offer can also take advantage of it. Whether this offer goes mainstream or whether another comes along from RBC Direct Investing, there is nonetheless another offer available from a major bank-owned online brokerage that will get the attention of DIY investors.

With so many offers already in the mix, there’s a good chance we’ll see other discount brokerages come off the sidelines and step up their promotional game. Stock markets aren’t the only place where there’s volatility, so we’ll be very interested to see what the autumn wind will be blowing in with it at the rest of Canada’s online brokerages. As always, if there are any other discount brokerage deals that might be of interest to DIY investors to know about, please let us know.

Expired Deals

As of the publication (on November 1st) of the deals and promotions update, Desjardins Online Brokerage was the lone brokerage to have a deal expire heading into the new month. Their ultra-long-standing offer of 1% commission credit along with their transfer fee bonus have technically expired. We’ll keep an eye out to see if there is a refresh or new offer and update things accordingly.

Extended Deals

BMO SmartFolio has extended their 0.5% cash back offer to the new year. The new expiry date for the cash back promotion is January 2nd, 2019.

New Deals

*Update Nov. 17 – Scotia iTRADE jumped back into the deals pool with a new cash back or commission-free trade promotion. Unlike previous promotions of this kind, there are slightly different offers and requirements for the cash back and commission-free trade components. For example, the minimum deposit required for the commission-free trade reward is $10,000 (which comes with 20 free trades) whereas the minimum deposit to qualify for a cash back reward is $25,000. Also, on the commission-free trade offer the deposit level which maxes out the number of commission free trades (which is 300 trades in this promotion) is $250,000 whereas the upper deposit limit to qualify for a cash back offer is $1M+ (which comes with a $1500 reward). See table below for more details and read an analysis of the cash back promotions in this issue of the Weekly Roundup here.*

Starting first with one of the mainstays of the online brokerage promotions section, BMO InvestorLine who rolled out their new combined cash back and commission-free trade offer at the outset of the month. Their latest promotion offers between $100 and $1,000 cash back for deposits that range from $50,000 to $600,000+. As a bonus offer, there are 30 commission-free trades which are good for use in February and March of 2019, a typically busy season for RSP account openings and purchases of securities. See more information in the table below.

After a long absence from the discount brokerage deals section, National Bank Direct Brokerage came back with a bang. Not only did they roll out a new website but they also published a deal that is sure to ruffle some feathers with cross-town rivals as well as other online brokerages. NBDB’s latest promotion offers up an eye-popping 50 commission free trades that are good for use for one year and all for the ultra-low qualifying threshold of $5,000. Combined with commission free ETF trading, this is a signal that more commission free trading is likely on the horizon.

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 at least $5,000 at National Bank Direct Brokerage and you may be eligible to receive up to 50 commission free equity trades, which are good for up to one year. Use promo code: FREE50 when applying. Be sure to read offer terms and conditions for full details. $5,000 50 commission-free trades 12 months National Bank Direct Brokerage 50 Free Trade Offer April 30, 2019
Scotia iTrade Open a new account or fund an existing account with A) $10,000; B) $25,000; C) $50,000; D) $100,000 E) $250,000; F) $500,000 or G) $1M+ and you may be eligible to receive either A)20; B) 50; C) 100; D) 200; or E), F), G) 300 commission free trades; or B) $100; C) $200; D) $500; E) $800; F) $1100 or G) $1500. Use promo code 19CA for the cash back or 19FT for the free trades offers. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for full details. A) $10,000 B) $25,000 C) $50,000 D) $100,000 E) $250,000 F) $500,000 G) $1M+ For cash back: A) $0 B) $100 C) $200 D) $500 E) $800 F) $1100 G) $1500 For commission-free trades: A) 20 B) 50 C) 100 D) 200 E) 300 F) 300 G) 300 For cash back: Cash will be deposited by July, 2019. For commission free trades: 120 days to use trades from date of account funding. iTRADE commission-free trade + cash back offer March 31, 2019
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 October 31, 2018
Open and fund a new qualifying account with CIBC Investor’s Edge with a deposit of at least A) $25,000; B) $50,000 or C) $100,00+ and you may be eligible to receive a cash back bonus of A) $100; B) $200 or C) $400. This offer is open to both new and existing clients. Use offer code SPARX18 when opening the account to obtain this offer. Be sure to read full terms and conditions for complete details. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 A) $100 B) $200 C) $400 Cash back will be deposited on the week of March 24, 2019 for transfers received by December 31, 2018; transfers received after December 31, 2018 but before May 1, 2019 will receive cash back on the week of July 1, 2019. CIBC Investor’s Edge Cash Back Promo March 24, 2019
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 account or fund an existing account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $50,000; B) $200,000; C) $400,000 or D) $600,000+ and you may be eligible to receive 30 commission-free equity trades AND a cash back reward of up to A) $100; B) $300; C) $600 or D) $1000. Use promo code SPARXCASH when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $50,000 B) $200,000 C) $400,000 D) $600,000+ 30 commission-free equity trades plus: A) $100 B) $300 C) $600 D) $1000 commission-free equity trades can be used in February & March of 2019. Cash back will be deposited the week of July 15, 2019. BMO InvestorLine Summer 2018 Campaign January 2, 2019

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Nov. 17, 2018 00:45 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
If you (an existing Qtrade Investor client) refer a new client to Qtrade Investor and they open an account with at least $1,000 the referrer and the referee may both be eligible to receive $25 cash. See terms and conditions for full details. $1,000 $25 cash back (for both referrer and referee) Cash deposited at the end of the month in which referee’s account funded Refer A Friend to Qtrade Investor 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 $5,000 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. $5,000 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 January 2, 2019

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Nov. 1, 2018 22:55 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 into a new HSBC InvestDirect account and you may be eligible to have up to $152.55 in transfer fees covered. 152.55 $15,000 Confirmed via email contact with HSBC InvestDirect Rep. Contact client service for more information. none
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 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
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 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 October 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. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details on the offer. $200 $200,000 BMO InvestorLine Summer 2018 Campaign September 3, 2018

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Nov. 1, 2018 22:55 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 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
Open and fund a new qualifying account with at least $5,000 at RBC Direct Investing and you may be eligible to receive up to 20 commission-free trades, which are good for up to one year. Use promo code MDFT8 to qualify. This promotion is being marketed towards healthcare workers, so be sure to review terms and conditions or speak to an RBC Direct Investing representative for full details. $5,000 RBC Direct Investing 20 Free Trade Offer Feb. 28, 2019

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Nov. 1, 2018 22:55 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. $1,000 1st month no management fees KDKFNBBC None Questrade Portfolio IQ Promo Offer
Cash Back Open and fund a new or existing SmartFolio account with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1000. Use promo code PROMO1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1000. PROMO1000 January 2, 2019 SmartFolio Cash Back Promo
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 30, 2019 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: Nov. 1, 2018 22:55 PT