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    Key points

    With fall on the horizon, it’s not just the colours of the leaves that will be changing. As we ride out the final days of August, more and more Canadian discount brokerages are starting to unveil some of the changes they’ve been working on all summer in hopes that they can get on the radar […]

    With fall on the horizon, it’s not just the colours of the leaves that will be changing. As we ride out the final days of August, more and more Canadian discount brokerages are starting to unveil some of the changes they’ve been working on all summer in hopes that they can get on the radar of Canadians who now have more options when it comes to where and how they want their money to grow – assuming of course that they have the money to invest.

    In this week’s roundup we take a look at a pair of new feature announcements from Canadian brokerages looking to add bells and whistles onto their existing DIY investor offering. From there we’ll take a look at what investors were tweeting on social media and close off with a look at the DIY investor conversations in the forums.

    BMO InvestorLine Gets a Big Screen

    Earlier this week, BMO InvestorLine let clients know about several upgrades and enhancements to the online investor experience it’s planning to deploy.

    The first upgrade, which is now available, is a new ETF screener and comparison tool from Morningstar.  BMO InvestorLine’s latest ETF screening tool replaces the Lipper-rating driven interface with one that includes some of Morningstar’s filtering capabilities. For example, it is possible to filter ETFs by the Morningstar’s star rating, as well as additional features such as trading volume and detailed drill downs on portfolio and performance metrics.

    Screenshot of new ETF screening tool

    Given the number of parameters and information to search on, beginner users might find the navigation takes some time to get used to however for those looking to get detailed information on potential investment ideas, this screening tool will certainly feel like a step forward compared to the previous tool.

    In addition to the filtering tools, BMO InvestorLine also appears to be upgrading their news feeds and alerts as well as readying for a new homepage navigation release in the fall.

    Announcing these changes ahead of time certainly gives clients the heads up that changes are to be expected however, as has been the case with rollouts at RBC Direct Investing and TD Direct Investing, the ultimate test as to whether or not these changes improve or degrade performance will come from the users’ comments themselves.

    The changes to the BMO InvestorLine website and digital experience are likely not the last DIY investors will see from this brokerage or its competitors.

    To stay competitive, Canadian discount brokerages are constantly having to figure out how to provide better value for their clients. While lowering commission prices might still be an option, many brokerages are reluctant to do so as it directly cuts into their bottom line, which for many in the online investing industry, is long overdue for an upgrade.

    Questrade adds robo into workshop

    This week, an article in the Financial Post highlighted the partnership between Questrade and stock screening software provider Vector Vest that enables Questrade clients to keep their emotions in check and let a stock picking engine do the “work” of spotting opportunities.

    While it sounds “robo-ish” in nature, ultimately pushing go on the trade, still rests with the owner of an account which means trusting the rules that presented the trade in the first place.

    Those who know of VectorVest may rightly observe that this “new” feature sounds a lot like what VectorVest already does, which is to screen through stocks and identify which meet particular criteria for buying or selling. What is different, however, is that by integrating with Questrade platform, it becomes much easier to go from finding and spotting a recommendation to execution of a trade.

    The announcement of VectorVest bolting onto Questrade’s platform sounds familiar. Since Questrade opened up its trading platform API, there has been a steady stream of third party integrations interested in growing their customer base while at the same time offering up some interesting functionality to the Questrade trading platform experience.

    For DIY investors prepared to pay for these add-on features, this means that there is now access to more bells and whistles and for Questrade and the third-party partners, there’s revenue to be generated. It seems like a win-win-win all around. In fact, Questrade’s growing partner centre includes 8 “apps”, five of which are similar to the Vector Vest integration in that they are “Trade Now” enabled (this means that a trade window can be populated with order details when the ‘trade now’ button is pressed on partner sites).

    Questrade’s competitors, however, should probably take note of this latest move. By having features developed externally, Questrade has defrayed the cost of operating and innovating their platform. Instead of having to license those features from other trading platform providers or to have to develop them on their own, someone else is doing the heavy lifting.

    In this way Questrade can continue to focus on their core platform while other services focus on what they do well.

    Further, for any Canadian DIY investor who’s watched BNN for any stretch of time, VectorVest does a LOT of advertising so there’s a good chance that DIY investors considering this option as a selling feature to joining Questrade have seen or heard the name before. The upside for Questrade is that the advertising has been paid for by someone else.

    Another interesting twist to this particular story is the marketing ‘spin’ that’s been added to the mix. Specifically, positioning the Vector Vest integration as a “robo” style experience.

    The term “robo-advisor” is certainly a hot topic in wealth management circles and Canadian investors are getting more and more exposure to the term so putting a new spin on the familiar product means that people might just shift how they perceive the VectorVest and Questrade combination.

    Regardless of the spin, Questrade’s move to build out their trading platform functionality by using third party partners is a smart one. They’ve put quite a bit of time and effort into building a product experience that will be hard for other online brokerages to match unless they’ve got deep pockets and very creative developer teams – and that field is very small.

    For now, the robo moniker for this latest feature launch may be a bit of a stretch, however Questrade is certainly pulling ahead in the ‘fintech’ game and until they are seriously challenged by someone else, they’re able to shape the story.

    Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

    Summertime might mean fun for some, but for others it means bugs galore. This week's tweets has lots of bugs mentioned from Questrade, Scotia iTRADE and TD Direct Investing.

    From the Forums

    Picking a broker 101

    In this post, from the reddit personal finance Canada thread, is a perennial favourite – which discount brokerage to choose? The interesting twist on this one is that it is being asked by a university student.

    Transfer credits

    Finding the best way to transfer a TFSA while keeping the contribution room intact is a handy thing to know about for those looking to transfer brokerages. In this post, also from reddit’s personal finance Canada thread, one user is looking to make a smooth transition and gets a few pointers from users, as well as a brokerage.

    Into the Close

    That’s it for another edition of the roundup. Now that the end of August is almost here, be sure to enjoy the last few days of summer! For those looking for something other than stock picks and rate hikes to chat about, here’s a funny story that could only happen in Canada.