Table Of Contents

    Key points

    From national squirrel day to discovering a whole other planet to the end of week bounce in the markets, there’s been no shortage of interesting events this week. Of course, this strange string of events may have something to do with the X-files officially returning to TV this upcoming weekend. Or so some might want […]

    From national squirrel day to discovering a whole other planet to the end of week bounce in the markets, there’s been no shortage of interesting events this week. Of course, this strange string of events may have something to do with the X-files officially returning to TV this upcoming weekend. Or so some might want to believe.

    While everything from squirrels to celestial events might be used to explain the wild swings in the markets, it’s no coincidence that heading into RSP season banks & discount brokerages alike are ramping up their efforts to win over DIY investors.

    In this week’s roundup we take a look at the recent moves by two brokerages to win over investors with chances to win big money. Next we take a look at highlights from a few news stories that emerged this week – from brokerages winning awards for client service to one brokerage’s attempt at a celebrity endorsement Canadian style to one bank’s potential disruption in the wealth management space. As usual we’ve also got a great selection of investor education events and reactions from DIY investors on Twitter and in forums on our menu. Hope you’re hungry!

    Winning at the Ballot

    As commission pricing among most of Canada’s discount brokerages is now roughly around the same $10 per trade level, brokerages are working hard to make themselves standout from one another. We’ve already seen that deals and promotional offers are a popular strategy among Canadian brokerages with 16 deals currently being advertised. Another category of promotional offer that brokerages appear to be increasingly turning to, however, is the tried-and-true “contest”.

    This past week both Qtrade Investor and Scotia iTrade got into the promotional offer mix by launching two contests for DIY investors.

    Qtrade Investor’s latest promotion is definitely geared to catch the attention of investors as they are out shopping during the “RRSP” season. Specifically their “love your RSP” contest offers up two grand prizes of $5,000 (to new clients and existing clients). In order to qualify, new or existing clients have to contribute at least $2,000 to their Qtrade RSP account.

    Scotia iTrade, on the other hand, is taking a targeted approach to Toronto-based (or those brave enough to visit Toronto from January through March) clientele. In a specific bid to boost traffic through their investor centre, the Scotia iTrade contest is offering up a top prize of $10,000 and one of five prizes of $1,000 to individuals who either attend a seminar (in person); attend a 20 minute session with a relationship manager; open a new account or fund an existing iTrade account all exclusively at the investor centre.

    In addition to these brokerages, Questrade is still advertising a pair of contests offering prizes of $5,000 or $1,000 to generate more interest in their managed wealth business line and RBC Direct Investing recently concluded their $1,000 contest for participating in their community feature.

    As online brokerages are forced to come up with creative ways to connect with new and existing clients, contests offer a way to generate interest among the DIY investor community. Unlike many other contests, where simply submitting your name is enough for entry, these latest contests from Qtrade Investor and Scotia iTrade can require individuals make a deposit in order to qualify (or to enhance their odds of winning).

    Awareness alone isn’t the only value discount brokerages derive from the contest strategy, however. These contests also help to discount brokerages to establish a way of directly contacting new potential clients – through some form of direct marketing effort. As more and more brokerages ramp up their advertising and marketing efforts through the busy RSP season, getting new clients is something they’re not leaving up to chance.

    Sharing the Winners Circle

    Earlier this week, the results from Dalbar Canada’s 2015Direct Brokerage Service Award were announced.

    HSBC InvestDirect and RBC Direct Investing both landed in the winner’s circle yet again and were recognized by Dalbar for their respective performance on a number of client service metrics.

    As mentioned in a previous piece on the Dalbar award, this is one of the only major discount brokerage assessments/rankings to take into account the quality of client service. While what defines a “quality” client service team or interaction is certainly up for debate, according to Dalbar’s methodology one of the key elements to receiving this recognition is the completeness of the answer and anticipation of other needs the client may have.

    For many DIY investors, the interaction with client service may be minimal and thus not a driver in the decision to go with one brokerage over another. To those for whom service does matter, however, the Dalbar awards offer at least some idea of the service experience without actually having to try out a brokerage directly. Unfortunately for DIY investors, there were no additional details about the rest of the field that were disclosed and as such, the Dalbar award is of limited value when trying to decide on a brokerage’s client service relative to other brokerages.

    Hammering Home the Message

    If there’s one investment that’s got most of the financial community and media fixated it’s real estate. In an interesting twist to capitalize on the fervor, CIBC Investor’s Edge has recruited home reno personality, real estate investor and author Scott McGillivray to put together a series of 30ish second video clips on DIY investing.

    While it is yet another in a series of small changes that CIBC Investor’s Edge has made over the last year, this move in the direction of getting the star factor will definitely get people to pay more attention than some of the other imagery and video being produced by other brokerages. Though it’s not quite the same caliber as TD Ameritrade teaming up with Matt Damon as spokesperson, it is stepping up the game for getting the attention of DIY investors in distinctively Canadian fashion. And as Justin Trudeau has shown, good hair can certainly go places.

    Robo Roll Out

    This past week offered up another big announcement from the wealth management space. BMO officially rolled out its robo-advisor “SmartFolio” for full release.

    As with most products rolled out by a major financial institution, the planning and implementation of the robo-advisory has taken quite a bit of time and effort. Still, even though other upstart services have had a considerable head start, it’s a big deal when a major player such as BMO decides to play in the same sandbox.

    Given how closely Canada’s big five banks mirror one another, it should be interesting to watch the response (if any) from the other players. On the one hand, when RBC Direct Investing lowered their standard commission pricing to $9.95 in 2014, almost all of the other major bank-owned brokerages responded within a few months by doing the same. Conversely, when BMO InvestorLine launched the hybrid DIY-advice product called AdviceDirect in 2012, no other large or small brokerage put forward a comparable product.

    Roboadvisors are clearly reaping rewards as shown by the monolithic Charles Schwab in the US. Whether or not the same results can be expected in Canada, however, is debatable.

    Despite the fierce competition, there are still 15 Canadian online brokerages battling for market share – with some clearly battling harder for new business than others. Whether the wealth management space in Canada is big enough to withstand yet another product remains to be seen. For BMO, however, the spotlight on the robo-advisor space is clearly on them, which is not something that happened with the adviceDirect rollout and yet another reason the other big banks will have to seriously consider the robo-advisor approach as part of their offering.

    Event Horizon

    Winter’s slowly winding down, and it’s an exciting week ahead for discount brokerage-sponsored investor education events. Here are some upcoming sessions that may be of interest to options and technical analysis enthusiasts. ETFs, registered accounts, and an international resource investment conference round out this week’s selection.

    January 23

    TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Technical Analysis

    January 24

    Cambridge House International Vancouver Resource Investment Conference (VRIC) – 2016

    January 25

    Cambridge House International Vancouver Resource Investment Conference (VRIC) – 2016

    TD Direct Investing – Stock Talk

    January 26

    TD Direct Investing – Alternatives to Mutual Funds: Learn What Else Is Out There

    January 27

    TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Technical Analysis

    RBC Direct Investing – Getting Started with ETFs – iShares by Blackrock

    RBC Direct Investing – Getting Started with ETFs – iShares by Blackrock

    RBC Direct Investing – Getting Started with ETFs – iShares by Blackrock

    Scotia iTRADE – Options Strategies for RRSP & TFSA with Montreal Exchange

    Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

    This week there was definitely more chatter about brokerages on Twitter. From mishaps and hiccups with accounts and trading platforms, brokerages big and small were in the spotlight for tech issues demonstrating that size alone will prevent outages during the trading day.

    From the Forums

    Reaction to Robo-Advisor Rollout

    Given the attention that robo-advisors have garnered from the investor community, the recent move by BMO to widely roll out their smartfolio robo-advisor service has got people talking. Here are two posts – the first from reddit’s personal finance Canada section with some interesting perspectives on rates and value and a second post at Financial wisdom forum with a view from more seasoned investors.

    Banking on Change

    Making the switch between brokerages is something many DIY investors contemplate. But, is the grass really greener on the other side of the fence? In this post from, one user’s question touched off an interesting comparison between TD Direct Investing and RBC Direct Investing.

    Into the Close

    That’s a wrap on what has been an incredibly busy week. For those suffering through the wrath of Old Man Winter, this may be the best weekend yet to start training hard for the TV marathon. Shovel responsibly!