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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – September 30, 2019

One of the best parts of summer happens to be ice cream. Of course, just because the season is behind us, it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy a good scoop – or in this case, a couple of incredible scoops – of online brokerage news that are sure to put just as big of a smile on the faces of DIY investors as the frozen treat would.

In this edition of the Roundup, we dish out two incredible stories about pricing changes. The first is a game-changing announcement south of the Border that is sure to make waves in the industry here in Canada. And if those waves weren’t enough, we dive into the news that is going to also make a major splash with DIY investors and other discount brokerages here in Canada, as the first big shift in pricing from a bank-owned online brokerage in several years is coming. Not to be glossed over, we’ve also included a healthy portion of treats from Twitter and the DIY investor forums.

Z-Day is Here: Interactive Brokers Offers Unlimited Commission-Free Trades

After the meteoric rise in popularity of US online brokerage Robinhood and their zero-commission trading fee model, the online brokerage industry as a whole knew it would be only a matter of time until they had to decide to follow suit.

When Robinhood was first launched in 2014, it’s fair to say there was a substantial level of skepticism that zero-commission trading would ever take flight, let alone be profitable. Yet, year after year, momentum behind the zero-commission brokerage grew, attracting major investors (such as Sequoia, Google’s venture capital fund Capital G, and others), achieving a USD $7B valuation and earning numerous awards for design and user experience. Beyond just the product or platform, it turns out that Robinhood also appealed heavily to the next generation of online investors: millennials.

Fast forward to last week, and any skepticism about the viability of the business model has been put to rest by a firm that few predicted would become the first of the major online brokerages in the US market to also take trading commissions to zero.

Interactive Brokers, already one of the lowest-cost online brokerages in the US (and internationally), announced last week that they would be rolling out a new option of their online brokerage service known as IBKR Lite which will provide online investors commission-free trading on all US equities and ETFs. The existing service provided by Interactive Brokers (whose ticker symbol is IBKR) will be rebranded to IBKR Pro and will retain the existing pricing and feature set.

At the heart of the new IBKR Lite is how and where an order for an equity or ETF trade gets routed. Rather than go through Interactive Brokers’ proprietary order routing algorithm, known as the IB SmartRouting system, orders for equities placed through IBKR Lite will be sold to market makers (aka high-frequency traders) who will be able to take advantage of minuscule variations in pricing that can then be turned into profits.

Often snubbed by Interactive Brokers’ founder and CEO, Thomas Peterffy, selling client order flow or trading against clients was touted as contrary to the core of Interactive Brokers – who has always sought to offer clients the best execution price for trades.

Interestingly, it was just over a year ago that they opted to become the first company to be listed on IEX, the US stock exchange founded by Brad Katsuyama – of Flash Boys fame – largely because there was strong overlap in organizational values. Just a few days prior to the announcement that Interactive Brokers would be launching IBKR Lite, however, Interactive Brokers announced that they would be delisting from IEX and moving back to NASDAQ, a fascinating turn of events in its own right.

Against the backdrop of the launch of IBKR Lite, something that is almost antithetical to the IEX mission, the continued presence of Interactive Brokers on that exchange seems to now be irreconcilable. Further, with the exit of Interactive Brokers, IEX is also exiting the listings business altogether and will not be seeking at this time to list publicly traded companies on the exchange.

So – why the about-face for Interactive Brokers?

Ever the entrepreneurial organization, Interactive Brokers is agile enough to see what the market is asking for and be able to mobilize to deliver. The past two to three years have seen a number of innovative services added to the Interactive Brokers ecosystem, that have sought to deepen the relationship (and share of wallet) Interactive Brokers has in its clients’ financial lives.

Ultimately, the move to zero commission fees appears to be a ‘why not’ moment at Interactive Brokers – if the market is showing that there are investors who are willing to forsake the best execution price for a trade-in order to save on the commission up front, then Interactive Brokers is simply leaving money on the table by not doing this.

For many years, their primary discount brokerage competitors (for example, TD Ameritrade) have been selling order flow and generating significant revenues from doing so. A snapshot from the FY18 report for TD Ameritrade shown below illustrates the growth in revenue derived from order routing and clearly shows just how lucrative this has been for them. From FY17 to FY18, for example, the revenue from this source grew 43% to USD $458 million.

And, in FY19, revenue from order routing has contributed to 32% (USD $365 million) of the trading revenues earned by Ameritrade.

While the information is publicly available, what appears to be different about the approach Interactive Brokers is taking compared to that of their peers is that they are being very transparent about the fact that users of IBKR Lite are getting commission-free trades because they are giving up (or trading away) best execution price. Even zero-commission trading firm Robinhood isn’t as clear as they could be in stressing this to potential clients.

For other online brokerages who both charge commissions for trades AND make money from routing orders, the new launch by Interactive Brokers is highly problematic.

Competing online brokerages will now be forced to answer the question of the real value of order execution, as well as the value of the other features that define a client experience, whether that be great user experience, an amazing mobile app, education, charting, support, access to research, or some other feature.

While the reaction of stock prices of the online brokerages to the news was generally negative, there are clearly some online brokerages that were more negatively impacted than others. TD Ameritrade, who derived 36% of its revenues in FY18 from trading commissions and order execution, for example, was down 6% on the news while Schwab fell only 2% – a sign that the latter is less reliant on trading commission revenues than the former.

Despite the announcement, the online brokerages in the US have undoubtedly prepared a playbook for this scenario. They may not have known exactly when this “Z-day” would come but in conference calls over the past year, the spectre of zero commission trading has been raised and addressed with the general response being along the lines of “we can handle it”.

Earlier this year, Peterffy hinted at something big happening at Interactive Brokers in the latter stretch of the year. While we thought that the sports betting platform might have been it, clearly the market-disrupting thing Peterffy was referencing was the deployment of this zero-commission option. Evidently, Interactive Brokers has seen the writing on the wall when it comes to mass market appetite for commission fees on trades, and what consumers are willing to trade away for those prized zero-commission rates.

For the moment, the zero-commission fee offering of IBKR Lite is restricted to the US. Canadian discount brokerages, therefore, have a bit more breathing room to figure out their game plan if and when a major player here decides to offer up full commission-free trading here.

Already offered (with some restrictions) here by Wealthsimple Trade, this feels a bit like déjà vu with Robinhood.

Canadian online brokerages are generally slower to innovate than their US counterparts – and the skepticism on the street around Wealthsimple Trade still permeates. For that reason, it is unlikely that a larger online brokerage in Canada is going to move to full zero commission trading until they absolutely have to.

For the foreseeable future, the battleground among Canadian brokerages will clearly be in other value offerings – like account integration, ease of access (and stability!), of platforms (including mobile), and user experience to name a few. Like their US counterparts, Canadian discount brokerages had better be prepared to clearly explain to DIY investors what benefits there are to be paying for trading commissions.

If Canadian brokerages ignore or downplay the accelerating trend towards zero-commissions, however, they will ironically have to pay a hefty inactivity fee for that.

At National Bank Direct Brokerage, It Pays to be Young, Stay Active and Be Connected

Were it not for the news out of the US online brokerage market this past week, the big news story would have been in the Canadian discount brokerage market, when it broke that National Bank Direct Brokerage is getting to shake up their commission pricing and making a very aggressive play to go after young (aka millennial) investors as well as the active trader segment.

In a mention in the French language publication La Presse, National Bank Direct Brokerage’s President Claude-Frédéric Robert was quoted as saying that National Bank Direct Brokerage is getting set to roll out a new pricing program for investors aged 18 to 30, that offers up a generous 10 commission-free trades per year and a decreased commission pricing tier of $4.95 per trade. Added to that, there are no account minimums required or inactivity fees to be charged.

For very active traders – those making more than 100 trades every three months – the news is also great – a jaw-dropping $0.95 pricing for trades.

And finally, individuals who have an account with National Bank will benefit from that relationship by getting standard commission rates of $6.95 per trade instead of $9.95.

So, as referenced above, the trend towards zero commission trading is finding its way to Canadian discount brokerages and has shown up yet again at National Bank Direct Brokerage, which already offers up commission-free ETF trading on all ETFs (with a caveat of a minimum purchase/sale amount required to qualify for the commission-free status).

This latest move by NBDB is a salvo at both their bank-owned online brokerage peers – in particular, Desjardins Online Brokerage – and the low commission leader in Canada, Questrade. Offering up 10 commission-free trades per year is unheard of in the marketplace today, so that alone will generate buzz among the younger investor crowd, who are especially keen on passive investing. And, active traders are sure to be kicking the tires with sub $1 trading commissions.

While services like Wealthsimple Trade offer unlimited commission-free trading, there are still a number of restrictions in place on the kinds of markets (e.g. Canadian Securities Exchange or TSX-Venture listed securities) investors can access as well as that whole forced currency conversion thing to trade US-listed securities. Neither Wealthsimple Trade nor Questrade are bank-owned online brokerages, so there is not the reputational security or the integrated convenience factor of managing multiple financial products in one place (yet).

While we are awaiting more details on the pricing plan, clearly it pays to be a young investor in 2019.

With respect to younger investors, the calculus here is interesting for National Bank Direct Brokerage. Young investors don’t have the kind of investible assets (yet) that make them attractive prospective clients. What is likely the case is that NBDB is hoping to generate enough traction with and provide sufficient incentive to younger investors so that they stick around with NBDB, especially as they start working/earning more and begin inheriting wealth from older generations.

To say this is interesting is really putting it mildly.

The test being played out in real time is whether bank-owned brokerages like NBDB can edge out peer bank-owned firms before they act to match or beat the offer and before newer players figure out how to offer more bank-like services (e.g. higher interest on idle cash).

For millennial and younger investors, NBDB has got it right, insofar as pricing is clearly a pain point. That said, they are in for a tough fight when it comes to user experience on digital platforms, such as mobile, where those prized millennial and younger investors are going to be spending most of their time. The mobile experience for National Bank Direct Brokerage is something that will be crucial to their success perhaps as much as if not more so than the price of commissions.

Whether it’s Netflix, Skip the Dishes, Uber or some other subscription or fee for service offering, paying the money for things isn’t the issue so much as the ease with which the experience takes place is. If it feels hard to do, the price is already too high.

Once the pricing rolls out officially in October, NBDB will be poised to make a splash about it and their bank-owned peers will have to take a serious look at both their ‘millennial engagement’ strategy and active investor offering when it comes to pricing.

It’s never been a better time for younger investors to be DIY investors. With discounted (now free) commissions, waivers of account minimums and inactivity fees, Canadian online brokerages are clearly competing for investors who may not have lots of capital now but with whom important relationships need to be built. One crucial thing for brokerages to keep in mind though is not only what it will take to win the interest of these new investors, but also to keep it.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Short Changed by a Long Transfer

Worried about a recently transferred account that seems to be missing funds, a DIY investor on Reddit vents about Questrade. Read the full conversation and the response from the online brokerage here.

Dazed and Confused

Puzzled after a debate that started over a family dinner, one DIY investor asks fellow Redditors to clarify whether an RRSP or a TFSA is the better option for saving and investing. Read the full discussion here.

Into the Close

Snow getting dumped on Calgary in September is sort of crazy, but not out of the realm of possibility. It is, by comparison, a far saner development than what just got dumped on all of the other online brokerages this past week. The avalanche of pricing news that is sure to follow in October and November from the online brokerages in Canada and the US is likely to make the Calgary snowfall in September seem like cupcake frosting. We started with dessert and ended with it too – something tells me this is a particularly sweet time for Canadian DIY investors.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – September 23, 2019

Fall is finally here. Along with the changing colours of the leaves, it’s also a time that the fashion industry looks to shine. Much like fashion, investors are also interested in what’s du jour. Trendspotting is a big feature in both fashion and investing and it seems that knowing where to spot the trends is equally challenging.

In this week’s edition of the Roundup, we take a look at where investors are turning to in person for their dose of trendspotting, especially given the upcoming turbulent market forecast. From there, we take another look at the double-edged sword of social media and its impact on online brokerages, with one bank-owned online brokerage being called out by a fairly influential Twitter user. To add to the social media content, we’ll dish out more tweets of the week as well as comments from DIY investor forums to cap things off.

Investor Conferences: Getting Together to Chat About Investing

Hindsight is 20/20, but ironically it is 2020 that a lot of investors are looking to with uncertainty. With the fall season now here, it means that the new year is just around the corner and given how stock markets have behaved this year, it’s no surprise that investors are more anxious than ever to get some perspective on how to navigate the current and upcoming market forces.

One of the ways to do so is by learning from market “experts” and analysts on where to find trading opportunities amidst the headline noise. This past weekend, both Toronto and Vancouver played host to two investor-focused conferences that provided insights to consider heading into 2020 and beyond.

In Toronto, the annual edition of the MoneyShow took place, and, as with previous editions of the show, featured a solid lineup of well-known personal finance names, including Rob Carrick from the Globe and Mail, Peter Hodson of Canadian Money Saver and 5i Research, and Benj Gallendar of Contra the Heard, to name a few. There were also some well-known stock and options trading personalities from the US speaking at the show, such as Tom Sosnoff, founder and CEO of tastytrade, and frequent CNBC personality Jon Najarian.

Often a reflection of the sentiment among retail investors, this year’s MoneyShow featured a couple of core themes.  One of the more prominent themes was ETF investing. With the gold and silver sponsors of the show being big names in the ETF space, as well as a number of speakers focusing specifically on ETF investing, this was clearly an important topic and reason to attend the show.

Another interesting theme was cannabis investing. In spite of recent volatility and pullbacks in investor interest, there were a number of publicly-traded cannabis firms in attendance, as well as a special investing panel on the topic.

Being a central gathering place for retail investors, it was also interesting to observe which online brokerages appeared as exhibitors. An interesting combination of bank-owned online brokerages, BMO InvestorLine and National Bank Direct Brokerage, were part of the exhibitor list. RBC’s digital advice (aka roboadvisor) InvestEase was also featured prominently as a sponsor of this year’s MoneyShow.

Earlier this month, several online brokerages were also sponsors of the Options Education Day in Toronto – a recurring set of events that focus on educating DIY investors on options trading.

Across the country, the weather wasn’t nearly as nice for the third edition of the Extraordinary Future conference in Vancouver. In contrast to the show in Toronto, the tone and focus for Extraordinary Future were decidedly forward-looking.

Among the big ideas being batted around at this two-day show (the second day of which is currently underway as of the publishing of the Roundup) were biohacking, cannabis and technology, digitization of healthcare, eSports and many more frontier-industry topics. While some of these topics, such as eSports and plant-based foods, are very much in the spotlight, the organizers of this show were very much intent on creating a platform for ideas that are on the cusp of becoming commercially viable.

For that reason, both risk and reward profiles for this year’s show would pull in slightly different crowds than at the Moneyshow. Nonetheless, it was interesting to observe that unlike the show in Toronto, in Vancouver, there was not an online brokerage to be seen exhibiting at this year’s show (or in previous years).

It is the absence of online brokerages at a show like Extraordinary Future, which is perhaps telling of where the focus is for the industry as a whole.

Pragmatically, it pays to follow the money – and with so many Canadian investors buying into ETFs, certainly the crowds and lineup of speakers reflect the interest to which online brokerages would like to be proximal. It also doesn’t hurt that the conference takes place in Toronto. That said, the stories that get investors excited are the ones that would be covered at a show like Extraordinary Future. For an industry that is now starved for engaging content ideas as well as how to connect with audiences beyond their traditional cohort of older investors, it is somewhat of a mystery to see them absent at a show like this (fun fact, there is now an egaming ETF).

For Canadian online brokerages to truly be seen as innovative, however, they have to be doing ‘innovative things’.

Enhancing platforms and features are one way to do this, but being present at, or even participating in forums where the next big ideas are being hatched, seems to make far more sense to earn the title of ‘innovative online brokerage’.

Building trust and earning the reputation of being innovative implies, almost by definition, doing things differently. We’re keenly watching to see which brokerage (or brokerages) will be the first to do so.

Friction on Twitter: Scotia iTRADE in the Hotseat

It seems almost trite to have to say so, but it pays to remember that people are invested in their money and not just investing their money.

For most DIY investors, earning enough to invest and then putting that money to work in assets like equities means having to come to grips with the prospects of losses in the market. One of the places that DIY investors are not expecting to incur losses, however, is with their online brokerage.

For any regular reader of the Weekly Roundup’s ‘Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week’ section, there are, however, countless examples of outages or system disruptions resulting in missed opportunities or even being blamed as the ‘cause’ of losses. Occasionally, we’ve even witnessed investors flagging margin calls being triggered ‘unfairly’ on social media.

One thing that we have rarely, if ever, witnessed is something like the tweet posted by the Twitter account of Investor Relations Vancouver:

Why this sticks out as unusual, is that it is coming from a Twitter handle of a company (not just an individual investor) that is directly advising its more than 27K followers (and of course anyone who will listen) to avoid using Scotia iTRADE because of mishandled trades.

The direct nature of the message and the distribution of it both combine for a very sticky public conversation that may unfold. Just last week, Questrade was ensnared in a very public customer service moment when they were called out in a Reddit post for language in their security guarantee that made it less than ideal for coverage. Questrade quickly contained and remedied what was a rather rapid and large discussion.

So, while the incident that Questrade encountered was different in several respects from the one that Scotia iTRADE now finds itself in, there are nonetheless some similarities. Having to address client service issues in the public eye is part of the reality of being an online business in 2019, and certainly how this unfolds is something for all investors, clients, and competitors to see.

Historically Scotia iTRADE’s Twitter channel has been fairly responsive in fielding concerns or questions by clients. A scroll through the recent tweets directed at the iTRADE Twitter channel reveals that, as of August, response times there have gone down compared to historical norms.

Finally, as an interesting juxtaposition, a few weeks ago Scotia iTRADE held a session geared towards recruiting social media influencers to answer questions about investing, and to share their experiences with Scotia iTRADE. In this case, there is clearly an influential voice on social media speaking up about their experience and, like many observers, we are certainly curious to see what transpires.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Freshly Minted

A young Redditor just started earning a steady income and is looking to learn about DIY investing. Read through helpful suggestions from the forum here.

Divided by Dividends

DIY investors got into a heated discussion over a video that asserts that the growth of dividends is not necessarily an indicator of good stock. Read the full Reddit debate here.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on another edition of the Roundup. There’s no mistaking it, there are definitely bears lurking about in chatter about the markets, even though the indices are pushing new highs. Certainly being pushed to new heights is what’s making some bears cranky. Nonetheless, with October just around the corner, new highs in spitting distance and the bearish sentiment being tested, if there’s one thing you can bet on, it’s turbulence.

 

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – September 16, 2019

In the stock markets, is it better to be lucky or smart? Even though the markets closed out the week on Friday the 13th, it seems that fortune is smiling on the markets with indices holding near their all-time highs. Is it a false sense of confidence, or are the “warning signs” no more predictive than superstitions?

In this edition of the Roundup, we dive into the mixed signals being presented by one online brokerage in the US that has some observers thinking that things are going to go from bad to worse for some online brokers. Of course crises happen, and one Canadian online broker provided an interesting demonstration of calm under social media fire on a touchy subject for investors. We’ve trimmed the forum chatter for this Roundup but still have a healthy serving of Twitter content to wrap up on.

Charles Schwab Announces Layoffs

By many accounts, the stock markets remain in good shape. With many indices drifting near their all-time highs, it seems like markets are paying attention to the “strong economy” narratives in Canada and the US, and not so much to the “inverted yield curve” signals that portend economic slowdowns.

If those mixed messages weren’t enough, this past week, the US online brokerage space generated yet another signal that perhaps things aren’t so great in the financial services world in general and in the online brokerage space in particular.

An article in the Wall Street Journal reported that Charles Schwab, the largest online brokerage in the US, would be cutting about 3% of its workforce, or approximately 600 jobs. The primary culprit: interest rates.

To understand why interest rates, and in particular low interest rates, matter so much to an online brokerage like Schwab, it is important to recognize that the size of this online brokerage – which has over $3.75 trillion dollars (USD) in assets under management – plays a significant role in determining how quickly it can navigate through averse economic conditions.

Over the past four years, Schwab has undertaken an important transition in terms of where their revenues originate. As for any online brokerage, trading commissions have been important to the revenues of the firm, however, over the past few years, efforts to diversify away from relying just on commission revenue mean that other fee generating services, such as advice, or growing assets to a massive scale and collecting interest, have come to play important parts in the total revenue of the company.

Their decision to lay off 3% of their workforce appears anchored in cutting costs to stay competitive. Regardless of the exact reasons, an organization the size of Schwab must make moves well in advance of deteriorating business conditions.

Interestingly, they saw the writing on the wall with the battle for lower-price stock commission prices and potentially lower volatility and, as a result of diversifying their reliance on trading commission revenues, have been able to achieve solid growth in new accounts and fend off other low-commission and commission-free competitors. They now generate approximately 6.5% of their total revenues from trading commissions with the remainder coming from other sources such as fee-based advice services (29.3%) and net interest (61.5%).

Not too long after Schwab made these moves to diversify the sources of their business revenue, other online brokerages followed suit by doing something similar – notably TD Ameritrade.

What the job cuts at Schwab signal, however, is that interest rates may stay depressed for quite some time or are going to get much lower. To that end, the importance that people play in the online brokerage business, at least according to Schwab’s math, is dwindling. More automation and reliance on software and digital systems means businesses like online brokerages can do more with fewer people.

Naturally the latest moves by Schwab prompt the question of whether something similar could happen to online brokerages here in Canada?

It is not impossible that the cuts to interest rates that are taking place across the globe impact Canadian financial service players at one level or another. For the online brokerages in Canada, however, there is still a heavy reliance of commissions to generate revenue. And while the Bank of Canada is standing firm on interest rates here, without increased trading activity, or in the face of declining commission prices, there aren’t too many other levers left to pull for Canadian online brokers to make their line of business profitable.

As one writer in the US put it, this is like seeing a “canary lying dead in the mouth of a coal mine.” With negative interest rates showing up across the globe and the calls by the US President for that to happen in the US, and the head of JP Morgan telegraphing that they too are exploring the scenario, the big picture signals challenging times ahead for financial service providers.

For online brokerages in Canada, there are two competing forces at play that will have to be reconciled. On the one hand, lower interest rates, or the spectre of negative interest rates, might prompt individual investors to get out of cash (finally) and into a different asset class for which they would (likely) need an online brokerage account. Conversely, in the face of market volatility and uncertainty that can hinge on a Twitter message, actively trading into the storm also seems like bad move.

Now that the largest online brokerage in the US has decided that it’s time to cut its workforce by 3%, it will invariably raise questions about layoffs at other US online brokerages. As for Canadian brokerages, it seems that as long as interest rates stay where they are in Canada, and there are opportunities to trade in a market that might be immune to Twitter tirades, there might be a bit more of a reprieve.

Nonetheless, if in a hyper-competitive market like the US, the largest and arguably best insulated online brokerage has pared back its head count, what must Canadian online brokerages have to be prepared to do to control costs?

Walking the Talk: Questrade Shifts Stance on Security Breach Guarantee

Peace of mind is, arguably, one of the most important sentiments that a financial service provider can give to their clients. For DIY investors, the Canadian Insurance Protection Fund (CIPF) offers some measure of confidence by protecting the investments of individual investors to the tune of $1 million dollars in the event that the online brokerage somehow goes out of business. In an increasingly online world, however, another crucial piece of coverage that investors seek out and ask for when it comes to parking a significant portion of their nest-egg with a provider is some kind of online security guarantee.

It is against this backdrop that an interesting post, which made it to the Personal Finance Canada thread on Reddit, sparked immediate and comprehensive discussion with investors and eventually culminated in a revision of the Questrade security guarantee.

According to the (now) previous security guarantee policy, Questrade required individuals to report any suspicious activity in their account within four days of that activity taking place. While the policy was not necessarily hidden, it did go unnoticed by many until one user raised this in the Reddit thread, at which point a firestorm of commentary ensued.

The commentary itself makes for instructive and colourful reading. What was most compelling about this incident, however, was the speed with which the questions prompted a response from Questrade, as well as the turn around time for a revision of their security policy. Here is the initial response from Questrade on the Reddit channel, 2 days after the original post:

And here is the follow up response from Questrade indicating that, in fact, they have updated their security policy to require clients notify Questrade of any suspicious activity within six days of receiving a monthly electronic statement.

There are a number of interesting takeaways from this incident that are likely to prompt some changes to take place across the Canadian online brokerage space. One of the first important observations is that online security matters don’t matter to DIY investors until they do.

There were so many DIY investors who were taken by surprise at the Questrade online security guarantee’s “fine print” terms, and when they became aware of the actual details, they were unpleasantly surprised. The massive response from DIY investors will likely prompt other online brokers to review their policies to ensure a) that they’re offering competitive coverage for online security breaches, and b) that they do a better job of communicating that guarantee to their clients.

Another important set of observations relates to the credibility Questrade earned in the face of a potentially significant crisis.

First, they were able to address the issue on Reddit – where they have a history of responding to clients or individuals talking to/about Questrade – and commit to a timeline for resolution. Second, they were able to rectify the situation within a week; a new policy, better terms and a jab at the security policies of other providers for good measure. That whole episode played out publicly on Reddit for the world to go back and comb through, and while there will certainly be spin that could be applied here, ultimately, Questrade righted a wrong in a very public fashion.

Now, granted that Questrade landed themselves in hot water by having a security guarantee structured with such a short time frame for notification, but the key takeaway for customers is that it got resolved. Surely some customers were put off, but for the clients that love and speak up for Questrade, this will cement yet another reason why they would recommend or stand up for the online brokerage in the melee of financial forums. Based on the watershed of concern that was raised by this incident, it is going to be very interesting to see how/if other online brokerages start to highlight online security as a selling point.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Accompany or Keep Company?

A Redditor’s financial advisor successfully moved to a new job, and now this Redditor is wondering whether it’s better to follow the advisor, or to stay with the current company.  Read suggestions from the forum here.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on another choppy week. After what looks like a bit of a reprieve from trade war, the drums of actual conflict were beating again and oil prices are now in the spotlight. There’s likely to be no shortage of news to tune into this week but for the set-it-and-forget-it crowd, thankfully there’s also lots of other places to tune out the drama.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – September 9, 2019

Sports offer a great metaphor for the highly competitive nature of the stock market. After an epic weekend of football and tennis, there was lots to cheer for (not so much for Raiders fans though). While there are many lessons on the field that apply to the markets, another great feature of sports is the highlight reel.

In this edition of the Roundup, we serve up a series of highlights from what online brokerage activity crossed our radar this past week. Keep reading to learn more about deals updates, a pull back on shorts, healthy performance stats, new features, and upcoming investor education initiatives. As always, we’ll serve up the staple DIY investor conversations on Twitter and the investor forums.

Deal and No Deal at BMO InvestorLine

This past week, BMO InvestorLine saw a couple of interesting developments take shape. First, on the deals and promotions front, the popular bank-owned Canadian online brokerage kicked off their latest offer for the new season.

Similar to their summer promotion, BMO InvestorLine’s latest offer is also a tiered cash-back offering. The latest promo, like the one before it, has tiers that skew towards higher deposit amounts with the maximum tier with a reward being the $2M one. Interestingly, when compared side-by-side, the fall offer makes getting a deal more accessible, since the latest offer has a lower threshold to qualify ($100K minimum deposit vs $500K minimum deposit) for it.

Min Deposit Required Summer Offer Reward Fall Offer Reward
$100K $100
$250K $500 $225
$500K $1,000 $600
$2M+ $2,500 $2,000

 

Unlike the summer offer, the most recent Fall promotion by BMO InvestorLine requires a minimum deposit that starts at $100K, which likely means that more DIY investors will be able to qualify for this cash back offering. Interestingly, for the other deposit tiers, the amount of the cash back reward was lowered significantly, with the highest cash back offering topping out at $2,000.

A quick scan of the deals board shows that there two big-bank owned online brokerages with cash back offers – BMO InvestorLine and Scotia iTRADE. Interestingly, they appear to be trying to reach very different segments with cash back offers. In the case of the latest offer from Scotia iTRADE, it is possible to qualify for a $50 cash back bonus for a deposit of $2,500. By comparison, BMO InvestorLine’s bonus is $100 for a deposit of $100K, a 40x difference in deposit size from the Scotia offer.

In spite of the scope/size difference in the reward amounts, when it comes to DIY investor interest in online brokerage deals, cash is king. As such, the amounts being offered are still better than nothing.

For more information, be sure to check out the deals & promotions section.

Short Shorts

Another “short” story from BMO InvestorLine surfaced last week and had to do with DIY Investors encountering difficulties with trying to short trade select cannabis securities. In this article in the Financial Post, author Victor Ferreira details the experiences of a few DIY investors who were unable to short sell shares of cannabis companies.

When the availability of shares to short sell, especially from a bank -owned brokerage, starts to dry up, it is often a sign of a very bearish market sentiment.  Very recently, the shine has come off the cannabis sector which means, as an investment, they may be considered “riskier” than other symbols or assets. Compounded with the overall volatility in the market, and its possible that BMO is preparing for the storm to hit.  What will be interesting to monitor is the extent of the restriction, whether it’s been formalized, and whether other financial services will follow suit.

Interactive Brokers Posts Stronger Numbers

This past week, Interactive Brokers announced performance metrics and highlights for the month of August as well as rolled out the ability for individuals to bet on NFL games via the free online sports betting platform.

Starting first with metrics, for this month’s numbers, the biggest highlight appears to be the volume of trades. Clients of Interactive Brokers generated 930K daily average revenue trades, which is a staggering 26% higher than trading volume at the same point last year. As per usual, the streak of account growth continues with the online broker now being home to 600K accounts which is a 17% growth compared to last year.

As we mentioned in this previous roundup, the volatility is generally good for generating trading activity which, in turn, is good for online brokerages. The double-edged sword though, is that, with the uncertainty contributing to jitters in the market, it also happens to be a deterrent to people wanting to invest on their own.

Another interesting development coming out of Interactive Brokers is that they’ve officially added and launched the NFL on their online betting platform. Recall that Interactive Brokers rolled out an official sports betting program in the summer to try and attract individuals who are into sports betting in the hopes that those folks who take it seriously would be a good fit for the IB platform and would want to trade real money.

The ability to bet on games opens up two weeks prior to the event itself, so there is some capability to wager on the outcomes in advance. Also interesting is the “trading” interface that IB has created to explain the “bet”. This betting console contains odds as well as what users can expect to gain if the bet materializes. In this way, it is more about understanding the consequences of the action (investment) than it is to blindly speculate.

Learning About Earning

September is synonymous with back to school. For students of the stock market, however, school happens to always be in session. Nonetheless, there is an uptick this month in the number and caliber of learning events for DIY investors.

Online brokerage events related to investor education are becoming increasingly rare except at larger online brokers, and even then, there is just a small group that deliver educational content on a regular basis. This month, TD Direct Investing and CIBC Investor’s Edge both have compelling information/education events planned and, as mentioned last week, Scotia iTRADE has an interesting education event planned for clients.

In the case of the former, TD Direct Investing has put together a well-structured and comprehensive series of webinars as part of their “Master Class” series. This series includes webinars on investing basics as well as advanced topics and software platform orientation. Even though this has been available for some time, it does stand out from amongst its peers in terms of breadth, structure and accessibility.

CIBC Investor’s Edge is also in the mix with an event of their own. Coming up on September 27th, CIBC economist Avery Shenfeld will be presenting his economic outlook for 2020 and the kinds of things investors will need to be aware of heading into 2020. With the volatility and uncertainty in markets, this is likely to be a highly sought after event.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Bubbling Over With Excitement

In a recent interview, Michael Burry dubbed index funds “subprime CDOs” and declared the existence of a “bubble” in passive investing. Investors on Canadian Money Forum are up in arms as they interpret and discuss the statement here.

Ou(TD)oing the Competition

TD e-Series mutual funds have been a long-time favourite for DIY investors, and as changes are being introduced, Redditors are discussing the new possibilities. Read the full discussion here.

Into the Close

Canada appeared to defy expectations on both the job front and on the tennis court. Of course, when it comes to the markets these days, there appears to be even more racket(s) than at the US Open – and probably just as much back and forth. It’s definitely a challenge to be a market spectator these days but just like viewing tennis, it’s important to focus on the long game and enjoy the rallies while they last.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – September 3, 2019

The unofficial end to summer is now here, and while it’s poor form to wear white after Labour Day, it seems like white flags and white knuckles are still very much going to be part of the investing experience in the weeks and months ahead.

In this shortened week edition of the Roundup, we take a rather lengthy look at recent developments in the deals and promotions department as well as in the marketing tactics of one bank-owned online brokerage. Not only did they decide to make a big splash in the deals pool just ahead of the long weekend, but they’ve also decidedly put getting friendly with millennials on the top of their to-do list. After those profiles, be sure to stick around for interesting comments and thoughts from DIY investors this past week from Twitter and the investor forums.

Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions Updates

Even though summer is supposed to be a typically quiet time when it comes to investing, these past few weeks, the stock markets have been dominating headlines. Naturally, how things are going to play out is on the minds of many Canadian DIY investors as well as the online brokerages sitting between investors and the market action.

With the heightened uncertainty, the already challenging job of the online brokerages has become tougher, but as the deals and promotions activity in August has shown, the only choice at this point is to navigate the storm.

Heading into a new month, the big deals & promotions news to start off September are the several new offers from Scotia iTRADE that landed at the end of August. These offers undoubtedly soured some competitors’ long weekend relaxation plans and generated some buzz among Scotia iTRADE’s existing clients as well as new clients.

Like the stock markets, September will also likely see its share of deal volatility. There’s a new offer from BMO InvestorLine expected at the outset of the month and HSBC InvestDirect’s commission-free trade promotion is due to expire at the end of the month. Toss in the ramp-up for many online brokerages to capture interest in TFSAs and RRSPs before the end of the calendar year, and this September is likely to see a few surprises in the deals department for DIY investors.

Of course, while there is still quite a bit of choice for DIY investors looking for a deal when opening an online trading account, the biggest story to watch unfold is the fallout from Scotia iTRADE’s promotional burst.

The first thing to watch out for is the fact that Scotia iTRADE is offering up commission-free trades to existing clients who attend a specific webinar on US dollar positions on the 24th of September. To deepen the intrigue, the webinar is not being advertised (as of the time of publishing) on the public webinar calendar on Scotia iTRADE’s website and thus, may be restricted to existing clients.

For many reasons, Scotia iTRADE offering up commission-free trades to attend a webinar is an important development – not the least of which because it signals a ramp up in the use of incentives to drive client behaviour to objectives other than depositing cash. For many years, commission-free trades were generally available only as account sign up bonuses (or to add assets). And now that they are being used to encourage investors to attend webinars, the door is open to steer them into other behaviours as well. It will be interesting to see whether other online brokers who offer investor education might feel inclined to do the same thing to boost awareness of new feature launches. Additionally, those that do not offer investor education or who don’t have US dollar trading account capabilities need to come up with alternative value drivers somewhat quickly. Further, if this is something Scotia iTRADE continues to do on occasion, other brokerages who don’t follow suit may be perceived as not valuing their clients the way Scotia iTRADE does.

The other big development that Scotia iTRADE initiated with their latest deal is that they’ve lowered their standard commission price from $9.99 to $6.99 per trade for qualified new clients (for a limited time) and thrown in a $50 bonus, all on top of an ultra-low minimum deposit requirement (by Scotia iTRADE’s standards) of $2,500.

After holding out for over five years on a standard commission price drop, this promotion effectively signals a second price drop within a year at the same firm. And, because it is one of the big five bank-owned online brokerages, competitors are sure to take notice.

Typically, in order to get to the $7 commission per trade rate, the volume of activity has to be relatively high (e.g. 150 trades per quarter). So, to both lower the required deposit to qualify for the rate down to $2,500 while also dropping the price of a standard commission fee is a throw-down to the rest of the industry. For DIY investors looking around for an offer they can easily qualify for and benefit from, Scotia iTRADE’s latest will certainly find its way into contention.

The takeaway for DIY investors heading into the end of the year is that competition among Canadian discount brokerages is likely to intensify. Scotia iTRADE has laid out their business case for going after millennial investors – something their counterparts have also signalled an interest in. Millennial or not, investors of all ages are about to benefit from the race to win over newer investors.

Scotia iTRADE’s Living Their Best Life

After some time in cruise control, it appears that Scotia iTRADE, one of Canada’s big-bank-owned online brokerages, is stepping on the gas to pursue a new segment of DIY investors: millennials. Last week, we spotted an interesting series of promotional launches (described above) as well as an event tailored towards engaging with millennials via some serious influencer-driven marketing.

Starting first with a live event, which was billed as a “finance-y event for people who don’t typically go to finance-y events” three young, accomplished, “self starter” figures with large social media (Instagram) followings were recruited to share their views on, and journey with, money and investing.

Included on the panel list were:

  • Brandon Olsen (12.7K Instagram followers)
  • Amy Shio (13.2K Instagram followers)
  • Tristan O’Brien (77.1K Instagram followers)

Peeling back the swanky curtains a bit on this event revealed some interesting observations about how this event came together and who the intended audience was.

The first interesting observation is that this event was produced in conjunction with Bay Street Bull who describe themselves as “a business luxury lifestyle publication for professional men and women.” The nature of their typical content aligned well with the panelists.

Another interesting facet was the decision to post Instagram handles of the panelists rather than other social media channels (such as Twitter) and to elect to not go the route of having an “official hashtag” effectively closed off the event to people who wouldn’t be on Instagram or who didn’t follow Bay Street Bull. This certainly speaks to the desire to focus on reaching a typical millennial audience watering hole online. Other channels are clearly less important to this segment, or at least that’s what’s being implied.

 

Then there is the “self starter” campaign itself. Specifically, the “beginner guide to self-directed investing” brochure created to detail the stories of the abovementioned three self-starters and what they think about investing in general and the Scotia iTRADE experience.

Written in an interview format, the three different perspectives provide a different kind of “testimonial” to using the platform. Again, leaning on the production expertise of Bay Street Bull, the brochure paints a compelling picture of the millennial investor market opportunity, including the often-cited massive wealth transfer that is poised to take place from Baby Boomers to millennials.

Of course, despite talking about the future, the irony here is that millennials know all too well that the internet doesn’t forget.

For Scotia iTRADE, there is a genuine challenge ahead of them to shed the reputation of being the least competitive (from a pricing point of view) option for young investors. Recall that they kept their standard commission rates well above $20 per trade during the five-year period when the rest of the industry had started to lower standard commission rates to under $10. Shedding that kind of reputational drag will undoubtedly require some very big, bold (and potentially costly) overtures. Nevertheless, change has to start somewhere, and this year it has.

From lowering their standard commission fee (finally) to introducing the option for younger investors (under age 26) to have their low activity administration fee of $25 per quarter waived (on balances under $10,000), and now a direct campaign for millennials, there are clearly signs that things are beginning to shift at Scotia iTRADE.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the launch of the deals and offers for existing clients and for the live event was that almost none of it appeared on the Scotia iTRADE Twitter feed or LinkedIn profile, nor did the promotional offer appear on the Scotia iTRADE website in the special offers section. Instead the deal surfaced via Google search and only after some searching online was the information about the iTRADE event retrieved. All of which begs the question, why keep this under wraps?

Another important consideration in the new millennial charm offensive that will be important to monitor is the degree to which the “influencer endorsement” builds traction with millennial investors. Among the older investors, the partnership with Canadian personal finance/investing celebrity, Larry Berman, worked particularly well for Scotia iTRADE for many years and resulted in many full hotel banquet rooms across Canada. That said, millennials are cut from a different digital cloth. They are savvier when it comes to vetting authenticity and as far as endorsements go, this is an interesting experiment at the intersection of social media marketing and DIY investing.

Ultimately, however, enlisting social media influencers may not prove to be as potent as other strategies.

Robinhood, the US online brokerage, Wealthsimple and Wealthsimple Trade (here in Canada) have also managed to create DIY investor evangelists by going a different route. The recipe, it seems, includes drastically reduced commission costs (or in the case of both online brokerages, zero commission costs) as well as a dramatically improved technology and user experience.

For a campaign strategy that leaned so heavily into a visual medium (like Instagram) to connect with a millennial audience, the hope is that the platform and experience with Scotia iTRADE will follow suit. Reading through the Scotia iTRADE Twitter comments, however, suggests there’s still quite a bit of work to be done (as well as a strange fixation on the large yellow Lego banana from their TV commercials). The hazard for iTRADE is that by setting visual and brand experience expectations without being able to follow through on them runs the risk of further alienating the next generation of DIY investor clients.

While outreach events and lowering the price barriers will put Scotia iTRADE back into consideration with younger investors, what will ultimately get millennials talking about investing on social media and using Scotia iTRADE as an online brokerage is how amazing and easy the experience is on the platform. The one thing that iTRADE needs to start hearing from millennials is “shut up and take my money” – anything short of that and there’s a lot more design and user experience work to be done.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Any Port(folio) in a Storm

In light of increasingly unpredictable market fluctuations, one worried investor is looking for advice on “recession-proofing” their portfolio. Read on to find out what fellow Redditors recommend here.

Loony for our Loonie

With the recent publication of the Goldman Sachs prediction on the loonie, Canadian Redditors are up in arms, discussing potential strategies, profits, and economy-wide ramifications in this thread.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on the shortened week version of the Roundup. It looks like it’s going to be more of the same kind of back and forth rhetoric, as well as precarious talk of recessions, all the while the economic numbers are still pointing to solid growth in Canada. As far as forecasts go, this sounds like things could go up or down or not anywhere or everywhere. Whichever way you’re trading takes you this week, pack some Rolaids and have a profitable week!

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions, September 2019

*Updated Sept. 4* When it comes to discount brokerage deals, it appears that this month, school is definitely in session. Even though there are no new deals that officially launched at the beginning of September, there were several that snuck in at the tail end of August, just in time for the Labour Day weekend and for the start of the new month.

Change is almost a given in the stock market these days, so it seems fitting that there be some turnover and excitement in the deals space. To that end, last month saw the start and finish of the RBC Direct Investing commission-free trade offer and the expiry of the CIBC Investor’s Edge commission-free trading offer. Early on in September, BMO InvestorLine is also poised to launch a new deal, too.

Despite the action at Canada’s bank-owned online brokerages, it was Scotia iTRADE that made the biggest splash in the discount brokerage deals pool at the end of last month.  With a creative deal for new clients as well as promotions for existing clients being offered by iTRADE, this online broker has left little doubt that they’re prepared to take the rest of the online brokerages back to school when it comes to interesting offers for DIY investors.

It’s clear that the timing of Scotia iTRADE’s offers are no accident. September is the time of year when investors are typically returning from vacations and getting back into the markets, so it would not be too surprising to see deals activity at other online brokerages begin to ramp up too and respond in kind with offers of their own.

As always if there are any new or interesting discount brokerage deals out there that online investors could benefit from, let us know in the comments below.

Expired Deals

*Update September 4 – The cash back promotion offered by BMO InvestorLine has expired, but quickly replaced with a new cash back deal. More details on the offer can be found below.

The two biggest offers that expired in August included an offer from CIBC Investor’s Edge and a commission-free trade from RBC Direct Investing.

Extended Deals

*There are no extended deals to report this period*

New Deals

*Update September 4 –BMO InvestorLine has released a new cash back promotion available for new qualifying accounts. You may be eligible for cash back when you deposit $100,000+ in your account. Enter promotion code SPARXCASH into your Online Application Form to qualify for this award. Scroll down for more details.*

Scotia iTRADE is offering up $50 in cash back for new clients as well as a standard commission rate of $6.99 per trade (until March 2020). In addition, this offer is accessible with a minimum deposit of $2,500.

For existing Scotia iTRADE clients, there are also some compelling incentives being batted around. The first is for individuals who add a certain dollar amount to their accounts to be eligible for commission-free trades. Since these are for existing clients, the typical YMMV (your mileage may vary) qualifier applies, however iTRADE is offering 5 commission-free trades for deposits of $10,000.

In addition, and potentially the most compelling offer for existing clients, is that Scotia iTRADE is offering up to 3 commission-free trades for attending an educational webinar on the “US Dollar Position” on September 24, 2019. Trading commission-free trades for attending a webinar is a very tempting offer that has very little downside for investors and could be something that other online brokerages that offer DIY investor educational webinars look to add into their mix to encourage participation.


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 a qualifying account at HSBC InvestDirect and you may be eligible to receive up to 30 commission-free North American equity or ETF trades. No minimum deposit is required for this offer and it is open to new and existing clients. Trades are eligible to be used for up to 60 days. See terms and conditions for full details. n/a 30 commission-free trades 60 days HSBC InvestDirect Summer Offer September 30, 2019
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, 2019
Scotia iTrade Open a new qualifying account and fund it with a minimum of $2,500 and you may be eligible to receive $50 cash back. This offer also includes $6.99 per trade commissions until March 1, 2020. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for more details. $2,500 $50 cash back and $6.99 per Canadian and US equity/ETF trade. Cash back will be deposited by January 31, 2020. $6.99 per trade commission pricing active until March 1, 2020. Cash Back Offer Details October 15, 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 none
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, 2019
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $100,000; B) $250,000; C) $500,000+ or D) $2M+, and you may be eligible to a cash back reward of up to A) $100; B) $225; C) $600 or D) $2,000. Use promo code SPARXCASH when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $100,000 B) $250,000 C) $500,000 D) $2M+ A) $100 B) $225 C) $600 D) $2,000 Cash back will be deposited the week of June 15, 2020. BMO InvestorLine Cash Back Offer Details October 31, 2019

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Sept. 04, 2019 09:55 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, 2020

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Sept. 1, 2019 23:30 PT

Transfer Fee Promotions

Company Brief Description Maximum Transfer Fee Coverage Amount Minimum Deposit Amount for Transfer Fee Eligibility Details Link Deadline
Move your brokerage account to Questrade and they’ll cover the transfer-out fee up to $150. $150 n/a Transfer Fee Promo September 30, 2019
Transfer $15,000 or more to RBC Direct Investing and they will pay up to $135 in transfer fees. $200 $15,000 Transfer Fee Rebate Details none
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 $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 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 Desjardins Online Brokerage 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 Desjardins Online Brokerage 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 none
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account with BMO InvestorLine or fund a qualifying existing account and you may be eligible to have transfer fees covered up to $200. Contact client service for more details. $200 Contact client service for more information Contact client service for more information (1-888-776-6886) none

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Sept. 1, 2019 23:30 PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
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: Sept. 1, 2019 23:30 PT

Digital Advice + Roboadvisor Promotions

Robo-advisor / Digital advisor Offer Type Offer Description Min. Deposit Reward / Promotion Promo Code Expiry Date Link
Discounted Management Open and fund a new Questrade Portfolio IQ account with a deposit of at least $1,000 and the first month of management will be free. For more information on Portfolio IQ, click the product link. $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, 2020 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: Sept. 1, 2019 23:30 PT