Table Of Contents

    Key points

    Now that fall is here, the weather may be cooling down but the competition at Canadian discount brokerages is definitely heating up. Rather than sitting back Canadian online brokers are firing on all cylinders, from deals and marketing to technological revolutions. This edition of the roundup launches with a look at yet another new deal […]

    Now that fall is here, the weather may be cooling down but the competition at Canadian discount brokerages is definitely heating up. Rather than sitting back Canadian online brokers are firing on all cylinders, from deals and marketing to technological revolutions.

    This edition of the roundup launches with a look at yet another new deal from an online brokerage that might shake things up for offers yet to come to market. Next we take a look at what one big bank-owned brokerage is doing to drum up interest in their online offering. From there we take a look at one brokerage’s strategy to bring the DIY investor experience of the future into reality. Lastly we wrap up with a look at the latest chatter on Twitter and around the Canadian investing forums.

    HSBC InvestDirect Antes Up

    September keeps on getting more lucrative for DIY investors looking to open an online trading account. Already this month, there has been an uptick in deals and promotions being offered from Canadian online brokerages and this past week yet another brokerage jumped onto the promotion bandwagon.  HSBC InvestDirect has once again stepped off the sidelines and launched a cash back promotion ranging from $88 to $988 depending on the amount individuals deposit.

    The latest promotion by HSBC InvestDirect now brings the number of active advertised offers up to 24 but more importantly, it puts a very competitive cash-back offer on the table for investors to consider.

    Source: HSBC InvestDirect website screenshot

    Recently, there have been a number of offers being put forward by Canadian discount brokerages however they have tended to be commission-free trade promotions or contest-type offers. The field for cash-back offers was certainly thin (compared to points last year) so the $88 for a $25,000 deposit is the highest cash-back offer at this deposit level. In fact, the HSBC InvestDirect offer even surpasses the cash back amount being put forward by BMO InvestorLine at the $100,000 mark and, from a total value perspective, eclipses BMO InvestorLine for deposits of $500,000 or more.

    It should be noted that BMO InvestorLine’s offer is a combination of $200 cash back and 20 commission-free trades, so the total face value of the commission free trades (approximately $200) makes this offer a very competitive one all around.

    Another interesting observation about HSBC Invest Direct’s latest promotion is that it runs through to the end of 2016. This duration is somewhat longer than competitor firms that have put offers into the market until the end of October or November.

    Thus, not only has HSBC InvestDirect raised the stakes for other brokerages looking to incentivize new clients into considering them, they’ve also doubled down by making this offer available through the beginning of winter. This is good news for DIY investors because any subsequent offers from other brokerages are going to have to be more appealing than the current cold, hard cash being offered by the latest HSBC InvestDirect promo. With only a week to go before the end of September, there is still time for other brokerages to launch even more at investors so we’ll be watching the space closely to see what happens next.

    Cut to Commercial

    It takes money to make money, or so the saying goes. It’s therefore interesting (and a tad ironic) to see the latest move from bank-owned brokerage Scotia iTRADE as they start to ramp up their marketing and advertising efforts to put their brand back on the map with DIY investors.

    This past week, in addition to their Twitter feed starting to feature big, bold, and very red picture cards, Scotia iTRADE also launched a series of video commercials on their YouTube channel. Ranging from quirky commercials to the quick ‘infomercial’ primers on the market, it looks like Scotia iTRADE has been busy building a video presence after quite a long absence in that space. We’ve bundled them into the playlist below.

    What is interesting is that there has been a recent push back into video commercials, with BMO’s robo-advisor service (SmartFolio) and now with video coming back at Scotia iTRADE. Why this is relevant is because these are not inexpensive marketing choices to make, so it appears Scotia iTRADE is banking on the ads moving the needle on consumer awareness and buy in of their brand.

    The ads themselves are amusing and well put together so there’s likely to be a positive reaction. Nonetheless, the bigger picture is that Scotia iTRADE appears to be spending more resources (read: money) in order bring Scotia iTRADE back into the ring to be considered. With the addition of new deals/promotions and now the latest spend in advertising, the onboarding engine is getting itself in gear.

    Canadian discount brokerages are all trying to figure out where to place their marketing dollars to get the best ROI. For Scotia iTRADE, they’ve continued to resist lowering their standard commission fees, choosing instead to try other tactics. As a result, while other brokerages have lowered standard commissions, Scotia iTRADE continues to have the highest standard commission fees for smaller (<50K in assets) investors.

    Whether or not these ads fly or flop, it’s a sign that given the choice to go big or go home, Scotia iTRADE is definitely betting that being big and bold will keep them in the discount brokerage race.

    BMO InvestorLine Looking for an Edge

    When putting together the weekly roundups, there are all kinds of interesting things that pop across our radar. In the case of the Canadian online brokerage industry (and the financial service space generally), one thing is abundantly clear: technology is the big battleground.

    BMO InvestorLine recently posted (yet another) job posting that caught our attention, this time for a senior technical specialist. That they were hiring more IT wasn’t so exciting, however their vision for InvestorLine (and adviceDirect) to develop “bleeding-edge technology and the next generation of Online Self Direct Investment and adviceDirect platforms.”

    Screenshot from

    Fortunately, if there’s one group that can spend the resources needed to take on the wave of fintech firms and massive IT budgets of their competitors, it’s bank-owned brokerages. Of course, this past year (and week) has shown DIY investors that bigger brokerages aren’t necessarily without bugs when trying to roll out new trading platforms or features.

    Historically, banks have been conservative and reluctant to roll out platforms or technology that is too new because of the risks associated with them. Clearly, the risk of being left behind technologically or the risk of losing market share has spurred BMO InvestorLine (and its peers) to innovate much more quickly. It should be exciting to see where the “bleeding-edge” takes online trading next.

    Discount Brokerage Tweets of the Week

    It looks like a rough start to fall 2016 for brokerages this week on Twitter – Scotia iTRADE in particular as their website crawled to a halt. Bitten by the tech bugs this week were BMO InvestorLine, Questrade, RBC Direct Investing and Scotia iTRADE.

    From the Forums

    Yay or Nay to Interactive Brokers

    An interesting thread on reddit’s Personal Finance Canada section caught our attention this week from a Qtrade Investor client looking to jump ship to Interactive Brokers. It would be a move to a very different experience online so it was interesting to read what insight Interactive Brokers users had to offer.


    Into the Close

    That’s a wrap for another edition of the roundup. If you’re lucky enough to get good weather this weekend, hope you can make the most of it. For the rest of us, guess we’ll just have to watch hockey, football and get a bit of a break from the crazy debate week next week. Of course, for those that want a bit of that crazy ahead of time, here’s the hamdog. Seriously.