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Look Back / Look Ahead: A Review of Canadian Online Brokerages in 2021 & Preview of 2022

RBC Direct Investing

By Lori Darlington, President & CEO RBC Direct Investing

Lori Darlington, President & CEO RBC Direct Investing

How was 2021?

How has the surge in interest in online investing impacted your firm?

At RBC Direct Investing, a record number of new clients joined us in 2021, many under the age of 35.  With this generational shift, we’re seeing greater adoption of our mobile platform, with over 25% of trades placed on mobile.

Any changes in pricing, new features or key milestones in 2021?

In the past year, we’ve optimized the experience across all of our digital platforms. 

Trading Dashboard:

In June, we launched a new Trading Dashboard. This completely customizable, web-based dashboard is powered by FactSet, a global provider of integrated financial information, analytical applications, and industry-leading services. The dashboard offers personalized views of markets with widgets for news, research, advanced charting, and more, enabling investors to monitor investments and quickly spot and act on trading opportunities. Featuring real-time quotes1, it is free for every client.


We brought many of the design, navigation, and functional enhancements made to the online site in 2020 into mobile this year, including free Level 2 quotes on TSX and TSX-V. By improving filtering on Order Status and Account History pages, and adding margin excess balance to the Account Holdings page, we reduced the need to scroll – all based on client feedback. 

Online Investing Site:

On the Detailed Quote page, we introduced free real-time streaming quotes2 and added Value Analyzer, Trading Central’s interactive forecast tool for fair value, putting powerful information right at clients’ fingertips. The Portfolio Analyzer tool was refreshed to allow account grouping, making it easier to get a holistic look at asset mix and compare a portfolio to RBC Global Asset Management investor profiles.

What motivated these changes and what does it mean to clients and the firm?

We want all of our clients to be comfortable and confident trading across our digital platforms. This means listening to feedback and responding to continually improve the experience.

What is your team most proud of accomplishing this past year? 

We are proud of the ways we are empowering self-directed investors to thrive, including working to ensure that all platforms are accessible for clients with visual, auditory, or mobility impairments.  It also means providing important investor education content in our Investing Academy and Inspired Investor online magazine. Investing Academy articles like “8 Essential Direct Investing Self-Serve Tools, Tips and Resources enable clients to grow their knowledge and become more comfortable and confident making investment decisions using the resources and tools we provide.  

Looking Forward to 2022

What will you be focusing on for 2022 and what are you most excited about?

In 2022, we will continue to listen to our clients and introduce features to improve the trading experience. With the influx of younger investors, we are taking the time to understand their preferences. We’ve commissioned IPSOS to conduct a survey of younger self-directed investors to gain deeper insights on why they’ve chosen self-directed investing, and what they want to learn about. The findings will inform and shape the investor education we build out over 2022. 

What features are coming soon or in progress?

Self-directed investors want to be independent, and our “self-serve” options are valuable in saving time and effort. We’ll continue to provide helpful content in our Investing Academy, like the popular “8 Essential Direct Investing Self-Serve Tools, Tips and Resources.”  

We have a digital onboarding journey for new TFSA account holders that provides timely and relevant information and will look to extend that type of personalized communication throughout 2022. 

What trends or important features do you think self-directed investors will be interested in this year?

With the influx of younger investors, we see there’s greater interest in our learning resources. For example, our “Getting Started” guide and “How To” videos are popular among new clients. Our Inspired Investor online magazine – free to all clients – includes a “Question of the Week” feature based on what our Contact Centre colleagues are hearing from clients. It’s a great way to respond to frequently asked questions as they surface.

We also know that investors want to learn from each other. Our Investing Truths series features young adults sharing their investing journeys – a great way to connect with and learn from others.

What are your views on commission-free trading in Canada?

We know that pricing is an important consideration when choosing an online brokerage. For that reason, we continually review our commissions and fees structure – as well as the services, resources, and tools we provide – and we believe it delivers high value to our clients. We are monitoring industry pricing to ensure we continue to deliver a competitive investing experience.