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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – April 26, 2021

It’s been a week of stranger things. Starting with the Federal budget with numbers so staggering they seem like they’re from the Upside Down, and ending with an announcement that Elon Musk would host Saturday Night Live, Glenn Close dancing to “Da Butt” at the Oscars, and a beaver taking down internet and cell phone service. All of this underscores just how tricky trying to figure out what’s coming next can be, except it seems, in the world of online brokerages.

In this edition of the Weekly Roundup, we dive into the hazy cloud of online forum chatter to highlight some interesting developments coming soon to Canada’s online brokerage landscape from two very popular players. Also, we’ve got updates on the latest activities here at Sparx Trading that will help readers stay engaged and smiling. Finally, we close out the Roundup with more interesting conversations from the online forums.

The Chatters that Matter

Every so often, it’s fun to spill the tea.

Usually, when we talk about the latest features and developments at Canadian online brokerages, it’s in reference to things that have already launched or are well on their way to launching.

The reason is that we want to be able to attribute the story back to a reasonable source. Rumours are interesting, but we like to do our due diligence and provide citations or links to sources wherever possible, so that others can validate our work.

Of course, between the official statements that come via press releases and the conjecture from different social media and forum users, there is the “grey zone” of chatter that comes from official social media or investor forum accounts owned by online brokerages. Sometimes, online brokerages will let slip some interesting details and updates in response to user queries, and this past month we spotted two noteworthy features to discuss.

Questrade to Launch a New Mobile Trading App Later This Year

With so many new investors jumping into online trading since early last year, it’s no secret that online brokerages are now focusing more of their attention on this segment of investor. Typically younger and more tech savvy, newer online investors also demand best-in-class digital experiences, which for online brokerages, means having a very strong mobile trading user experience.

Earlier this month on reddit, a user started this thread highlighting their angst about Questrade’s current mobile trading experience. Intriguingly, this thread touched off quite a bit of discussion around the mobile trading app at Questrade and whether it cuts the mustard as an online trading app.

Here are some of the critical things that people said:

“Who else is sick of the spinning wheel on Questrade app? Anytime you switch to other apps and come back to Q it shows spinning wheel. Looks like Questrade is still using mom and pops app developer or platform.”

sick and tired of the spinning wheel of you’re not going to trade today.”

Yeah… the “app” is terrible. I mainly trade on my computer because of it, but it would be great to be able to trade from phone if I’m away from my computer without the spinning black wheel and having to constantly log back in. It would be a dream for a new app to come out. Wealthsimple has Questrade majorly beat in this category.

Given there is no one clear leader across the board when it comes to online investing in Canada, DIY investors have to make some tradeoffs when it comes to features at different brokerages. It’s not uncommon for online investors to have multiple online trading accounts with different online brokers specifically to access certain features (e.g. US trading).

It is therefore interesting to learn from a user associated with Questrade’s reddit account that this online brokerage is planning on launching a new and improved mobile trading app later this year.

Also on deck for the year ahead are improved research tools.

Although many Canadian online brokerages are continuously hard at work with new features and enhancements, there’s often a gap between what they’re doing and what they’re prepared to talk about. The one exception to this appears to be Wealthsimple Trade (see below for more details), who publishes their feature request directory along with how many votes each feature receives.

With Canada gradually achieving increased vaccinations (11+ million Canadians have had at least one vaccine shot at the time of publication), and the US already administering over 225 million vaccine shots, with almost 95 million people fully vaccinated, economic activity (and therefore stock market activity) is pointing towards recovery.

What that could mean is that the trend that has caused so many investors to be able to have the time to spend focusing on the markets is coming to an end. Users simply cannot pay attention to their jobs full time and maintain the pace of active investing. Further, without significant swings in volatility, active traders will also likely step back.

Canada, because of this lag in vaccinations, is likely to see online investing from home continue for longer than it will in the US. That said, once things start opening up again, being able to monitor and place trades on the go will become more important. Reliability (especially uptime and speed) is going to be paramount for anyone who’s considering very actively investing.

Although Questrade is already telegraphing improvements to its mobile trading app experience later this year, in reality, the macro picture of economic recovery and demographics of new traders likely suggests that other online brokerages in Canada are also thinking about, if not working on, improving their own mobile experiences.

That said, by letting people know that they are working on this new feature and targeting a launch later this year, Questrade is one brokerage that Canadian DIY investors won’t be guessing about for much longer when it comes to mobile trading.

Wealthsimple Trade Hints at USD Trading Accounts “Coming Soon”

There’s no doubt that Wealthsimple Trade has made significant strides in becoming a popular choice among cost-sensitive online investors. With their zero-commission trading offer, at least for Canadian securities, online investors have flocked to this online brokerage en masse.

Despite all the things people typically cite (beyond just the price) that they enjoy about Wealthsimple Trade, there are clear concerns and gripes that also accompany DIY investor conversations about this online brokerage. In an earlier Weekly Roundup, we covered what people don’t like about Wealthsimple Trade in some detail.

Among the list of things that users wanted to see changed at Wealthsimple Trade is having US dollar-denominated trading accounts. The reason: foreign exchange fees. Currently, Wealthsimple Trade charges 1.5% per transaction to convert from CAD to USD (and vice versa).

Earlier this month, one user on reddit posted a screenshot of a support interaction in which Wealthsimple stated that they are planning to support USD trading in “the near future” – potentially as part of their new suite of premium features.

This response from Wealthsimple’s client support was especially interesting given that Wealthsimple Trade publishes a list of roadmapped features (along with the votes in favour of those features). Specifically, US dollar accounts has been on the requested feature board for two years, and has received 282 votes to date (at the time of publication). Unlike other features which have tags to indicate that they are either planned or launched, the US dollar accounts feature isn’t tagged as being planned.

Given the significant response on reddit to this feature, and that (many) users are discussing what they would be prepared to pay per month to have this feature, this suggests that even if it goes live as part of the newly launched Wealthsimple Trade premium program, it could see considerable interest.

There are many questions about how USD accounts at Wealthsimple Trade would work, and often the devil is in the details. The most important detail for now, though, is when exactly this feature will go live.

Updates from Sparx Trading

We’re doing it for the ‘gram

What do Die Hard and the Sound of Music have in common? The answer is on the newly launched Instagram page.

We’re firm believers in having fun between the YOLOs & FOMOs of every day stock market conversations. So, for a lighter side of what we’re celebrating and working on at, be sure to follow @sparxtrading and let us know if you have any requests to see DIY investor bulls & bears having some fun in everyday life.

Check Out Our Newsletter

The Weekly Roundup is an awesome way to kick off your week, however, there are times when it’s maybe too hard to tune in to all of the interesting things taking place across the online brokerage space.

Cue the Sparx Trading newsletter!

The latest edition of our newsletter is now live, and it features quick recaps of the big stories shaping the world of online investing.

If you’re looking for something that feels even more awesome than starting your week with the Roundup, the newsletter is it!

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From the Forums

Dialed into Service

The last year has presented a real challenge to online brokerages and DIY investors alike in terms of communicating by phone. One DIY investor had enough, and was compelled to make a change of online brokerage based on needing to have access to phone support. Read what other DIY investors had to say in this post on the Financial Wisdom Forum.

Broken Records

One DIY investor new to the world of trading online found out that keeping detailed records of online trading is only half the battle. Reporting those trades also presents a challenge. Find out what tips fellow DIY investors offered to help ease the angst of filing trade information.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on another edition of the Roundup. It’s a mixed bag of news – hope for vaccinations and also stories of things continuing to worsen before they get better, or weirder. Markets, however, are positioning for better days ahead, so if there’s a beacon of positive news that seems to be it. Stay safe & profitable in the week ahead!