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Sparx Trading Featured on ETF Market Insights to Discuss Online Brokerage Account Considerations

Sparx Trading Co-Founder Hamish Khamisa was recently a guest on ETF Market Insights, a weekly webinar for Canadian self-directed investors hosted by Danielle Neziol from BMO ETFs. 

In this special edition of ETF Market Insights, “Spring Into ETF Investing,” Hamish joined guest host, Saijal Patel from Strictly Money, and fellow guest, Ellen Roseman from Canadian Money Saver, to discuss what to consider before opening an online brokerage account, the differences between robo advisors and DIY investing, and more! 

Here’s an overview of this episode of ETF Market Insights, “Getting Started with ETF Investing – Opening an Account and Making your First Trade”:

42:25 – Yes You Can!

43:25 – Introductions

44:00 – Choosing a Direct Broker

47:30 – Fees

50:25 – Educational Resources

53:40 – Robo Advisors

55:45 – Changing your Direct Broker

59:40 – Comparing Direct Brokers

1:03:09 – RRSPs & TFSAs

1:07:50 – Using ETFs

1:10:50 – ETF Key Information

1:12:41 – Outro

Watch the episode here.

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Sparx Trading Featured on Strictly Money to Discuss Self-Directed Investing

Strictly Money host Saijal Patel and Sparx Trading Co-Founder Hamish Khamisa.

Sparx Trading Co-Founder Hamish Khamisa was recently a guest on Strictly Money, a segment of The News Forum that discusses the financial issues affecting Canadians today. In this episode, host Saijal Patel interviewed Hamish about his thoughts on various topics related to self-directed investing, including online brokerage fees, current trends, and more!

Here’s an overview of what Saijal and Hamish discuss in this episode of Strictly Money:

00:00 – Introduction

00:35 – What self-directed investors should consider before opening an account

01:15 – Thoughts on platforms moving away from charging commissions

02:20 – Minimum balance fees and how big they are

03:05 – How foreign exchange fees work

03:50 – What inactive charge fees are and accounts they affect

04:45 – What is a transfer fee, and how it works

05:50 – Screener tools and their value

06:50 – Are self-directed platforms for everyone?

07:20 – Evaluating value of robo-advisors

08:10 – How self-directed investment platforms may evolve and stay competitive

09:05 – Trading on mobile and potential trends 

09:40 – Security and online brokerages

About Hamish Khamisa:

Hamish Khamisa is the Co-Founder of, a website built to provide transparent and trustworthy information about the world of self-directed investing. Since 2011, Sparx Trading has helped investors in the industry stay up to date on the latest features, services, and trends offered by online brokerages. In addition to leading Sparx Trading, Hamish is the President and Chief Digital Officer of Sparx Publishing Group, a BC-based digital marketing agency with a mission to create and amplify content that helps make the world better

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

If there’s one thing that all self-directed investors have in common, it’s that they pay attention to trends. This year, we officially crossed the 10-year mark at Sparx Trading, and if there’s one thing that we can speak to after a decade’s worth of data and analysis, it’s being able to spot trends in the Canadian online brokerage industry. 

Taking stock (pun intended) of the past year and a half, it’s fair to say that we’re living through events unlike anything we’ve ever witnessed before. And yet, one of the most striking features of the Canadian online brokerage industry, even in the face of such dramatic events, is the ability of the Canadian market to sustain firms that move at paradoxically different speeds when it comes to innovation. That world, however, is about to change. 

In this fifth iteration of the Look Back / Look Ahead magazine, it’s abundantly clear that the Canadian self-directed investing industry sits at the cusp of a major transformation. 

From the launch of commission-free trading by National Bank Direct Brokerage, to a structural shift in demographics of investors who entered the online trading world, 2021 was a year that online brokerage executives told us challenged them to establish a new normal when it comes to delivering outstanding experiences for Canadian self-directed investors. 

Drastic change was also prevalent at this year. Our choice to completely overhaul our website and lean into refining our brand identity appears to be in line with where leaders in the industry are as well. And we, too, have some incredibly ambitious projects slated for the next year that we can’t wait to share more about, especially the launch of Sparx Trading Pro.

After 10 years of consistently producing content on the Canadian online brokerage landscape, it’s remarkable to reflect on the breadth of audience that we serve. 

Analysts, journalists, executives, enthusiasts, and investors turn to Sparx Trading for in-depth insights and newsworthy developments, as well as puns, gifs, and fun artwork. In today’s parlance, we’ve helped to democratize online investing by providing industry-grade content and insights to all. Today, investors have more technology, platforms, products, providers, and pricing options than they have ever had before, which means our place in the DIY investor ecosystem is even more important today than it was a decade ago when we first launched. 

On behalf of the exceptionally talented Sparx team, I would like to thank our loyal readers, supporters, and, especially, the online brokerage community for 10 years of wonderful memories, and for keeping things interesting. 

Where the next 10 years takes us all, we’re not sure. But we’re excited all the same, especially if where we’re going next won’t need roads. See you in the future!

Click below to learn more about what each individual online brokerage had to say about 2021 and what’s coming up in 2022:

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Mark to Market: The “Limit Buy” Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of Mark to Market, the comic where we break down complicated market concepts into easy to understand comics. 

In part 1 of this chapter, Mark Tradewell, a fictional DIY investor, decided to invest some of his funds in his Tax Free Savings Account into shares of the ABC company. When he got to the market, however, he encountered three different kinds of price information: a bid price, an ask price, and a last price. Now that Mark has figured out what those prices mean, he’s ready to invest. But how?

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. Each chapter 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 3.

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Look Back Look Ahead: Questrade Q&A

What can beginner investors expect from your firm?
Helping Canadians become confident investors is what we do every day. And it’s important not only to serve their needs today but also to teach them more about the markets as things happen.

When COVID-19 hit, we sent out resources to help customers make sense of the markets. This investing series was focused on how markets historically rebound after pullbacks, to help arm our customers with knowledge to navigate through the uncertainty. We regularly communicated with customers throughout the pandemic, giving updates on our operations and the market, so they can feel confident that we are here for them and they are not alone.

We have also partnered with Passiv, a portfolio-rebalancing tool, to make it even easier for customers to manage their investments. Anyone with a Questrade account receives a free subscription to Passiv Elite, their highest-tier plan.

All customers have access to real-time quotes and fast trade executions.

And, of course, new investors can enjoy all this knowing that they can reach out to our award-winning customer service if they ever have any questions.

What can active investors expect from your firm?
Unlike at many other brokers, all Questrade customers can access all of our platforms absolutely free, whether you’re trading on a web-based browser, on a mobile app or using IQ Edge, our advanced desktop platform. 

Every year we’re adding more and more features focused on more-active investors, and 2020 was no exception.

This year we completely upgraded the market data on the platform by partnering with Benzinga, to give investors an abundance of news and analyst commentary on the stocks they’re following.

Along with Benzinga, we added an entirely new events calendar, so investors can easily look up key dates that may affect their securities. Earnings releases, dividend dates and analyst upgrades can all be easily searched on the event calendar.

As always, all Questrade accounts are dual-currency accounts, so you can hold Canadian and US cash in your account (some competitors don’t give their customers this ability). With Questrade, you won’t get charged unnecessary currency-conversion fees when doing US trades.

2021 will continue to bring exciting new features for IQ Edge, with upcoming releases that will make it even more powerful.

What online investing trends do you expect to matter to DIY investors?
We anticipate an increase in desire for knowledge, greater engagement with educational content for investors of all levels, increased participation in investing-related social media and, ultimately, a more informed, educated and successful DIY investor. 

What does user experience mean at your firm?
User experience at Questrade is about making investing easy for customers. At any given time, a user should be able to feel confident that they can access, read and understand all their portfolio information, that they can easily make trades using their platform of choice and that they know where to turn if they need help at any time. 

What sets your firm apart from your peers?
At Questrade, we care about Canadians becoming financially successful and secure. As an independently owned online brokerage in Canada, we’re in the unique position of being accountable to our customers, not to shareholders. Our success is measured by our customers’ success, and we are always doing everything in our power to ensure that our investors have access to the knowledge, tools and resources they need to reach their investment goals. This means that every decision is made with Canadians’ best interests in mind.

And others have recognized this effort, as our list of awards grows:

  • #1 rank in investor satisfaction among self-directed brokerages by J.D. Power, as well as #1 for commission and fees and #1 for account information (for J.D. Power 2020 award information, visit
  • Canada’s fastest-growing online broker
  • 8X winner of Canada’s Best Managed Companies
  • $18 billion in assets under administration
  • Over 100,000 new accounts opened annually
  • Award-winning #1 ranked customer service

This customer-first approach is a major driver of innovation at Questrade. We’re constantly searching for new ways to make investing easier for our customers, be it through the elimination of fees, the support of educational resources or one of the exciting programs and initiatives that we have planned for 2021. 

And, as always, all with the low fees that Canadians have come to expect from us:

  • Trade stocks from 1¢/share (min. $4.95 to max. $9.95)
  • Buy ETFs commission-free
  • No annual account fees
  • No account opening or closing fees
  • All accounts are dual-currency accounts
  • Free to transfer in an account from another financial institution

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

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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 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



Click below to read submissions from:

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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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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.