Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – April 28, 2017

This week, NAFTA was causing all kinds of nausea for media, government and economists who were trying to figure out exactly what was happening with this long standing free-trade deal. While not a multinational economic agreement, Canadian discount brokerages are looking to their own free-trade deals as a way to generate interest and enthusiasm across the nation of DIY investors.

In this week’s roundup, we look at the latest promotions to hit our radar, both of which are from bank-owned online brokerages. From there, we take a look at the parent company of one brokerage that may be looking to go on a bit of a buying spree and potentially change the Canadian discount brokerage landscape in the near future. Of course, what would a roundup be without the tweets of the week? We’ll serve those up alongside the investor chatter on the forums.

Play Date

The 7th edition of the Horizon’s ETF ‘Biggest Winner’ competition is back and, once again, is being sponsored by National Bank Direct Brokerage.

This popular annual competition, which kicks off on May 8th,  comes at a time in the financial markets where activity and uncertainty have picked up. For contestants, this means that there are bound to be a handful of exciting trading days – especially if it’s fantasy money on the line.

The prizes for this contest, however, are not make believe and include:

  • $7500 cash for the grand prize
  • $2500 for the runner up
  • 6 weekly prizes of $500

As this competition is restricted to only Canadian ETFs, the ultra ultra leveraged ETFs in the US will not be available to trade here. That said, one of the more interesting names in the game is likely to be the recently launched HMMJ, a long-awaited ETF that includes companies in the marijuana space.

Fantasy stock market games, such as this one, are fun ways to follow and learn about markets. In this case, the name of the game is to get the best performance using only Canadian ETFs.

For contest sponsor National Bank Direct Brokerage, the branding win is clear. They are the only Canadian discount brokerage to offer fully commission-free buying and selling of all Canadian ETFs (not just the Horizons family of funds).

As and when this competition goes live, there’s likely to be more attention directed to the National Bank Direct Brokerage brand and their commission-free ETF offer. Although the summer months are typically quieter than the rest of the year, if there’s one thing that’ll get the attention of investors and traders everywhere, it’s a cash prize. For more information on the contest, click here.

Free Trades & a Show?

Another creative offer for DIY investors also just crossed our radar this week, this time from Scotia iTRADE.

Their latest promo is a combination of free trades and, for the cinephiles, free movies. The headline offer (which is typically available to the highest deposit tier in the offer) is 100 free movie admissions.

The catch? It’s not available until May 1st 2017.

Drilling down into the promotion, there are 6 tiers of deposit which range from a minimum of $25,000 all the way to $1,000,000+. For each of those tiers, eligible new clients will receive 50 trades plus the associated number of scene points. At the minimum deposit tier, in addition to free trades, there are 5,000 scene points up for grabs, which translates into either 5 movies or a $50 credit at dining or sporting wear retailers (in case being inside during the summer is not your thing).

Two things stand out as interesting about this promotion. First, Scotia iTRADE is once again reaching into its toolbox to leverage scene points / free movies incentives. There have been a handful of times when Scotia iTRADE has run a cross promotion with the free movie incentive (including one of the more memorable ones where visitors to the Toronto iTRADE had to take selfies) but the fact that they can do that gives them a unique promotional edge.

Screenshot of Scotia iTRADE’s latest promo offer (source: Scotia iTRADE website)

The Scotiabank tie-in with the Cineplex Scene points program means that Scotia iTRADE can offer something that other Canadian brokerages don’t.

A second interesting aspect of this promotion is that it is being telegraphed publicly before the deal actually goes live. This is an unusual step, something typically seen in contests not free trade offers.

As we head into the summer blockbuster season, a world awash in Netflix content (oh and don’t forget Game of Thrones) and good weather generally, it will be interesting to track if DIY investors prefer the indoor scene or the outdoor scenery.

Desjardins Getting Ready to go Shopping

Some people love the thrill of shopping, some people loathe it. Desjardins Online Brokerage’s parent Desjardins Financial, however, appears to be in a spending mood.

This week, the CEO of Desjardins Group (Guy Cormier) mentioned in an interview on Bloomberg Canada that Desjardins is looking to expand its reach outside of Quebec, stating that “Desjardins is open for business.”

Aside from the very encouraging sound bite, the article went on to specify that Desjardins would be particularly interested in insurance providers, as well as looking to take on full ownership of Qtrade Investor, the Vancouver-based brokerage that they bought a 40% stake in in 2013. Desjardins’s desire to be “more aggressive and have a stronger presence outside Quebec on wealth management” means that after firming up full ownership, there will likely be a very interesting transition in the Canadian online brokerage landscape.

Whether Qtrade Investor remains an independent brand or gets merged into either the long-standing DISNAT or more recent Desjardins Online Brokerage is an open question – one that will need to weigh the many years of Globe and Mail online brokerage ranking wins and other achievements against the desire to work under a united banner. From a look and feel perspective, there are some similarities, but there are some very clear design and branding differences.

How this all unfolds is going to be interesting to say the least. With other independent brokerages, or bank-owned brokerages that don’t necessarily want to continue an increasingly costly business unit, the time might be ripe for some consolidation or M&A activity of some of the players on the field.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

Spring may have sprung, but there are plenty of storms that blew through social media this week. Mentioned are BMO InvestorLine, Questrade, Scotia iTRADE, TD Direct Investing, and Virtual Brokers.

From the Forums

Pool Sharks

The mechanics of trade execution are details that only very few individuals can truly claim to understand. Even after a reading of Flash Boys, the intricacy and complexity of the transaction system is mind boggling. So, where exactly does an order go and are investors getting the ‘best’ price available? It was this set of questions from one investor that had sparked a conversation in this post on the Canadian Money Forum – definitely worth a read.

Tuning In

Something, or rather someone, very interesting was spotted in the DIY investor forums this week – BMO InvestorLine. In this post on RedFlagDeals.com’s investing forum, one unhappy user asked the community of readers for a suggestion for an online brokerage. The answers themselves were all quite interesting however seeing that a ‘verified’ BMO InvestorLine responded. This appears not to be a one off as there’ve been at least three other posts to date.

Into the Close

Some folks look at the weekend as a time to relax while the current leaders of two nuclear armed countries appear to relish Friday’s for some old-fashioned high stakes shouting. While that’s kind of an odd note to sound off on, perhaps the video below offers some hope that people can resolve their differences amicably and that beer commercials may be able to save the world. Enjoy the weekend!

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