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Discount Brokerage Weekly Roundup – December 18, 2015

Source: Giphy

With the Canadian dollar and oil prices looking like they’ve been on the wrong end of an imperial destroyer, what was in demand this week was cool technology, light-sabers and a chance to escape to something better. The takeaway lesson that markets always teach traders is that demand is a powerful force when awakened and oversupply a powerful enemy.

Kicking off the roundup this week, we’ll take a look at one Canadian online brokerage that may not have amazing special effects and symphony orchestras, however unveiled their latest attempt to move their website into future at light speed. From there we’ll take a quick look at another discount brokerage who launched a last-minute gift idea for DIY investors. Next we’ll quickly check out the latest banter from investors on Twitter, peruse through the investor education event (singular) and close out with some interesting feedback from investors in the forums.

Because it’s 2015.

With only a few more days left in 2015, one of Canada’s largest bank-owned online brokerages has managed to join the six or so other Canadian discount brokerages who’ve launched new front facing websites this year. It couldn’t have come soon enough.

Just over two weeks ago the Globe and Mail’s online brokerage rankings characterized RBC Direct Investing’s previous website as “O-L-D school.” This past week, however, the old rolled out and the new rolled in.

With the focus of the online brokerage rankings in 2015 shifting heavily towards website experience and the growing pressure from their bank-owned peers updating and upgrading their own websites, RBC Direct Investing clearly had upgrading their website on their radar. That said, given their latest review in the Globe and Mail brokerage rankings and the score in Surviscor’s rankings, it was interesting that the roll out of the new RBC Direct Investing website did not merit more of a response.

Despite the radio silence about the new website, there are several enhancements and design choices that are worth pointing out.

The first, and perhaps most obvious, is that the new website layout is contemporary. What that means is like many of the other websites released by other brokerages this year, RBC Direct Investing’s new site has rearranged information and layouts so things don’t seem as overwhelming as they did previously. In other words, less is more. Sections are more readily divided, text is clearer and it’s easier to focus on the content that’s relevant to a reader.

In line with a more modern layout, another interesting feature is that site is not just responsive, but looks to have been built by taking a ‘mobile first’ approach. The traditional top navigation menu has been removed altogether in favour of a ‘mobile’ style menu in the top left. The items in the menu also mirror the vertical order of the sections of the homepage which is a clear design choice to accommodate users swiping a tablet or smartphone screen rather than scrolling on a mouse.

A rethinking of the organization also means that users have a series of simpler choices to make. This arrangement was not unlike TD Direct Investing’s previous approach as well as BMO InvestorLine’s current strategy of “Tell us who you are and we’ll show you how we can meet your needs”.

Digging a little deeper, however, there is another element to the new RBC Direct Investing website that seems to reflect something unique: a deliberate focus on including women in the imagery. Specifically, the new website places women at the focal point of the featured images and does so on key pages throughout the website (see collage below).

Source: Screenshot RBC Direct Investing website

While it is not unique to see financial institutions, especially the largest Canadian financial services brands, reflect a more diverse and inclusive picture of their clients, RBC Direct Investing’s new site has made some interesting design choices. For example, by placing women in the featured images of both the “beginner investor” and the “experienced investor” pages, the website highlights an important rethinking of what an “investor” looks like. BMO InvestorLine and TD Direct Investing have also done this with their latest redesigns, however RBC Direct Investing’s website stands out as it deliberately places women at the focal point across all three categories that users are choosing from on the homepage i.e. beginner investors, experienced investors and those planning for retirement.

As many of the comments from this past year’s Globe and Mail online brokerage ranking pointed out, user interaction with a new website is highly subjective. That said, how users engage with an online brokerage is going to matter more now to DIY investors than it ever has in the past.

For brokerages, striking the right balance of being “familiar enough” to inspire confidence and “bold enough” to stand out from their peers is rarely easy or cheap. Moreover, online investors of all stripes are savvy enough to detect the difference between a user experience has been thoroughly thought through and one that seems formulaic. The details matter.

Even though much hasn’t been said yet online about the RBC Direct Investing website, the design choices of the site itself will hopefully create a new conversation about what investors can expect from Canadian online brokerages heading into 2016.

Deals Update

With only a few shopping days left till Christmas, it looks like there are still some last minute deals to be had. This past week, National Bank Direct Brokerage stepped back into the deals and promotions race with their latest commission-free trading offer. Specifically individuals opening a qualifying account with at least $20,000 can receive up to $500 in commission credits and those depositing at least $100,000 can receive up to $1,000 in commission credits. See our deals & promotions section for additional details.

Deals activity has been in a holding pattern for most of this month however the new offer by NBDB brings the total number of offers up to 17. It should be interesting heading into the New Year as there are 8 offers set to expire at the end of December. Further, once the holidays are over, the big push to RRSP season will begin so brokerages big and small are sure to kick their promotional activity into high gear. The online brokerages currently putting offers forward are undoubtedly hoping to capture the interest of the keener investors who are doing their homework early.

Event Horizon

Ho-ho-hooray, the holidays are almost here, and there’s one more discount brokerage-sponsored investor education event to squeeze in before Jolly Old Santa makes his appearance. This upcoming session may be of interest to those who are new to investing, and interested in learning about options.

December 22

TD Direct Investing – Introduction to Investing in Options

Tweets of the Week

You’re a mean one, Mr. Glitch

With the latest roll outs from Questrade and TD Direct Investing, there are inevitably some bumps and bruises that DIY investors (and the brokerages) encounter. This past week, the Twitterverse was more quiet however Questrade and TD Direct Investing seemed catch a little bit of extra shade from frustrated users.

From the Forums

No Such Thing as a Free Launch

Star Wars wasn’t the only major release this month. Two popular Canadian online brokerages also launched their own updates and upgrades to their respective web platforms. Here are a couple of great threads that capture the reactions of users to the changes made by TD Direct Investing and Questrade:

Reactions to TD Direct Investing website from the Financial Wisdom Forum here.

Reactions to Questrade’s latest platform upgrade from RedFlagDeals’ forum here.

Battle of the Brokerages

While there may be no light-sabers in this battle, the ongoing debate between value players Virtual Brokers and Questrade was worth a revisit in this post on reddit’s Personal Finance Canada thread.

Into the Close

That’s a wrap for this week’s roundup. Finding a way to adequately punctuate the roundup on such an historic event as the opening of another Star Wars reboot was tough. Especially with winter coming, it was a Stark reminder of Snow in the long range forecast. Enjoy the weekend or ‘geek’end!

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