First impressions are important in most walks of life and as we all know, it’s hard to overcome a bad initial impression. When you’re beginning your journey as a DIY investor with online discount brokers, the first impression will invariably be based on your experience in signing up for the service in the first place.
Moving from a full-service brokerage to an online service is a significant change, one likely to have a profound long-term impact on your financial health. So in this category, formerly called Getting Started, we look at the ease of the application process, the design and functionality of the site, service interactions and public site resources.
As in the overall category, Questrade topped the list for Initial Impression, with 13 points. Questrade also topped this category in the 2017 edition, in part because it has fully digitized the process, right down to your signature. No need to complete and sign a printed form that has to be delivered via snail mail or a trip to the firm’s local branch, which is still the case at some firms. As LaCoste notes, there are reasons some prefer the slower process: it gives the salespeople a chance to upsell you on some of its other services.
Surviscor is impressed with this independent brokerage’s “fully responsive website.” And for those who spend a lot of time in transit, Questrade offers a Smartphone app that makes it a snap to execute trades wherever you have Internet access.
In second spot in this category is iTRADE, which was in a virtual tie with last year’s runnerup, TD Direct Investing (TDDI). Each had 9 points but we have put iTrade in second spot because it had a mark for each criterion.
iTRADE has introduced a new public site that is informative and easy to navigate on any digital device. The account-opening process, despite its need for a design overhaul, still offers more account types than traditional firms.
A year ago, we noted that TDDI was one of those firms that required new users to go to the branch to complete the sign-up process and that this would be resolved in 2018. It has a new account opening process with electronic signatures and government document uploads, which has removed the need for customers to visit a branch. The only issue is it that only works for standard accounts like cash, margin, TFSAs and RRSPs. Why not all of them? Even so, the process is far ahead of iTRADE but the account types are limited.
TD’s website remains a model of functionality in most categories and is particularly robust in providing investors with educational materials like videos, tutorials, demos podcasts and webcasts. It also has a strong international appeal: its app is available in four different languages.
- Questrade – 13 pts
- iTRADE – 9 pts
- TD Direct investing – 9 pts
User Experience (UX)
User Experience is a critical category that covers everything from user protection/security to navigational design and customization features, accessing account information, e-services and e-notifications, and planning and analysis tools. It also covers the nitty gritty of security trading, including equity/ETF orders, options orders, mutual fund orders, bond orders, global equity orders and Alternatives orders.
This time around Qtrade Investor led the pack on User Experience with 40 points, moving up from its Honorable Mention in last year’s edition. Qtrade continues to make strides in letting users customize their usage experience: those who believe in technical analysis can put charts front and center, while those more inclined to fundamental analysis can display fundamentals more prominently.
It was almost a tie for the runnerup position but Scotia iTRADE narrowly edged out BMO Investorline by a single point.
Note that Questrade, which we rated number 1 in User Experience in 2017, got a lower score in this category this year because we removed Mobile as a sub-category. However, Questrade is number 2 in our new category of Mobile Accessibility, outlined further down this article.
- Qtrade Investor – 40 pts
- Scotia iTRADE – 31 pts
- BMO InvestorLine – 30 pts
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