When selecting the winners for Canada’s Best Discount Brokerages, we started with data provided by Surviscor, a business analysis firm that regularly collects information from all major brokerages. We organized these data into 20 categories:
- Account fees: administration fees for registered and non-registered accounts; additional fees for low balances or inactive accounts.
- Account setup: ease of application process, including help options, availability of online applications, and whether it is possible to open multiple accounts at once.
- Commissions: transaction costs for equities, ETFs, and options. For each of the five investor profiles, this category was further adjusted according to account size and trading frequency.
- Customer support: hours of availability; live chat, click-to-call and screen-sharing features; social media presence (Facebook and Twitter); online message centres; languages; service request forms; email response times as measured by Surviscor’s Customer Email Responsiveness program.
- Ease of use: simplicity of login process; site architecture and ease of navigation; order screens; ability to customize displays; availability of FAQs and help resources.
- Research tools: clarity and depth of quotes and market activity reports; market news; symbol search; fundamental analysis tools; technical analysis and charting tools; watch lists; stock screeners; strategy builders.
- Trading platforms: availability of platforms for active traders; access to global markets and foreign currencies; dynamic market information.
- ETFs: availability of commission-free ETFs; screeners and other resources designed specifically for ETF investors.
- Mutual funds: breadth of mutual fund selection; commissions to buy and sell.
- Fixed income: product types (GICs, bonds, notes, T-bills, strip bonds) available online; screening process; ability to sort results; ease of order entry.
- Advanced trading instruments: availability of options, futures, gold and silver, currencies and IPOs; clarity of order screens, market information, quotes and screens as they apply to these instruments.
- Educational support: amount of overall education material; demos, webinars and tutorials; calculators; podcasts; white papers and special reports; competitor comparisons.
- Planning resources: availability and functionality of retirement calculators and other financial planning tools; model portfolios with rebalancing options.
- Account services: ease of making changes to accounts online, including enrolling in programs, hold requests, transfers, document requests, and tax inquiries; integration with other financial services such as credit, full-service brokerage and mortgages.
- Security support: how well clients are advised about security and privacy policies, client alerts, guarantees, availability of login reports.
- U.S. dollar accounts: ability to hold U.S. in registered accounts, and whether there is an additional fee for this feature.
- Reporting and record-keeping: presentation and integration of account balances, account history, holdings and outstanding orders; portfolio analytics such as asset allocation; availability of portfolio performance reports; availability of online statements, trade confirmation and tax slips.
- Money movements: ease of electronic fund transfers (EFTs), wires, bill payments and banking integration.
- Dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs): availability of DRIPs for Canadian and U.S. stocks and ETFs.
- Mobile access: availability of access from Apple, Android and Blackberry mobile devices; variety of services available on mobile devices, such as account info, market data, and order entry.
For each of the five investor profiles we considered, we assigned a different weight to each of the above categories and calculated a total score out of 100.
|CATEGORY||BEGINNERS||STOCK INVESTORS||ACTIVE TRADERS||COUCH POTATOES||RETIREES|
|Ease of use||10||8||0||8||8|
|Advanced trading instruments||0||5||15||0||0|
|U.S. dollar accounts||0||5||8||8||5|
|Reporting and recordkeeping||5||8||5||5||5|
|Dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs)||0||8||0||4||0|