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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 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, 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, 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. 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, 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


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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