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Mark to Market: The “Limit Buy” Part 1

(re)Introducing Mark to Market! DIY investing is serious business, but when learning the ropes of self-directed wealth management, it helps to take a comical view.

Follow the adventures of Mark Tradewell and friends, as they wander through the complex maze of stock market terms, products and ideas, in search of understanding, confidence and mastery of personal finance.

We first launched the Mark to Market comic in 2013 as a way to take complex concepts in the online brokerage space and break them down for new DIY investors, while keeping things engaging for veteran investors. With so many new investors stepping into the markets recently, we felt it was time to bring back Mark and friends, give them a fresh coat of paint, and tackle new ideas in the online investing space.

Each episode takes a new concept or term and unpacks it in a series of parts, starting with the Limit Buy, a fundamental part of any DIY investor’s toolkit. Be sure to watch this space for part 2.

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Look Back / Look Ahead: Qtrade Investor Q&A

What can beginner investors expect from your firm?

New investors can access an award-winning online investing platform, robust mobile-trading capabilities and unrivalled customer service. Qtrade Investor has consistently been ranked among the top online brokerages across all major rankings, including The Globe and Mail, Surviscor and MoneySense. We have achieved 22 first-place wins for best online brokerage over the past 15 years, and eight first-place awards in customer service experience over the past five years.

We empower beginner investors with online resources and innovative tools that help them invest with confidence. Just launched in 2020, Portfolio Simulator™ lets clients test investment scenarios in a simulator mode, to explore ideas and fine-tune their investment strategy, while Portfolio Score™ provides a second opinion on their portfolio, helping investors understand their diversification and risk exposure and grading the selected securities across five key dimensions. If a beginner investor is looking to build an ETF portfolio, with just a short series of questions, Portfolio Creator™ generates a portfolio, customized to their investing preferences, that will help them maximize risk-adjusted returns.

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Look Back / Look Ahead: Influencer Edition

As strange as the times are that we currently are living through, stranger still is the world of DIY investing.

Scores of online investors are shut in because of COVID-19, savings for many are up despite massive economic dislocation, interest rates are at near-record lows, and individuals turning to investing online, not only as a means of wealth creation but also as entertainment, have materially shaped the direction, sentiment, and performance of the stock market.

It’s precisely at times of immense change or volatility that the steady hand of experience offers its greatest benefits: important context and insight to help make sense of the current state of investing online. Cue the newest addition to the Look Back / Look Ahead series, the Influencer Edition.

This digital series is a companion to the recurring Look Back / Look Ahead feature of Canadian online brokerages that provide their perspectives on the past and future of the online investing industry. In the Influencer Edition, however, we have brought together the most experienced collection of voices and perspectives available in the Canadian online brokerage industry to weigh in on what they think is important to take away from last year as well as what online brokers and investors should pay attention to in the year ahead.

Rob Carrick, the well-known personal finance journalist at The Globe and Mail, has been covering and ranking Canadian online brokerages for more than two decades. Glenn LaCoste, President and Founder of Surviscor, a leading Canadian financial services analysis firm, has been evaluating and ranking financial services firms, including Canadian online brokerages, in detail for almost two decades. Mike Foy is Senior Director of the Wealth Management Practice for North America at J.D. Power and oversees the annual Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study, which has been tracking the pulse of online investor satisfaction in Canada. Finally, there’s yours truly, Hamish Khamisa, the voice behind Sparx Trading; I have been covering the world of Canadian online brokerages and running SparxTrading.com since 2011.

While the credentials and experience of each contributor certainly speak for themselves, the most exciting part of this project has been collecting and relaying the unfiltered perspectives of these influencers in one place. The responses to the questions that were asked are thought-provoking, insightful, and helpful to any Canadian DIY investor interested in investing online or any online brokerage committed to improving their service offering.

Against a backdrop of a historic year, it feels like something equally historic was needed to make sense of the new normal of investing online. Even in the short span of a month, what is considered “normal” activity for DIY investing has radically changed, so the themes identified in this issue around how online brokerages ought to be preparing for change are even more relevant heading into the new year.

On behalf of the Sparx Trading team, I want to thank the authors for their submissions and efforts in providing a voice for DIY investors and driving positive change in the Canadian online brokerage industry. I also want to extend a special thanks to our loyal readers for your continued support and hope you stay safe, well, and healthy in the year ahead.

Hamish Khamisa

Founder, SparxTrading.com

_____________

Click below to read submissions from:

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 25, 2021

Looking at the calendar, it’s hard to fathom that we’re almost through one month of 2021. Time, it appears, is moving quickly as events unfold, and it seems fitting that, like a good Bernie meme or Tom Brady, what’s old can be made new again.

In this edition of the Weekly Roundup, we focus on the relaunch of the Sparx Trading newsletter and on why there are some important (and timely) elements that we’re putting together for folks interested in online investing. Next, in keeping with the close-out of the month, we’ve collected the stories that we wanted to focus on in January but haven’t had the opportunity to do so yet. Enjoy the medley of stories we found interesting throughout the month. Finally, we wrap up with commentary from DIY investors in the forums and on Twitter.

Don’t Call It a Comeback (But It’s Cool If You Do)

After being dormant for the past seven years, the SparxTrading.com newsletter has officially been rebooted. And, it feels great to be back (on email).

In that time, a lot has changed about the landscape of the Canadian online brokerage industry, and yet, remarkably, there are still some things that have yet to change. Throughout that time, however, there have been a few constants at SparxTrading.com, chief among them the Weekly Roundups and the deals and promotions updates.

We live in a world where people now communicate much more with short videos than with email, so why would we think to a) (re)launch an email newsletter, and b) do so now? Let’s dive into both of those questions below.

One of the biggest constraints for any content creator is resources, and dialing back the clock to 2014, SparxTrading.com and the parent company, Sparx Publishing Group, were much smaller. Today, Sparx Publishing Group has grown to over 15 team members, which enables our team to do some pretty creative and amazing work, including to help take Sparx Trading content to a new level of awesome. Happily, it’s not only the team that’s grown here at Sparx but also the audience of the website and, in particular, the Weekly Roundup.

SparxTrading.com is one of the longest and most continuous sources of coverage on the Canadian online brokerage space, and it turns out that DIY investors appreciate the content being produced. Interestingly, the Weekly Roundup has actually become required reading across the online brokerage space, with many folks at online brokerages tuning in to stay on top of what’s happening in their industry. Also pretty cool: Some rather prestigious research firms that charge a pretty penny for their insights and research on the Canadian online brokerage space use our content to stay on top of the activities and trends.

All told, it’s been an amazing journey to get to this point. There is value being created for audience members, and meaningful change for DIY investors, which arises as a result of the forum we’ve created. Of course, things could always be better. And, with the relaunch of the monthly email newsletter, we think it will be, as this format will help to address the challenge of staying on top of the huge volume of news with highlights of the latest developments, delivered to subscribers’ inboxes.  Here’s a full rundown of what’s inside.

First, something fun. We love the imagery of the bull and bear, and so we thought we’d capture these two important stock market characters in fun and interesting ways. The kickoff to the newsletter is in line with that sentiment, bringing a familiar trope back to life from the famous scene in the movie Say Anything.

Of course, superfans of the Sparx Trading universe can check out the Sparx Publishing Group Instagram feed for more fun, movie-inspired posts featuring the bull and bear. Some favourites include:

  • Dirty Dancing
  • The Sound of Music
  • What to Expect When You’re Expecting
  • Weekend at Bernie’s
  • Ghostbusters

In addition to a fun start to the newsletter each month, readers can expect to get down to business with updates on the biggest stories from the Weekly Roundups from the previous month. To help keep things quick and easy to digest, we’ll be picking the top two or three stories to feature, with links back to those stories for folks who want to dive into more detail.

There’s also a news section that will include quick updates from Sparx Trading as well as other timely announcements that would be appropriate to flag for our readers’ attention. The reboot version of the newsletter featured an announcement about the upcoming influencer edition of the Look Back / Look Ahead series for this year.

Finally, another reboot inside of a reboot is the relaunch of Mark to Market, a stock market–themed comic developed here at Sparx. Originally published in 2013, Mark to Market is being relaunched to coincide with the launch of the new newsletter, and the origin story and episodes will appear on SparxTrading.com, specifically as part of the blog, which will also be getting a major overhaul in the coming weeks. For some quick context, however, Mark to Market is an edutainment piece, made for DIY investors and stock market enthusiasts, to help assist in navigating the maze of products, services, and providers that self-directed investors encounter. It is especially timely given the surge of interest in online investing that took place in 2020, particularly among new investors.

The relaunch of the Sparx Trading newsletter is one in a number of new initiatives this year. That said, it also highlights the fact that in the world of DIY investing, there are trends and cycles to the investor experience. Email, while not groundbreaking, is still an effective channel to reach a good portion of the audience that relies on or is curious about online brokerages in Canada. Think of it as the Tom Brady of communications channels: still pretty much a reliable delivery mechanism.

If you haven’t already done so, subscribe to the newsletter, and be sure to check out what’s coming up in the next episode!

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Lightning Roundup: Other Interesting Developments

After the time distortion that was 2020, it’s amazing to see that January of 2021 is almost over. Much has happened during the month, so this is our chance to shine a spotlight on stories and items that we didn’t get the opportunity to explore more fully during the month. While we’re not going to dive deep, here is a quick highlight of the stories that crossed our radar in January that will be worth watching as the year proceeds.

Gaining Wait: Customer Service Wait Times Raising Tempers

Nobody likes to wait in line, but Canadians are generally a polite bunch and willing to put up with a bit of a queue to resolve important matters. So, when tempers flare and stories emerge of wait times consistently stretching beyond two or three or four hours on the phone just to talk to a representative at an online brokerage, it’s only a matter of time before it hits the news. This is a story that has been a long time in the making; however, it’s gaining momentum among the popular media channels – including The Globe and Mail – and we predict even more to follow. Customer wait times at online brokerages in Canada have ballooned to almost incredulous levels, so much so that this story could gain traction with consumer and investor protection agencies. Can markets operate fairly and efficiently without market participants being able to connect to online brokerages in a reasonable time frame? The most widely impacted clients are those who need to talk to brokerages by phone (and now even online chat is impacted). Check out this story from The Globe and Mail’s Rob Carrick for a clear articulation of the problems DIY investors are encountering when trying to connect to their online brokers by phone.

Getting a Taste for More: Tastytrade Gets Acquired

Buying up online brokerages is all the rage in the US. Schwab bought up TD Ameritrade, Morgan Stanley acquired E*Trade, and now, one of the newer kids on the block, Tastytrade, has been acquired by the UK-based IG Group for $1 billion (USD). Tastytrade was founded in 2011 by Tom Sosinoff, the founder of Thinkorswim (which was acquired by TD Ameritrade for $600 million), and it has earned a reputation for engaging content and a focus on options trading – something that has exploded in popularity through 2020. It will be interesting to see how or if this impacts the plans for Tastytrade to come to Canada. Originally, something was telegraphed for early 2021, but this latest development means that someone else is now pulling the corporate strings, and the move into Canada could be delayed or rethought. Alternatively, a much bigger entity backing Tastytrade could also spell more ambitious opportunities. The details of the transaction reveal that IG Group is ponying up a billion dollars for over 105,000 active accounts (roughly $9.5K per account – yikes). That billion-dollar figure is made up of $300 million in cash and $700 million in stock, which ends up making the shareholders in Tastytrade 14% shareholders in IG Group.

Let’s Talk About Trades

The end of a year is a great opportunity to reflect back on big milestones or achievements. One interesting thing that has started to emerge courtesy of Robinhood that has found its way into content schedules among Canadian online brokerages is more attention being given to (and actual reporting on) the popular stocks traded by DIY investors. There was a whole lot of controversy stirred up when sites that monitored Robinhood’s publication of these figures emerged. However, in Canada, the timescale and scope of coverage of “what’s popular” didn’t bring with it the same scale of attention or a rapid enough timeframe to make the same kind of waves as that same information would have in the US. Over the course of the year, we’ve noticed the spotlight shining on popular trades from 2020, with the most recent example coming from RBC Direct Investing.  

Influencer’s Gonna Influence

What happens when you get some of the most informed minds in the Canadian online brokerage space to collectively weigh in on trends and developments related to the online trading experience in Canada? This week, readers will find out.

The new Influencer Edition of Sparx Trading’s Look Back / Look Ahead series is set to go live this week, and it features contributions from Rob Carrick of The Globe and Mail, Michael Foy from J.D. Power, and Glenn LaCoste from Surviscor. Each of these contributors has been researching the online brokerage space in Canada for many years, and, as a result, each has a uniquely qualified perspective on the DIY investing experience from a variety of vantage points.

Be sure to follow Sparx on Twitter for the first notification of the launch of the new series! Also be sure to check out the online brokerage version of the Look Back / Look Ahead series to get up to speed on what the industry voice is.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Ch-Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

In this post, a Redditor shares a screenshot about the new pre-market trading hours being offered by one Canadian online brokerage. Fellow Redditors rejoice – and request even more improvements, including after-market trading hours, an improved app, better customer service, and reduced fees.

Engineering a Lucrative Life

A 23-year-old engineering grad with a good job, $100,000 to invest, and zero experience in the markets asks in this post how to get started. Hundreds of fellow Redditors weigh in with advice on everything from couch potato investing to company-matched RSPs.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on the end-of-month edition of the Roundup. There’s lots of interesting work going on behind the scenes, and the start to 2021 is filled with all kinds of welcome surprises, including Tom Brady making it into the Super Bowl again (some would argue that’s no surprise). Speaking of surprises, there are plenty of earnings slated for the week ahead, and it seems like folks in the US government, starting with the President, are back at work. It’s going to be a full week, so here’s hoping you start on a positive note and finish on a profitable one!

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Look Back / Look Ahead: National Bank Direct Brokerage Q&A

What can beginner investors expect from your firm?
At National Bank Direct Brokerage, beginner investors are taken care of and guided from the very beginning of their experience. For young and not-so-young, we are the place to start investing in ETFs with $0 commissions. We support them with an ETF Centre, an easy-to-use filter tool and ETF research reports from Morningstar and National Bank Financial.
For young investors aged 30 and under, we offer special and advantageous pricing, with 10 annual free trades, $4.95 pricing on stocks and no administration fees.
NBDB offers the necessary tools to trade, but we also offer an educational component. We have training courses, a YouTube channel where we publish instructional and educational videos, and several other tools that allow new investors to gain confidence and make informed decisions.

What can active investors expect from your firm?
Best pricing, best service and a high-performance transactional Market-Q tool. Active investors can have the best of both worlds: $0.95 per trade on stocks and $0 on ETFs, when they qualify. For 2021, active investors can expect continued downward pressure on commission fees, including option pricing.

What online investing trends do you expect to matter to DIY investors?
The feedback that we’ve received from our clients is clear: Clients are looking for greater online content (fundamental analysis, technical analysis, ETFs, options and strategies) and support that can assist them in managing their investments and become better investors.

What does user experience mean at your firm?
At NBDB, we value customer experience. That is why we routinely send surveys to our customers to better understand their needs. This valuable information is then used to guide our decision-making, whether it be for tools, services or any other aspect of our business. We are customer-focused, and that is why our customers’ opinions are taken into account on a daily basis.

What sets your firm apart from your peers?
We may not be the biggest direct broker in Canada, but we are the first in setting the tone by offering competitive pricing that benefits everyone. We offer innovative tools and services; a distinctive service for high-net-worth clients, InvestCube (ETF portfolios); and tools and services not offered by the competition.

This Q&A was featured in the Look Back / Look Ahead magazine.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 18, 2021

Normally we talk about news that has happened – but considering the gravitas of the week ahead, it seems fitting to weave in some discussion of the future, this week in particular. As of the publication of this edition of the Roundup, there’s certainly a nervous energy in the news; however, if there’s one thing the online brokerage world has come to realize throughout 2020, it’s that volatility attracts opportunity.

In this edition of the Roundup, we take a look at how one Canadian online brokerage is playing into the volatility forecast by offering extended hours for clients to access markets and also is telegraphing some interesting signals about a possible very big year ahead in terms of new features. From there, we figuratively dial into the latest performance metrics from one US online brokerage – and await being able to literally dial into an earnings conference call, which falls on the eve of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, for clues on the global state of online investing. In keeping with the usual diet of (mostly) healthy banter, we wrap with DIY investor conversations on Twitter and the investor forums.

Questrade Launches New Features & Teases a Big Year Ahead

It’s the early bird that gets the worm – or so the saying goes. When it comes to tapping into market-moving news, especially when that news takes place before the official start to the market trading day, being able to place orders and have them filled is an opportunity to get into potentially interesting trading opportunities a lot earlier than others.

This past week, Questrade announced the launch of a new feature: pre-market trading. Several Canadian online brokerages already offer this feature (as well as after-market trading), but for active traders, access to trading US-listed securities starting at 7 AM EST is bound to get some folks excited to be able to make moves on important news items, potentially ahead of the pack.

Trading outside of normal market hours is not without its risks, though. There is far less liquidity and far fewer participants outside normal market hours, meaning that bid/ask spreads are often very far apart. To mitigate the impact of this kind of volatile price movement, only limit orders are permitted, and the ECNs that can be selected to route the order to are ARCA or NSDQ. To accommodate the change, Questrade also updated the hours for their trading desk to now start at 7 AM EST.

Online, the reaction to the announcement was generally positive; however, it was clear that online investors had mixed feelings about trading outside of normal market hours. As such, the impact of the announcement will, likely, appeal to a smaller segment of users, those who are comfortable with the realities of extended market trading.

On a separate note, Questrade has also been ramping up the communications online to clients, which included a heartwarming milestone. Specifically, in 2020 Questrade was able to donate over 1 million meals to feed hungry Canadians via Food Banks Canada. Interestingly, and perhaps something that they might want to let more folks know about, Questrade donates a day’s worth of meals to Food Banks Canada for every new account opened.

Doing some further digging online this past week also revealed some interesting new features being telegraphed by Questrade representatives on Twitter. In response to customer service questions about mobile experience and the recent decommissioning of the Morningstar research features, it appears that two important developments are on the horizon.

In terms of the latter, it seems that a handful of clients were none too pleased at the removal of a research feature; however, Questrade reps did confirm that something “better” would be coming in its place.

In terms of mobile experience, which is a clear battleground issue among online brokerages in Canada, Questrade also hinted at plans for a new mobile app in the works for 2021. User sentiment on the Questrade mobile app is also starting to reflect the desire for change – at least for some categories of power or active users.

As we referenced in our recent Weekly Roundup, getting the user experience right for online investing is no simple feat. There are multiple categories of users, including those who like the predictability of knowing where things are, so making changes is a risk if user journeys or navigation takes a drastic turn. Ultimately, it should be great news for DIY investors; however, creating new things at the expense of shoring up existing features (e.g. customer service wait times) can make for volatile times for client support. A simple scan of Twitter posts over the past week points to that being the case.

Even though Questrade was playing it close-to-the-vest in the Look Back / Look Ahead (when it came to the looking-forward part), it’s clear that there’s a lot in the pipeline for 2021. In fact, taking a high-level view, with this many significant projects coming to market in the year ahead, this could signal a critical year for Questrade that brings with it even more surprises as it continues to compete in a potentially more crowded field. Finding the balance between promising new features to keep people excited and ensuring that these features hit the mark (and work properly) is also prudent. Kicking off the new year with this much news, however, is a clear indication that Questrade is hoping to have lots of positive things to say in 2021.

Interactive Brokers Latest Metrics & Earnings Call to Provide Clues on Marketplace Direction

With all of what’s been going on in the US, and what is poised to unfold this week, this is a great opportunity to tune in to one of the most informative trading bellwethers that has emerged over the past two years. Specifically, the Interactive Brokers earnings conference call, which is scheduled to take place on January 19th at 4 PM EST.

The primary purpose of the conference call will be to review the quarterly earnings for Interactive Brokers, which in this case happen to be for the fourth quarter of 2020 and, as such, will provide not only the performance of the quarter but likely a view on the year as a whole.

The latest stats released by Interactive Brokers about their performance over the final month of the year also reveal some very interesting numbers, which seem to indicate incredibly strong participation in trading.

Among the numbers we pay close attention to is the growth in client accounts, which for Interactive Brokers was 56% higher than at the same point last year and 3% higher than the previous month. The exceptional growth of their client base over the past year has fueled a surge in revenues and is likely, in part, responsible for their growth in valuation. Reinforcing that inference, Daily Average Revenue Trades (DARTs) are up 198% year over year and about even on a month-over-month basis.

Given the profile of the traders who operate on the IB platform – i.e. active and professional traders – it was also interesting to see the acceleration of buying into the end of the year, which lines up with the surge in bitcoin-related activity and with the market action overall.  Thus, it will be of interest to see what the view is on the near to medium term for business conditions for online brokerages (in the US) and, potentially, as a pulse on online investing around the world. Interactive Brokers’ international footprint gives it a unique window into what trends are emerging with online investors the world over.

Recall that entering periods of high volatility, Interactive Brokers has raised the margin borrowing requirements to control its risk exposure. On two of those recent occasions, that has seemed to foreshadow some significant moves in the market. What jumps out in the numbers supplied by Interactive Brokers in terms of trading metrics is that it appears that traders were heavily selling into the end of the year – which is a little strange given where the index has risen to. It might be a case of profit-taking, or fast money in and out of a bitcoin rally; however, the magnitude and direction of activity suggest smart money may have cashed out.

For online brokerages, 2020 clearly settled the debate on volatility being good or bad for business. Historically, passive investors would shy away from huge price swings in stocks, in favour of a steady approach to buying. Interestingly, the dynamics of the marketplace have changed – perhaps tilted far in the other direction – where lots of new investors have flooded into the market looking for rapid fluctuations in price (upwards). The following video on social media might presage where markets head from here; however, when lined up against the backdrop of Interactive Brokers data, moves higher in the market heading into RRSP deadline season could make this a stretch over which even more investors seek out new investment accounts.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Oh, Brother!

In this post, an investor asks whether they should acquiesce and allow their brother to open a second RESP account for their son. Is it just “free money” from the brother? Or a potential financial (and familial) nightmare? Fellow Redditors have strong opinions on the matter.

Ethics Over Profits?

Horrified by what happened in for-profit long-term care homes during the early days of the pandemic, this investor asks in this post how to make sure that none of her investments are in these types of businesses. Her fellow Redditors explain how to check this information and debate whether ethics and politics (and the resulting emotions) should be kept separate from investing.

Into the Close

This is going to be an unforgettable week. With so much on the line, there’s no question that eyes will be glued to the screen and folks will be tuning in to the news. So, let’s hope things go as smoothly as possible for our friends in the US, including our furry ones. Stay safe and good luck!

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Look Back / Look Ahead: BMO InvestorLine Q&A

Q1: What can beginner investors expect from your firm?
Beginning investors can expect a robust platform, with user experience enhancements that make it easy and intuitive to invest. We’re passionate about helping new investors find the right online investing tools for them.

Q2: What can active investors expect from your firm?
Active investors will appreciate the overhauled design of InvestorLine 2.0 – it’s easier than ever to place trades, see meaningful data to help you make decisions, and manage your accounts. We make monthly updates based on user feedback, so we’re always looking to make a positive impact on how clients use the platform.

Q3: What online investing trends do you expect to matter to DIY investors?
Digital is going to be a big space for investors, both in the self-serve category as well as in the advice realm. As more people enjoy the autonomy and freedom of choosing their own investments, we believe having the tools to support that will become more and more important.

Q4: What does user experience mean at your firm?
We’re fanatic about client-centred design. We regularly incorporate user testing and feedback in every step of the product development cycle, and we use client data and feedback to guide us toward what our next updates will bring and how we improve our services.

Q5: What sets your firm apart from your peers?
We believe our holistic investing platform is what really sets us apart. We have a full-featured platform that doesn’t just enable you to place trades, it’s also easy to use without sacrificing customizability, meaning you can truly make the platform your own. More specifically, adviceDirect empowers our clients by allowing them to make their own investment choices, since adviceDirect provides advice that’s customized to each client’s portfolio and goals.

This Q&A was featured in the Look Back / Look Ahead magazine.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 11, 2021

Sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. 2021 is shaping up to be more of a hangover than a do-over. Now that we are just over 2% into the new year, the road ahead is clearly bumpy. Thankfully, with talk of new promos and the finer points of design choices, we have much brighter news to report than most of what’s been flying (or not flying) around on social media.

In this post–coup d’état edition of the Roundup, we provide a refreshing piece of good news as multiple online brokerages launch new offers and reset the game clock on existing promotions for DIY investors to take advantage of heading into this year’s RRSP deadline. Next, we weigh in on an interesting conundrum for the online investing experience: innovate quickly or stick to the basics? Happily, we’ve got some interesting forum chatter and informative commentary from DIY investors on Twitter to close out on.

Deals Activity Shows Cash Is King

If there’s one thing we could all use right about now, it’s a healthy dose of positive developments. Fortunately, the January deals and promotions section has been filling up with just that – especially for online investors looking to score a deal on an online investing account ahead of the RRSP contribution deadline.

Kicking things off is the great news that RBC Direct Investing has jumped back into the deals and promotions section with a cash-back and commission-free trade offer. After the conclusion of their go-to commission-free trade promotion at the end of 2020, it seems that RBC Direct Investing made a resolution to start off the new year with something bigger and bolder for DIY investors this RRSP season.

Beginning this January and lasting until the end of March 2021, RBC Direct Investing is offering a tiered cash-back promotion. The cash-back amounts range from $50 (for deposits of $5,000) up to $2,000 (for deposits of $1 million or more). In addition to a cash-back amount, all deposit tiers qualify for 10 commission-free trades that are good through to the end of August 2021, leaving ample time for individuals to use this bonus.

We were also eagerly awaiting what BMO InvestorLine would launch early this month. Their previous promotional campaign expired in early January, unlike many of their peer firms’ deals, which expired at the end of December, so it was interesting to see what BMO InvestorLine would do given the clear trend toward cash-back offers from their competitors this year.

Fortunately for DIY investors, BMO InvestorLine has shown up with a relatively competitive offer and significantly dropped the qualifying deposit amount for the lowest tier of the deal from their usual range of $25,000 to $50,000. As with their previous cash-back offer in the fall, the new cash-back offer is a tiered promotion; however, this promo features deposit tiers starting from $15,000 (which offers $150 cash-back) up to deposits of $1 million and more (which offers $2,000 cash-back).

In addition to the launch of new offers this past week, we also saw several offers have their expiry dates officially updated. Notably, there were a couple of offers from Questrade – their five-free-trades offer, as well as their one month of commission-free trading, saw their expiry dates move to December 2021. Also, the refer-a-friend offer from BMO InvestorLine was extended another year, with the new expiry date falling on January 6th, 2022.

If there’s one clear trend this year when it comes to online brokerage deals and promotions, it’s that cash is king.

All of the big five bank-owned Canadian online brokers have a very competitive cash-back promotion now live, with most of them expiring at the beginning of March (RBC Direct Investing’s is the only exception, finishing at the end of March). That said, there are some patterns that emerge in the offers that are worth exploring further.

First, it was interesting to note the trends at the extreme ends of the deposit tiers.

At the lower end of the deposit spectrum (generally under $25,000), all of the big bank-owned online brokerages had some kind of offer in place. RBC Direct Investing had the highest offer, with a cash-back award of $50 and 10 commission-free trades, an offer that their only rival at this deposit level, Scotia iTrade, was well behind (Scotia iTrade offers $25 cash-back). Interestingly, BMO InvestorLine, who lowered their deposit threshold to qualify for a deal down to $15,000 (compared to the $50,000 minimum deposit for their fall campaign), went significantly higher than any of its peers with an offer of $150, which is 50% higher than what TD Direct Investing offered ($100).

Meanwhile, at the higher deposit levels ($500,000+), there appears to be a whole new battleground forming.

To start, almost all online brokerages with cash-back promotions have an advertised offer for deposits of at least $1 million. The one online brokerage that does not, however, is TD Direct Investing. This seems like a remarkable decision given the value of the prospective clients at that level, and while for portfolios of $1 million or more the deal isn’t the first thing that a shopper might consider, all else being equal, three direct competitors are willing to pay $1,000 more for the business.

It bears mentioning that the appearance of $1 million as a deposit tier used to be a headline maker; however, this deposit tier has almost certainly become the new-normal top-end deposit. That said, it was also fascinating to observe that Qtrade Investor created a new top-deposit tier for individuals bringing over at least $2 million. Given that the bonus Qtrade Investor is offering for this deposit tier ($2,000) is the same amount that rival online brokerages are offering for deposits of $1 million, it seems as if this tier was a clever way in which to stand out against their competitors. While the dollar amount for the bonus isn’t higher, the deposit tier is, which makes Qtrade Investor appear to be larger than their bank-owned peers. Further, there are no other non-big-five-bank-owned brokerage competitors to Qtrade Investor at these higher-level deposit tiers.

Aside from extreme deposit tiers, it was also fascinating to observe which segments were sought after by specific brokerages.

For example, neither BMO InvestorLine nor TD Direct Investing saw value in putting offers into market for prospects with less than $15,000. Additionally, in the deposit range between $15,000 and $500,000, BMO InvestorLine is aggressively pricing their cash-back bonus. With the exception of the $25,000 tier (in which TD Direct Investing has the highest cash-back offer), BMO InvestorLine either has the highest amount or is tied for the highest amount of cash-back (at the $100,000 deposit tier with CIBC Investor’s Edge).

With several key names still on the sidelines heading into RRSP season, we suspect that there might be a few offers still to come to market; however, it is unlikely that the current prices will be significantly outbid across pricing tiers. Instead, if an online brokerage is contemplating launching a cash-back offer, it is more likely that they will stick to the average offering in that tier or find a way to combine cash-back with commission-free trades to have a more competitive offering.

Thankfully, the deals and promotions news for Canadian DIY investors is actually improving in 2021 – and that was coming off a strong close to 2020 in terms of offers.

Most of Canada’s largest online brokerages have the most popular offer type (cash-back) available, which makes this an opportune time for anyone considering opening an online investing or online trading account to get the maximum benefit for doing so. Of course, we’re curious what some smaller or lesser-known online brokers are going to do in terms of promotions, but from now through the end of February we expect the focus to be on marketing and advertising.

Mind the Generation Gap: User Experience for Online Investing in the Spotlight

There’s no question that the picture of the world we’re living in exposes divisions nearly everywhere we look. In the world of online investing, although it is not nearly as polarizing, there is a significant challenge for online brokerages to contend with: trying to balance providing the kind of user experience younger (read Millennial and now Gen Z) investors expect with that preferred by the existing (and likely higher-asset-bearing) clientele comprised of “boomers.”

Originally, this second story of the Roundup was going to focus on only one topic – either the myriad of recent legal woes experienced by Robinhood while the Weekly Roundup was on hiatus, or an article published by Rob Carrick in The Globe and Mail at the end of December explaining to baby boomers how they can manage their investments using online brokerage apps. In diving into the comments of the Carrick article, however, it became clearer that the story of Robinhood’s regulatory troubles and the realities of mobile apps for older clients represent two sides of a user-experience coin. Hence, they’re both the focus of this particular story.

Starting first with Robinhood’s journey back into the spotlight at the end of 2020. Without question, for most of 2020, it was an incredibly positive year for the balance sheet of the scrappy “zero-commission” online brokerage in the US. At the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic in North America, and for the better part of the first half of 2020, Robinhood saw its client base skyrocket. Stunningly, Robinhood added more new clients in that timeframe than many of their peers – in fact, arguably adding more clients than most of their competitors. In 2020, Robinhood added 3 million new customers to its ranks in the first four months alone, it grew to 13 million users, and it currently sits at a valuation of more than $20 billion (USD). What has helped Robinhood skyrocket in users over 25x in seven years has been a combination of zero-commission stock trading prices as well as a user experience designed around being mobile-first and appealing to younger investors. Clearly, they are onto something.

That growth, however, was not without missteps. Whether it was the botched roll-out of their “chequing account” or multiple trading platform outages, their hypergrowth in 2020 exposed many of the leaks in the system running at full tilt. There was the tragic news of the suicide of a young investor who, because of the way information was presented on his account page, believed he had lost over $700,000 (USD) from a failed trade; there were security breaches with client accounts getting drained; and there were outages in times of heightened volatility.

This past December, however, there were consecutive regulatory arrows slung at the online brokerage, first in the form of a $65 million (USD) settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for misleading customers about how Robinhood made money from selling order flow to high-frequency trading firms. Also, from securities regulators in Massachusetts in December, the charge that Robinhood resorted to “aggressive tactics to attract inexperienced investors, its use of gamification strategies to manipulate customers, and its failure to prevent frequent outages and disruptions on its trading platform.”

Given the meteoric success of Robinhood coming into 2020, and certainly throughout the year, it has clearly had an impact on the online brokerage industry as a whole in North America and is helping to shape the trading and user experience here in Canada as well. The emergence of Wealthsimple Trade, and their use of tactics similar to the ones that Robinhood used to fuel their own growth, is perhaps the most striking illustration of the Robinhood effect in Canada. More specifically, however, the issue at hand is the interface that users of online brokerages use in order to access their online investing experience, as well as the features they prioritize. Which brings us back to the article posted in The Globe and Mail at the end of December.

As part of the requisite research for the upcoming edition of the popular online brokerage rankings, Rob Carrick dove into the various Canadian online brokerage mobile apps to test-drive what the investing experience was like with all of them. While the article itself provides a useful overview of where mobile apps from Canadian online brokers shine and where they fall short, it was especially interesting to wander through the comments and reactions.

It was clear that “boomer investors” were the intended audience for this piece, and as such, the comments turned up what seemed to be significant resistance to the notion of trading on a mobile app – or to active trading in general – as well as the much greater pain point of the phone experience, which has nothing to do with the online interface and everything to do with customer service staff actually answering the phones at online brokerages in Canada. And therein lies the conundrum for online investing.

When it comes to designing features and capabilities, there has clearly been a shift away from cramming everything that could be done or said on an online investing interface into a more streamlined interface. That is a significant departure for almost a generation of online investors who’ve been accustomed to lots of menu options, features, and information on a landing page and who’ve generally not had a “mobile” interface to contend with, preferring to use a web-based interface instead.

By comparison, the “mobile first” approach to user interface design is highly constrained by the viewing area and behavioural inputs of a smartphone. To put it plainly, designers for phone interfaces need to decide what the most important functions and features to make available on mobile apps are.

Thus, it seems mobile apps reflect the collision course of the newest innovative design aesthetic – something that younger cohorts of investors and clients favour – and the functionality and user experience of managing wealth as a DIY investor. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for Canadian online brokerages.

From a business standpoint, the balancing act between building a technology and user environment for the future versus creating an environment that meets the needs of stakeholders today is what Canadian brokerages need to wrestle with. Based on the feedback accruing from Twitter and DIY investor forums, it appears that neither group – the newer investors nor the established and seasoned ones – is likely to find the perfect experience in one place.

The current slate of lawsuits and regulatory challenges facing Robinhood is likely going to put user experience for investors – especially in mobile environments – under the microscope. At what point does making investing more approachable, plain-language, and enjoyable cross the line into something bad? At what point is change necessary to enable more people to participate in wealth creation? The regulations have been formed, for better or for worse, based on historical notions of what investing ought to be, and, thus, to a degree, what it should look like.

Robinhood, along with the platforms and interfaces that emulate it, represents drastic change. Rules and established norms represent order. There is clearly a middle ground to be struck, but firms that seek to draw a line of best fit through different user groups, instead of building around those groups, risk being “forgettable.”

The real prize, it seems, is achieving more thoughtful customization at scale or accepting being very good at being niche, even if it does mean being “boring.”

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

From the Forums

Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

How do you end a relationship with a financial advisor and take control of your own investing? That’s the question on the mind of the investor in this post. Fellow Redditors offer their opinions.

New Year, New Room in Your TFSA

It’s the most wonderful time of the year for anyone with a Tax-Free Savings Account. DIY investors share their enthusiasm for making a lump-sum TFSA contribution as soon as possible each January.

Into the Close

The tragic and shocking events that unfolded in the US in the first few days of 2021 certainly do offer cause for pause. As the fallout from that surreal riot/coup attempt continues to play out, there are still scary headlines about COVID-19 here in Canada. It goes without saying that we could all stand to hear some better news – or at least see a steady stream of cute kittens as a palette cleanser. It’s all about finding the small wins at this point.

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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 4, 2021

2020 is now officially behind us. 2021 will be one of those years that most of us will not have any trouble remembering to write correctly, even in the first few weeks. And, speaking of easy to remember, this month and year are off to a memorable start. Once again cryptocurrency FOMO is sweeping through online investors, there’s a whole host of drama in the US in the lead-up to the inauguration, and RRSP season is now in full swing. Lace up your new sneakers because week one of the new-year news cycle is going to hit the ground running.

Keeping things manageable but exciting heading into week one is on our agenda for this Roundup. The first story of the new year is one that will definitely be worth diving into as we look at the huge volatility in deals action heading into 2021 and what online investors can expect in the weeks leading up to the RRSP contribution deadline. Up next are a series of fun announcements about new features to look forward to from Sparx Trading. We know time is a premium as everyone eases back into the workweek so we’ll keep this edition short and sweet. Happy New Year and enjoy!

Volatility Hits Online Brokerage Deals and Promotions

There’s no doubt that the end of 2020 couldn’t come fast enough. In the real world, it was a year of challenges and tragedies, and while there is no question it was a year that many want to leave behind, anyone looking at the “digital world” of equity markets or cryptocurrency would say there were at least some things that 2020 brought that were not bad.

For Canadian online brokerages, the start of 2021 is an interesting moment as it represents the convergence of several key factors that point to one heck of a year ahead. Already the latest deals and promotions activity forecasts a heavy dose of volatility (if not outright drama).

The first key factor to the start off the new year is that this is the time of year when Canadian discount brokerages kick into overdrive to get on the radar of online investors. The RRSP contribution deadline (March 1st) is behind the ramp-up of efforts to win over investors in the market for online investing accounts. And, DIY investors can expect to see even more advertising, offers, and other activities from asset-hungry online brokerages.

From a deals and promotions perspective, December was the busiest stretch since the start of 2020, signaling a return by online brokers to this popular tactic of attracting new clientele. Interestingly, the official start to 2021 (i.e. January 1st) was a holiday, and, as such, many of the offers that were scheduled to end on December 31st were left posted on the websites of several online brokers. It is unclear if the offers that were scheduled to expire at the end of December will actually be renewed or extended or if other offers will be launched to replace the outgoing ones. Suffice it to say, it will be a busy first week back to amend dates, update websites, or launch new offers. So, stock markets aside, we expect a bit of deal volatility to start the year.

Brokerages with offers that expired at the end of December include National Bank Direct Brokerage, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, and Virtual Brokers. It would be hard to imagine a scenario in which all of these online brokerages stay on the sidelines for the duration of RRSP season, especially considering that all of the other major bank-owned online brokers have live offers and that, as of mid-December, Qtrade Investor jumped into the promotions pool with a new cash-back offer as well.

The second key factor that is bound to play a role in DIY investor demand for online trading access harkens back to the start of 2019. Similar to what took place two years ago, there’s been a huge run-up in the price of cryptocurrencies to start the year. What’s also on the menu this year (akin to the cannabis push in 2019) are rumblings of a new push into psychedelics. These “hot” new investor stories are compounded by enormous gains from tech companies benefitting from the work-from-home boom. The takeaway: Retail investor sentiment to jump into fast money seems to be driving markets to very frothy levels.

For Canadian online brokerages this a very bullish signal – something that could factor into either the scale or the duration of offers that might yet still come to market. Note that during the height of the market volatility here in mid-2020, many online brokerages pulled their deals altogether, with retail investor interest being sufficiently strong to render offering promotions and incentives unnecessary. We believe, however, that RRSP season is too tempting an opportunity to pass up, in spite of the retail investor sentiment, suggesting more offers to come from online brokerages this January. Also coming: increased urgency to open accounts and the accompanying frustration to get started right away.

Given the run-up in cryptocurrency prices, there is one Canadian online brokerage that stands to benefit disproportionately compared to its peers: Wealthsimple Trade.

Heading into the end of the year, we saw them launch a very short and creatively packaged cash-back promotion. Tearing a page out of the US online brokerage Robinhood’s playbook, Wealthsimple Trade pitched a “free stock” promotion that offered new users the equivalent dollar value to certain popular stocks traded on Wealthsimple Trade. The promotion ran for just about a month, and so it is curious from a timing standpoint as to what could be coming next for this online broker. Nonetheless, they are the only Canadian online brokerage to offer up direct cryptocurrency (Bitcoin and Ethereum) trading – something that would undoubtedly attract retail investor interest at this point. For that reason, there is a serious tailwind behind Wealthsimple Trade until (or if) cryptocurrency prices turn.

With so much happening in just the first week, we’ll be keeping our eyes on the deals activity among Canadian online brokerages throughout the month. There’s almost certainly going to be additional promotions updates coming and, if 2020 has taught us anything, probably a surprise or two before the month is over.

Announcements From SparxTrading.com

One of the fun things that the start of a new year affords us the opportunity to do is to change things up just a bit. Normally, we’d recap the latest developments in this section, but seeing as how we’re coming off a bit of a quiet spell in December (not counting the fact that Robinhood is in the crosshairs of financial regulators in the US), we’re going to take the opportunity to talk about a few big developments taking place at Sparx Trading.

Relaunching of Our Newsletter

Elon Musk won’t be the only one sharing epic launches in 2021. Sparx will also be launching a few big items, although ours will be into cyberspace and way less boring (pun intended).

The first of these will be an epic reboot of the SparxTrading.com newsletter. After being dormant for more than a few years, the newsletter is being completely remade and will feature a handy way for you to stay on top of the latest online brokerage news – and especially the Weekly Roundups. The newsletter is going to be published monthly and will feature quick recaps of the biggest stories across the online investing space over the previous month as well as any important updates taking place on SparxTrading.com (of which there will be more than a few!). Look for the first edition to launch in mid-January, and sign up using the following link:

Even More Perspectives on 2021

We’re thrilled with our latest Look Back / Look Ahead edition. Not only does it give readers a unique window into the world of the Canadian online brokerage industry during the pandemic – from the vantage point of those in charge of leading those brokerages – but it also provides previews on what’s coming up next in 2021.

Online brokerages, however, aren’t the only voices that have a unique and influential impact on how DIY investors navigate online investing. We’re excited to be launching a follow-up to Look Back / Look Ahead that features some of the most influential reviewers in the Canadian online brokerage landscape.

This exciting new edition is coming up at the end of January so be sure to follow us on one of our social media handles (like Twitter) for a first look. In the meantime, you can review the online brokerage edition of Look Back / Look Ahead.

A Shiny New Website

This one we’ve telegraphed already, but we’re getting close to launch and are really excited to be testing out features on the new SparxTrading.com website. A lot has changed about the online brokerage world since we started Sparx Trading, and much has also changed about the team behind the scenes at Sparx. With more hands on deck, and even more excitement about where we can take things, it was only fitting that we tackle something more ambitious. So, fingers crossed, we’re good to launch by the end of January, and users will be able to research online brokerages even faster, look for deals and promotions more intelligently, and track the latest developments at the online brokerages they’re most interested in more conveniently.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this first-of-2021 edition of the Weekly Roundup. With cryptocurrency mooning and stocks in rally mode to start the year, there’s a welcome dose of green amidst some of the negative news still confronting us regarding COVID-19. Clearly, there’s a lot to take in for the week so best of luck catching up, and we look forward to a wild month and year ahead. Happy New Year again, and stay healthy and profitable!

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Discount Brokerage Deals & Promotions – January 2021

*Update: January 8* Cheers to 2021! While 2020 marked a year full of surprise and change – both inside and outside the DIY investing space – we believe it is safe to say we are all ready for a fresh start. To help you ring in the new year and celebrate in (financial) style, Sparx Trading has rounded up the latest deals and promotions from Canadian discount brokerages. 

With 2021 officially here, RRSP season is now officially in full swing. Whether it is a personal New Year’s resolution of yours or not, make sure you do not fall victim to procrastination this year. The deadline for contribution to RRSPs to count for the 2020 tax year is March 1st, 2021.

Scroll on to learn more about all the current online brokerage deals and promotions for January – including a new offering and a few that are set to expire at the very start of the month.

As always, we will continue to monitor the deals space and provide updates on new discount brokerage developments, so make sure you check back throughout the month. In the meantime, if you discover any new deals that you believe would be of interest to fellow DIY investors, please let us know in the comments below. 

Expired Deals

The stroke of midnight not only signified the beginning of a new year, but it also signified the end of several online brokerage deals. Optimistically, we expect that after the holiday, various online brokerages will be updating their sites and long-standing offers which technically happened to expire might be given a new lease on life. That said, here’s what officially expired as of January 1st, 2021.

  • National Bank Direct Brokerage’s 100 free online trades 
  • Questrade’s 5 commission-free trades and month-long commission-free trades/advanced data (now back)
  • RBC Direct Investing’s 25 commission-free trades
  • Virtual Brokers’ “No Minimum 2020” promotions all expired on December 31st, 2020

During the month of December, we also saw a rather creative cash back offer from Wealthsimple Trade quietly expire.

Looking ahead, three promotions are scheduled to expire on January 5th, 2021: BMO SmartFolio’s cash back promotion, BMO InvestorLine’s refer-a-friend campaign, and BMO InvestorLine’s Fall 2020 cash back campaign. See tables below for full promotion details and eligibility requirements.

Extended Deals

*Update: Jan. 8 – Questrade’s promotion section is now up to date as their entry level five commission-free trade offer makes a comeback. Also back, is the 30 days of unlimited commission-free stock and option trades in the form of commission rebates, plus one free month of an advanced data package, when opening a new account. Both deals will expire on December 31st. See the full terms and conditions in the tables below.*

New Deals

*Update: Jan. 8 – RBC Direct Investing has launched a new cash back promotion that will run until the spring. Set to expire on March 31st, this new deal offers cash back and commission-free trades to investors who open a new account and transfer funds from a non-RBC investment account to their new account. See the table below for full terms and eligibility details.

BMO InvestorLine has also launched a new cash back promotional offer which is set to expire on March 2, 2020. This new promo is a tiered promotion and qualifying deposit levels start at $15,000. Scroll down to see the full promotion terms and conditions.*

Though not technically new, we are adding the Wealthsimple Trade referral promotion to our coverage. DIY investors can receive cash towards their next trade each time a new client signs up for an account using their referral link. For more details, including eligibility requirements, please see the table below. 

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
  6. Offers for Young Investors

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
Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by March 31, 2021 and fund it with at least A) $5,000; B) $25,000; C) $50,000; D) $100,000; E) $250,000; F) $500,000 or G) $1M+ by May 31, 2021 and you may receive a cash back of A) $50; B) $100; C) $200; D) $300; E) $500; F) $1,000 or G) $2,000; plus 10 free trades to be used by August 31, 2021. The fund must be from a non-RBC investment account. Use promo code WCMP2 during account opening and be sure to review the full Terms and Conditions. A) $5,000 B) $25,000 C) $50,000 D) $100,000 E) $250,000 F) $500,000 G) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $50 B) $100 C) $200 D) $300 E) $500 F) $1,000 G) $2,000 Plus 10 free trades Free trades must be used by August 31, 2021. Cash Rebate and Free Trades March 31, 2021
Scotia iTrade Scotia iTRADE is offering two choices for new investors who open accounts before March 1, 2021 and fund it with at least A) $5,000; B) $10,000; C) $25,000; D) $50,000; E) $100,000; F) $250,000; G) $500,000 or H) $1M+: Option 1: you can use promo code C21 to receive cash reward of A) $25; B) $50; C) $100; D) $200; E) $400; F) $750; G) $1,000 or H) $1,500; plus a discounted commission of $6.99 per trade until June 30, 2021. Option 2: Use promo code FT21 and you may be eligible for A) 10; B) 20; C) 50; D) 100; E) 200; F) 300; G) 400 or H) 500 free trades to use for 90 days after the account is funded. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $5,000 B) $10,000 C) $25,000 D) $50,000 E) $100,000 F) $250,000 G) $500,000 H) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $25 B) $50 C) $100 D) $200 E) $400 F) $750 G) $1,000 H) $1,500 or Free Trades: A) 10 B) 20 C) 50 D) 100 E) 200 F) 300 G) 400 H) 500 Free Trades: 90 days Scotia iTRADE’s Cash Back or Free Trade Offer March 1, 2021
Fund your new or existing CIBC Investor’s Edge account before March 2, 2021 with at least A) $10,000; B) 25,000; C) $50,000; D) $100,000; E) $500,000 or F) $1M+ and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $50; B) $100; C) $200; D) $500; E) $1,000 or F) $2,000. To qualify, the fund must be from outside CIBC. No promo code required. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $10,000 B) 25,000 C) $50,000 D) $100,000 E) $500,000 F) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $50 B) $100 C) $200 D) $500 E) $1,000 F) $2,000 Program Page March 2, 2021
BMO InvestorLine Open a new qualifying account at BMO InvestorLine with new assets worth at least A) $15,000; B) $50,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000; E) $500,000 or F)$1M+, and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $150; B) $250; C) $500; D) $800; E) $1,000 or F) $2,000. Use promo code SDCASH2000 when registering to qualify. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. A) $15,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 D) $250,000 E) $500,000 F) $1M+ Cash Back: A) $150 B) $250 C) $500 D) $800 E) $1,000 F) $2,000 Winter 2021 Cashback Campaign March 2, 2021
Open a new TD Direct Investing account by March 1, 2021 with promo code INVESTNOW and fund it with new assets worth at least A) $15,000; B) $25,000; C) $100,000; D) $250,000 or E) $500,000, and you may be eligible to receive a cash back reward of up to A) $100; B) $200; C) $300; D) $500 or E) $1,000. The fund must be deposited to the account by April 30, 2021 and at least one trade is placed by June 30, 2021. In addition, you may also be eligible for another $100 cash reward by setting up a Monthly Contribution Plan (min. $100 per month) with the first contribution occur before April 30, 2021. The maximum reward one could receive is $1,100. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $15,000 B) $25,000 C) $100,000 D) $250,000 E) $500,000 Cash Back: A) $100 B) $200 C) $300 D) $500 E) $1,000 TD Direct Investing Cash Back Promotion March 1, 2021
New clients who open and fund a new Qtrade Investor account before March 01, 2021 with at least A) $25,000; B) 50,000; C) $100,000; D) $500,000; E) $1M or F) $2M+ may be eligible to receive a pre-paid Visa gift card of up to A) $50; B) $100; C) $250; D) $800; E) $1,500 or F) $2,000. Only the first 500 customers are eligible. Please use promo code VISA2K. See terms and conditions for full details. A) $25,000 B) $50,000 C) $100,000 D) $500,000 E) $1M F) $2M+ Cash Reward: A) $50 B) $100 C) $250 D) $800 E) $1,500 F) $2,000 Up to $2,000 Visa Gift Card Offer March 1, 2021
New accounts opened between Jun 22 and Dec 31, 2020 will be awarded 100 free online trades in one year. This promotion applies to new and existing NBDB clients who use the code “FREE2020” to open new accounts. There’s no minimum funding requirement, however some other restrictions may apply. $0 100 Free Trades 1 year Please refer to the full details of the deal. December 31, 2020
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, 2021
Open a new RBC Direct Investing account by December 31, 2020 and fund it with at least $5,000 by March 5, 2021 and you will receive commission rebates for 25 trades that occur within 1 year of account opening. Be sure to use promo code NTBW2 during account opening. You will be charged regular commissions on the trading date, and the rebate will be deposited back into your account after 3-5 business days. If you are an existing customer to RBC DI, the type of the new account being opened must be different from the account types that you current have. $5,000 25 commission-free trades for a year 1 year 25 commission-free trades December 31, 2020
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, 2021

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Jan. 10, 2021 18:00PT

Referral Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Incentive Structure Time Limit to Use Commission/Cash Offer Deposit Details Link Deadline
Refer a friend to Questrade and when they open an account you receive $25 cash back and they receive either A) $25; B) $50; C) $75; D) $100; or E) $250 depending on the amount deposited amount. Enter code: 476104302388759 during account sign up to qualify. Be sure to read the terms and conditions for eligibility and additional bonus payment structure and minimum balance requirements. A) $1,000 B) $10,000 C) $25,000 D) $50,000 E) $100,000+ $25 cash back (for referrer per referral; $50 bonus cash back for every 3rd referral) For referred individuals: A) $25 cash back B) $50 cash back C) $75 cash back D) $100 cash back E) $250 cash back Cash deposited into Questrade billing account within 7 days after funding period ends (90 days) Refer a friend terms and conditions Code Number: 476104302388759 none
Scotia iTrade If you refer a friend/family member who is not already a Scotia iTRADE account holder to them, both you and your friend get a bonus of either cash or free trades. You have to use the referral form to pass along your info as well as your friend/family members’ contact info in order to qualify. There are lots of details/conditions to this deal so be sure to read the details link. A) $10,000 B) $50,000+ A) You(referrer): $50 or 10 free trades; Your “Friend”: $50 or 10 free trades (max total value:$99.90) B) You(referrer): $100 cash or 50 free trades; Your “Friend”: $100 cash or 50 free trades (max total value: $499.50) 60 days Refer A Friend to Scotia iTrade tbd
You may receive $10 cash incentive for each new client that you refer to Wealthsimple Trade. They must use your unique referral link during account opening and make a trade value of at least $100. The referred friend will also get $10. $100 You and the referred friend will each get $10. n/a Referring a Friend to Wealthsimple Trade 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
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 6, 2022

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Jan. 10, 2021 18:00PT

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 none
Transfer $15,000 or more to RBC Direct Investing and they will pay up to $200 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 Transfer Fee Promo 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
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

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 $10,000 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 $10,000 Disnat 1% Commission Credit Promo January 8, 2020
Last Updated: Jan. 01, 2021 10:00PT

Other Promotions

Company Brief Description Minimum Deposit Amount Required Details Link Deadline
The minimum commission per equity trade ($1.99) is waived for new accounts from account opening till December 31, 2020. As a result, your commission is just 1¢/share (max $7.99). However, this offer does not apply to Odd Lot orders (i.e. orders with quantity less than 100 shares if price >= $1 or price < $0.10; or less than 500 shares if price in the $0.10 – $0.99 range). Please be reminded that at Virtual Brokers ETFs are always free to buy. $0 No Minimum 2020 – Terms & Conditions December 31, 2020
Submit your information via the Hardbacon website to be referred to National Bank Direct Brokerage. Open and fund a qualifying account and you may receive up to 200 commission-free trades and discounted trading commissions. Be sure to read full terms and conditions. n/a Hardbacon Free Trade Promo none
Open a new Non-Registered trading account and fund it with at least $100 by December 18, 2020 and you may receive a random cash bonus ranging from $1 to $4,500. The cash bonus amount will be equivalent to the value of one of the fifteen stocks that have been selected by Wealthsimple Trade for this program. Please refer to the Terms and Conditions for more details. $100 Wealthsimple Trade Free Stock Promotion December 18, 2020
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
Be one of the first 100 clients to open and fund an account with a minimum of $10,000 at Qtrade Investor using the promo code TRADE695 and you may be eligible for 100 trades at a preferred commission rate of $6.95 for 6 months. See terms and conditions for more details. $10,000 100 Discounted Commission Trades March 1, 2020

Expired Offers

Last Updated: Jan. 01, 2021 22:00 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 a new SmartFolio account and fund it with at least $1,000 and you could receive 0.5% cash back up to $1,000. Use promo code SFJAN1000 when opening a new account. See terms and conditions for full details. This offer is limited to new SmartFolio clients only, and can be combined with the refer-a-friend promotion. $1,000 0.5% cash back to a maximum of $1,000. SFJAN1000 March 2, 2021 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: Jan. 08, 2021 10:00PT

Offers for Young Investors

Brokerage Offer Type Eligible Age Range / Client Segment Offer Description Min. Deposit Expiry Date Link
Student pricing Clients with CIBC Smart™ Account for students $5.95 per trade and zero annual account fees not required None CIBC Student Pricing
[email protected] 18-30 18-30 years old Benefits: * 5 free transactions (Minimum deposit of $1,000 required) * No inactivity fees * No asset minimum to maintain for free registered accounts * Exclusive events * Disnat Mobile App $1,000 None [email protected] 18-30
Offers for professionals & students Students in selected fields of study Professionals and students in the below fields can benefit from a reduced pricing structure: * Engineering students * Legal, accounting and business students * Healthcare students * Health sciences students * Nursing students Benefits: * $5.95 commission on equities * $0 commission on ETFs * $0 annual administration fee not required None NBDB Student Pricing
Young investors offer 18-30 years old Accounts holders who are 30 years old or younger are offered 10 free trades each year. After the free transactions, a commission rate of $4.95 per transaction will be applied (which is just half of the regular price). not required None Young Investor Offer
Young investor pricing 18-30 years old Benefits: * $7.75 commissions for stock and ETF trades * No account minimums * No quarterly admin fees min. $50 a month through pre-authorized contributions. None Young Investor Pricing
Waiver of account maintenance fee Clients who have RBC Student account, currently or in the past 5 years. The Maintenance Fee ($25 per quarter) is waived, regardless of the account balance. not required None Zero Account Management Fee
Young investors offer Clients 26 years old and under Low activity account administration fee and the RSP account administration fee are waived. not required None Young Investors Offer
Waiver of account administration fee Clients younger than 26 years old The account administration fee ($24.95 per quarter) is waived. not required None $0 Account Administration Fee
Last Updated: Jan. 01, 2021 10:00PT