Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – January 20, 2017

Trump, or more formally, President Trump is known for many things – among them, the art of the deal. The new US president isn’t the only deal maker around, however, as Canadian brokerages are also looking to start giving some ‘bigly’ deals to DIY investors.

This week’s roundup puts a spotlight on the latest deals action that occurred this week – a signal that competition amongst Canadian discount brokerages is reaching a new high. From there we’ll take a look at what DIY investors had to say to Canada’s online brokerages on Twitter and what was on the minds of investors in the financial forums.

Deals Reach Feverish Levels

This week there were three new offers that were added to the long list of promotions being offered by Canada’s discount brokerages to entice potential clients (as well as a few existing clients) to bring in assets.  Joining the fray this week were offers from Qtrade Investor, Credential Direct and RBC Direct Investing. Both Qtrade Investor and Credential Direct launched cash back promotional offers while RBC Direct Investing launched a points based promotion linked for RBC credit card holders.

With the addition of these new offers, the total number of advertised offers now stands at 32, of which 7 were added to the list in January – a sign that competition amongst Canadian brokerages has increased significantly. Interestingly, the only major Canadian online brokerages not offering a cash back or commission-free trading deal (at least at the time of publication) for new accounts are RBC Direct Investing and Interactive Brokers.

Whether it is the specter of Robo-advisors, the changes forecast with the CRM2 fee disclosures, the rally in the markets, or some combination of these, Canadian discount brokerages are definitely trying to perfect the art of the deal in order to attract new clients (or more precisely, new assets).

Heading into RRSP season, it’s clear that innovation and new features have taken a back seat to cold hard cash. In particular, there’s been a noticeable increase in cash back offers as a proportion of the total deals being offered which speaks to the growing recognition of the preference for these offers with DIY investors over commission-free trades.

With all of the offers now in play navigating them can be somewhat of a challenge. As such, we’ve done a little bit of the homework for readers looking to compare cash back offers between discount brokerages below.

Canadian discount brokerage cash back deals comparison

In terms of cash back offers, there two main types to consider, those that are available without a referral and those that are part of a referral offer. A quick comparison of the two show that for someone opening a new account (or in some cases bringing new assets) with a non-referral offer, the cash back bonus ranges from 0.1% to 0.5% of assets deposited. For the referral-based cash back offers, the range is wider going from 0.1% to 2.5%.

In the case of referral-based cash back offers, these generally are better deals for deposits of between $1,000 and $10,000 simply because there are no non-referral cash back offers for deposits under $15,000. In fact, for deposits under $25,000 referral bonuses offer the best selection and rates for a cash back bonus. Nonetheless, Credential Direct’s offer of $75 cash back for a minimum $15,000 and Questrade’s referral-based offer of $75 cash back for a minimum deposit of $25,000 are the offers that provide clients with the largest bonus in the sub-$25,000 deposit range.

Perhaps the most crowded segment of the deals market is at the $50,000 deposit mark, where there are 7 different offers ranging from a low of $50 (from BMO InvestorLine and Qtrade Investor) to a high of $200 (from CIBC Investor’s Edge). In this segment, CIBC Investor’s Edge’s offer is more than 1.5x that of its nearest competitor, Credential Direct (who’s offering $125 cash back). In addition, at that deposit level, brokerages are also willing to cover transfer out fees meaning that even greater total value can be obtained.

Interestingly, at the $100,000 deposit mark, the field thins out, with four offers specifically targeting minimum deposits at this level. The range for cash back bonuses goes from a low of $100 (Qtrade Investor) to a high of $400 (CIBC Investor’s Edge).

Finally, for deposit tiers higher than $150,000 (up to the $1M+ range), cash back bonuses range between 0.1% and 0.25% with maximum bonuses of $1,000 cash back being offered by Credential Direct and Qtrade Investor at the highest deposit tiers.

The big picture for DIY investors is that there are 27 different deposit tiers that they can qualify for between the referral and non-referral cash back offers – an extraordinary level of choice. Paradoxically, on a percentage basis, at most brokerages the higher the amount of assets an individual brings in, the lower the reward. So, for example, an individual who deposits $50,000 at Credential Direct receives $125 but if they were to deposit $500,000 they would not receive $1250, but only $500 instead.

Arguably, the cash back incentives are not going to be the primary reason an individual chooses a particular brokerage. With the dollar amounts being given out, there simply isn’t enough financial incentive for most people to go through the process of moving investments around just to get a cash bonus. That said, with services, features and pricing at most online brokerages being very close to one another, the tie-breaker will almost certainly come down to who’s more willing to give to get. And, when it comes to getting a new client, money definitely talks loudest.

Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

January might be the middle of winter but some of this week’s tweet seemed extra cold. Mentioned this week were CIBC Investor’s Edge, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTRADE and TD Direct Investing.

From the Forums

Stating the Facts

With CRM2 rolling out at Canadian discount brokerages, this post from Canadian Money Forum offers a very interesting look across the board at how investors are reacting to the new statements.

Deal or no deal?

With the launch of their cash back (plus free trade) offer, CIBC Investor’s Edge not only has an ultra-competitive commission cost but now one of the most competitive deals out there for those who qualify. This thread from the investing sub-forum of RedFlagDeals.com gauges the reaction of the bargain hunting community on whether the offer from CIBC Investor’s Edge measures up.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap on one of the most historic weeks in the new year. Within just a few hours of taking office there’s already lots for traders and investors to digest with Trump now at the helm of the US. At this point, there’s little doubt that things are going to continue to get interesting for investors. For those who are just a little too Trumped out, thankfully there’s some good football ahead. Stay warm!

Thanks Obama

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