Canada's Best Discount Brokerages: Methodology - MoneySense

Canada’s Best Discount Brokerages: Methodology

How MoneySense came up with its first-ever Canada’s Best Discount Brokerages winners.


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:

  1. Account fees: administration fees for registered and non-registered accounts; additional fees for low balances or inactive accounts.
  2. Account setup: ease of application process, including help options, availability of online applications, and whether it is possible to open multiple accounts at once.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Trading platforms: availability of platforms for active traders; access to global markets and foreign currencies; dynamic market information.
  8. ETFs: availability of commission-free ETFs; screeners and other resources designed specifically for ETF investors.
  9. Mutual funds: breadth of mutual fund selection; commissions to buy and sell.
  10. Fixed income: product types (GICs, bonds, notes, T-bills, strip bonds) available online; screening process; ability to sort results; ease of order entry.
  11. 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.
  12. Educational support: amount of overall education material; demos, webinars and tutorials; calculators; podcasts; white papers and special reports; competitor comparisons.
  13. Planning resources: availability and functionality of retirement calculators and other financial planning tools; model portfolios with rebalancing options.
  14. 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.
  15. Security support: how well clients are advised about security and privacy policies, client alerts, guarantees, availability of login reports.
  16. U.S. dollar accounts: ability to hold U.S. in registered accounts, and whether there is an additional fee for this feature.
  17. 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.
  18. Money movements: ease of electronic fund transfers (EFTs), wires, bill payments and banking integration.
  19. Dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs): availability of DRIPs for Canadian and U.S. stocks and ETFs.
  20. 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.

Account fees 10 5 2 5 5
Account setup 10 10 10 8 8
Commissions 10 8 13 5 10
Customer support 10 5 2 10 10
Ease of use 10 8 0 8 8
Research tools 5 12 10 5 5
Trading platforms 0 2 15 0 0
ETFs 5 0 2 13 5
Mutual funds 5 0 0 8 5
Fixed income 5 0 0 5 10
Advanced trading instruments 0 5 15 0 0
Educational support 4 2 2 2 2
Planning resources 4 2 2 2 10
Account services 2 2 2 2 2
Security support 5 5 2 5 5
U.S. dollar accounts 0 5 8 8 5
Reporting and recordkeeping 5 8 5 5 5
Money movements 5 8 5 5 5
Dividend reinvestment plans (DRIPs) 0 8 0 4 0
Mobile access 5 5 5 0 0
TOTAL 100 100 100 100 100