Table Of Contents

    Key points

    *Edited Dec. 22/14* What an exciting year to be a DIY investor. As an active observer and commentator on the landscape of Canada’s online brokerages, we’ve seen some dramatic changes this past year. Whether it was reduction in commission pricing, changes in account types or enhancements to platforms, user experience or investor education, 2014 presented […]

    Pic_Blog_201412_YearInReview_LeadImage_B*Edited Dec. 22/14* What an exciting year to be a DIY investor. As an active observer and commentator on the landscape of Canada’s online brokerages, we’ve seen some dramatic changes this past year. Whether it was reduction in commission pricing, changes in account types or enhancements to platforms, user experience or investor education, 2014 presented no shortage of exciting developments.

    With so many online brokerages, DIY investors now enjoy more choice in terms of who they want to end up doing business with and how they want to trade online. The flip side to the benefit of having so much choice, however, is actually keeping up with all of the innovation that’s taking place amongst online brokerages.  Every time a new feature, like a platform or a new order type, comes out, there is a lot of information that goes with it.

    In their own words

    So, in keeping with our continued efforts to track and structure the information coming from Canadian online brokerages, we thought it would be great if we gave Canada’s online brokerages the opportunity to give investors their own take on 2014 and also to provide everyone with a preview of where 2015 is heading.

    We reached out to all the brokerages and were more than pleased with the response we received to participate. Our request was simple. We asked that brokerages provide readers with a recap of 2014, perhaps with milestones or achievements as well as to provide some direction as to what’s around the corner for next year.

    What follows is a really interesting (in our opinion) compilation of voices of 8 9 of Canada’s most influential and visible online brokerages – from bank-owned online brokerages to independent brokerages. It is clear from reading these submissions that 2014 was a busy year everywhere. Nobody was standing still. Even more interesting, however, are the hints and previews online brokerages have shared for 2015.

    Table 1: Canadian Online Brokerages Participating in the Year in Review

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    Click on a logo to read the review of that particular brokerage. #colspan# #colspan#

    Getting up to speed

    Heading into RRSP deadline season and the first half of 2015, we know that there will be many individuals who are either considering online investing or who are already with a provider and would just like to better understand the landscape of choices that are out there.

    This compilation is a great starting point to learn more about each of the providers listed. They are certainly a diverse group of providers which is reflected in the different ways in which each has written their submission. In our opinion, this diversity will become one of the biggest themes for 2015.

    With standard commission pricing having dropped significantly across several brokerages, the focal point will turn to standing out. Our view on this is that ‘standing out’ will be achieved by being ‘outstanding’. That means improved service, pricing (yes, we still think there’s room to go lower for some), features and user experience.

    We believe that in 2015, Canada’s online brokerages will work even harder to differentiate themselves from one another. And, as was the case in 2014, we are looking forward to tracking these developments and helping our readers make sense of them all as they unfold.

    Click the logos above or the page numbers below to read this year’s submissions.

    Editor’s Note: We received a submission from CIBC Investor’s Edge after our original publication date and so we have included their submission as part of this series. For functionality purposes, however, we have placed their submission at the end of the series rather than in alphabetical sequence.

    Credential Direct

    Kim Thompson, SVP, Advisory Services, Credential

    In the early days of online investing, trading sites were primarily frequented by market-savvy day traders, who sought the thrill of a quick buy and sell. But as our world has become increasingly digital, the online brokerage channel has evolved to gain wider appeal. It is now attracting the everyday investor, who trades less frequently and favors a longer term wealth management strategy.

    In 2014, online brokerages across Canada announced changes to pricing models that reflected this shifting audience, and Credential Direct was no exception. After a thorough competitive review, we made several enhancements to our offering, always with this everyday investor in mind. Most notably, we announced a flat trade commission of $8.88 for everyone, regardless of account size or trading activity. We kept it simple and transparent, with no strings attached and no hidden ECN fees.

    Equipped with one of the simplest pricing models in the industry, we set our sights on streamlining the sign-up procedure for new accounts, and in the fall, launched a new guided online account opening application. The process is now more intuitive and efficient than ever, enabling new clients to start trading quickly (within one business day), from their desktops, tablets or smartphones. We also enhanced our trading platform by incorporating new Technical Event Analysis and Value Analyzer tools, powered by Recognia. We were the first Canadian online brokerage to offer the Trading Central ETF Newsletter, and the only to implement Predict Wall Street.

    But even a digital business is only as good as the people behind it, which is why the achievement we are most proud of this year is being ranked number one for customer service in Surviscor’s 2014 online brokerage ranking. Our team members consistently deliver unparalleled email and phone service, continuously boosting our value to new levels.

    Looking forward, our goal for 2015 is to continue offering the best, most high-touch service possible. This means we will keep adding educational resources that empower our investors to strengthen their financial future. We’ll build on the success of our 2014 webinar series (which featured the award-winning blogger behind Canadian Couch Potato, Dan Bortolotti) by offering more frequent webinars and presentations on broader topics that influence financial management at a higher level. We’ll further improve our technology, aiming to help investors feel as comfortable using our platform as they would any other day-to-day device or software, and we’ll continue to look for new ways to put top resources in the hands of our clients.

    This and much more is around the corner for Credential Direct and our clients in 2015!

    Kim Thompson
    SVP, Advisory Services

    To learn more about Credential Direct, visit their website at or view our profile of Credential Direct here.

    Desjardins Online Brokerage

    Daniel Suen Business Development Advisor Desjardins Online Brokerage, Vancouver

    2014 was a big year for our team at Desjardins Online Brokerage. We have achieved several milestones with the help of new pricing and features. Ranking ‘’Highest in Investor Satisfaction with Discount Brokerage Firms’’ in Canada according to J.D. Power was definitely the key motivating milestone for 2014.

    A series of innovations, hard work and dedication to our clients’ experience were the driving forces behind our success. In March 2014, we introduced our new pricing schedule for Disnat Classic, where we lowered the fixed commission to $9.95 per stock trade and introduced option commissions starting at $8.75 (1.25 per contract). The new Disnat GPS Canadian High Income Securities model was created, tailored to income-oriented retirees who want to preserve the capital in their RRIF. US Dollar RRSPs and TFSAs were introduced in November 2014, saving our clients foreign exchange expenses on American securities. Morningstar X-Ray and Recognia Investment Ideas were introduced to enhance the functionality of our trading platforms. A new interactive event calendar was created to provide a superior client experience for accessing our educational webinars, seminars, and other partners’ educational events. The new DBulletin monthly electronic newsletter was created to offer access to the list of stocks to follow from Desjardins Securities research department, an economic commentary published by Desjardins Economic Studies and articles covering various aspects of investing.

    A positive client experience has always been the de facto motivation for Desjardins Online Brokerage. We have dedicated a lot of resources and training for our employees, most of whom have been with the firm for over 10 years, to create a client experience like no other.

    Desjardins Online Brokerage is proud of our ability and capacity to innovate. In 1983, Desjardins Online Brokerage was the first to offer discount brokerage services. In 2003, we were the first financial institution in Canada to provide a true direct access brokerage service for active investors with Disnat Direct. In 2008, we launched Disnat Guided Portfolio Strategies (GPS), an unparalleled portfolio tracking service. Innovation is always a focus in what we do at Desjardins Online Brokerage and will continue to be a key differentiating factor between us and our competitors.

    Desjardins Online Brokerage is proud of our commitment to fulfilling our mandate of continuous financial education with more than 300 webinars and seminars across Canada every year, available in both English and French. We go above and beyond by finding education partners that align with our values such as DayTrader Canada, Stockscores and Charles K. Langford PhD. We are dedicated advocates of financial literacy.

    A sneak peek for 2015 includes the expansion of US dollar registered plans, the progressive launch of conditional orders, web improvements for our desktop & mobile trading platforms, and enhanced integration of the client experience with Desjardins. We have no doubt that each and every one of these features will transform the client experience for the better.

    Stay tuned for news of additional developments!

    Daniel Suen
    Business Development Advisor
    Desjardins Online Brokerage, Vancouver

    To learn more about Desjardins Online Brokerage, visit their website at or view our profile of Desjardins Online Brokerage here.


    Despite the unbelievable strength of the US equity markets combined with international uncertainty and low volatility, 2014 was, in general, a quiet year for traders. Lower volatility made it harder for Jitneytrade’s clients to partake as they usually would. But on the other hand, Jitneytrade took the opportunity of the slower markets to attract new clients that were looking for tailor made solutions and better cost structures.

    That being said, we still had nice moves in the interest rate futures market, beating volume records in 2014. Jitneytrade is still ranked #1 in BAX contracts on the Montréal exchange and #2 overall in volume for 2014. We are very proud of this accomplishment and look forward to repeating next year.

    We worked tirelessly on upgrading our processes and make sure our clients always benefit from cutting edge technology especially in this nanosecond world we live in. We effectively rolled out new ways for our clients to retrieve historical information/data and therefore make the Jitneytrade experience more user friendly. We expect more of the same in 2015 on that front. We have also launched key partnerships in 2014 with the likes of eSignal and Wizetrade to name a few; we have implemented full trading integration for both these products and offer them directly to our clients. Clients can use them as a trading tool or complimentary to their trading software. On the education/information front, we are proud to have partnered with and , both leaders in their respective spaces.

    For 2015 Jitneytrade will roll out a new upgraded version of their web trader consolidating all of Jitneytrade’s services into one stop, clients will be able to trade and retrieve all their data from the same place, we expect this in Q1 of the new year. And we will continue to maintain/upgrade our framework to align with the ever changing Canadian marketplace landscape.

    Mathieu Plamondon
    Vice President Professional Clients

    To learn more about Jitneytrade, visit their website at or view our profile of Jitneytrade here.

    Nancy Paquet, President National Bank Direct Brokerage

    National Bank Direct Brokerage

    2014 was a banner year for National Bank Direct Brokerage (NBDB).

    We began the year by redesigning our fee schedule. Following this redesign, the standard rate for an equity trade regardless of the size of the account or the level of activity, is $9.95. This drops to $6.95 per trade for active investors who execute a minimum of 30 trades a quarter. The standard $100 annual administration fee is waived for anyone who holds at least $20,000 of assets in their accounts, or who executes at least 5 trades during a year. Bottom line? For the do-it-yourself investor, managing a portfolio has never been more affordable.

    But buying and selling is just part of the equation. Equally, if not more important is the lineup of products, services and tools that a direct brokerage offers to support clients in their planning and investment decision making. In 2014 NBDB enhanced its electronic reporting capabilities by adding online monthly statements and tax documents to its service offering. We also introduced a full range U.S. dollar-denominated registered plan accounts for investors who want to diversify their currency exposure beyond the Canadian dollar.

    Our platform now includes a Morningstar-powered Goal Planner – that allows clients to map out scenarios with different assumptions to determine whether their current “behavior” will allow them to achieve their financial goals, or whether remedial action is required.

    2014 also saw the launch of InvestCube – an innovative new service that targets what we strongly believe to be an under served segment of the market – autonomous investors who want a simple, affordable solution that will allow them to manage their wealth without having to constantly worry about monitoring their investments. InvestCube is a service that gives clients the choice of 5 portfolios built exclusively with ETFs with asset mixes that correspond to 5 different investor profiles. The portfolios are automatically rebalanced on a monthly basis when the weighting of one or more of the ETFs deviate by more than 10% from the target allocation. With InvestCube, our clients can say good-bye to transaction fees, since initial purchase and all of the rebalancing transactions are executed free of charge. The total “all-in” cost for the balanced InvestCube portfolio comes in at 0.99%.

    How do we see 2015 at National Bank Direct Brokerage? Our belief is that 2015 will be the year of education. Do-It-Yourself investing is becoming increasingly popular, and a growing number of people want to learn more about how to manage their own investments. That is why we will be focusing on education and tools. There will be more seminars and webinars on different finance related subjects as well as new features made available to our clients on our platform.

    Finally, we will continue to place clients at the center of our business model by sparing no efforts to deliver superior customer service. At NBDB, we firmly believe that self-directed doesn’t mean being left alone. While our clients make their own investment decisions, we are there to support them in every way possible – by phone, over the web or in person – to help them reach their financial goals.

    Nancy Paquet
    National Bank Direct Brokerage

    To learn more about National Bank Direct Brokerage, visit their website at or view our profile of National Bank Direct Brokerage here.


    Edward Kholodenko President and CEO Questrade Financial Group

    I was recently asked if Questrade was in the financial services or technology business. Questrade has been in the Fin Tech space for several years. We developed our trading platform as well as many other financial front and back facing systems.

    Using technology to provide the best possible online financial service has come to define us, and here’s what it means to us.

    Since we opened our doors in 1999, we have focused on utilizing technology to refine and enhance financial services. We are an online brokerage (and the fastest growing one for 3 years running according to Investor Economics). Offering our clients value-added investing technology is in our DNA, and in 2014 we added bracket orders on our platforms and the ability to place simultaneous stop and limit orders.

    In 2015, we will be working to improve the IQ mobile experience and adding advanced order execution tools, enhancing option analytics and charting functionality.

    2014 was also the year that launched Portfolio IQ™, a unique wealth management service from Questrade Wealth Management Inc. Its Canada’s exclusive online advisory service that provides ultra-low cost, customized, professionally and actively managed portfolios for Canadians at any investment size. With Portfolio IQ, wealth management isn’t just for the wealthy anymore.

    Top of the list this year – and next – are our clients. We want to be the first choice for investors across Canada, and that means offering the best customer service. That is why we overhauled our account statements. Dalbar recognized that change and ranked Questrade #1 for direct brokerage investor statements and for direct and full-service brokerages (combined). On a personal level, I was honoured and humbled to receive the 2014 EY Entrepreneur of the Year award in the Ontario services category on behalf of Questrade.

    Investing in technology keeps our costs as low as possible, and we pass those savings onto our customers with low account fees and the lowest trading commissions in Canada. Our vision has always been to help Canadians achieve financial independence, and 2014 has seen that vision come to fruition. Now, onto bigger and better things for 2015.

    Edward Kholodenko
    President and CEO
    Questrade Financial Group

    To learn more about Questrade, visit their website at or view our profile of Questrade here.

    RBC Direct Investing

    A review of 2014 at RBC Direct Investing

    Michael MacDonald Vice President – Strategy RBC Direct Investing

    Our move to $9.95 trades for all

    As the year began we made the market-leading move to $9.95 trades for all – we felt the time was right for us to be the one creating this change within the industry and our team was very excited to be leading this change.

    We wanted to accomplish two things: to make online investing more easily accessible by making it more affordable; and to make our pricing available to all, by removing barriers for investors with smaller balances, who often couldn’t benefit from lower pricing due to minimum asset size and/or trading frequency. Our move to $9.95 flat commission pricing for all online and mobile equity trades accomplished both those goals. Now, regardless of how many trades an online investor makes or the size of an investor’s account, our price is $9.95. This is complemented by our existing $6.95 flat commission for active investors who make more than 150 trades per quarter.

    Our social media Community

    We soft-launched our online Community site in 2013 as a secure online meeting space for our clients to discuss all aspects of self-directed investing. This past year, we began actively promoting the Community — this included a national contest, which succeeded in increasing our Community membership to more than 12,000 members. Through Community, members connect with like-minded investors to exchange ideas, obtain opinions about their investments and learn from each other – all via anonymous user names. This anonymity enables Community members to compare their holdings (in percentage values only) to those with similar goals, time horizons and appetite for risk and to ask questions of “investors like me.”

    Within the Universe section – a unique feature of this social media site – members can actually see what other investors are holding in their portfolios (in percentages only, as no actual dollar amounts are disclosed) and can ask questions about those holdings. Within the Forums section, members have conversations with each other and gain the opportunity to learn from other members’ online investing experiences.

    What continues to excite us about Community is that we’re able to see the impact this peer-to-peer information sharing site is having on investors’ confidence as they discuss where to start and what to buy with other investors. We know that the more engaged you are as an online investor, the more active you are in the channel. Community is helping investors to stay engaged in the investment process – the encouragement Community members give to each other, the vast amount of ideas they are sharing, is great to see.

    More choice for Series D mutual funds

    We’ve been happy to see other firms moving to offer low-cost Series D mutual funds – including Purpose Investments and BMO. This was one of our key objectives, bringing even greater choice and value by offering mutual funds with channel-appropriate pricing to reward self-directed investors who do their own research and want to invest in actively managed funds.   We’re awaiting next steps from Manulife to make Series D mutual funds available across multiple channels and we look forward to others offering Series D in future.

    A preview of 2015

    Beta launches, client feedback

    When we recently modernized our Trading Dashboard, we launched our changes in Beta – we plan to use this same Beta approach for some of the changes we are planning for 2015. Beta gives us the opportunity to do a soft launch to clients and obtain their feedback before we fully turn anything on.

    Our next soft launch will be enhancements to our My Portfolios tab. As to other enhancements we have in mind for the rest of 2015, “stay tuned” – and we’ll be very happy to go into further details as each one is officially launched.

    What I can tell you is that we will continue to provide our clients with an extensive array of tools and educational resources to help them gain the confidence they need to manage their own investments, in addition to providing them with a wide range of choices on our product shelves.

    Michael MacDonald
    Vice-President – Strategy
    RBC Direct Investing

    To learn more about RBC Direct Investing, visit their website at or view our profile of RBC Direct Investing here.

    Scotia iTrade

    Providing self-directed traders and investors with a competitive advantage is Scotia iTRADE’s top priority, says Bob Grant, Managing Director and Head, at one of Canada’s top-ranked online brokerages. “And we’re delivering on this with exceptional value, market-leading platforms, and easy-to-use investing and trading solutions,” Grant adds.

    This strategy seems to be paying off for Scotia iTRADE, as the accolades poured in this year from several of Canada’s main broker rankings.

    MoneySense Magazine named Scotia iTRADE as its 2014 overall Top Pick for Ease of Use, Banking Integration and Customer Service in its 2nd annual survey of the best discount brokerages. The year before, MoneySense named Scotia iTRADE #1 for Active Traders and #1 for Beginner Investors. Plus, for the 2nd consecutive year, Scotia iTRADE received an “A” grade for Research and Tools in The Globe and Mail’s annual online brokerage ranking by columnist Rob Carrick.

    The success kicked-off in April 2014 when Scotia iTRADE established a leadership position in the marketplace by dropping online trading commission to $4.99 for active investors. And throughout the year, the brokerage launched many products and services to enhance clients’ investing experience, including online dividend purchase and reinvestment, a realized gains and losses tool, easy access to third-party GICs and rates, and enhancements to its mobile and tablet trading apps.

    All of Scotia iTRADE’s clients enjoyed the added value of a full series of interactive learning modules on direct investing – on top of Scotia iTRADE’s 100+ Webinars on-demand to empower investors and traders at every level of experience. Its top iClub Platinum members, however, also enjoyed the additional benefits of free access to the Sabrient Baker’s Dozen list, an award-winning quantitative ranking system.

    “Scotia iTRADE clients can look forward to even more enhancements this coming year,” says Grant. He says they can expect to see a new Performance Reporting tool and further improvements on all trading platforms.

    To learn more about Scotia iTRADE visit their website at or view our profile of Scotia iTRADE here.

    TD Direct Investing

    2014 marked the 30th Anniversary of TD Direct Investing bringing self-directed investing to Canadians. We celebrated by making a number of investments in our products and services to help our clients make better, smarter investment decisions.

    These innovations included:

    This past year, we also made self-directed investing even more accessible with the introduction of our simple and straightforward pricing of $9.99 flat for online Canadian and U.S. equity trades. In addition, we’ve eliminated the transaction fee category for mutual funds – this fee previously applied to select funds that were subject to a trade commission when they were sold.

    There will be many exciting things our clients can look forward to in 2015, as we bring the next generation of online investing to self-directed investors. Among the many enhancements to come, we’ll be offering Realized Gain/Loss Reporting in early 2015.

    Whether you’re new to online investing or an experienced trader, we have the tools, resources and support you need to help you invest with confidence. Get started today!


    Anthony Ricci
    Senior Manager, National Sales and Communications
    TD Direct Investing

    To learn more about TD Direct Investing visit their website  or  view our profile of TD Direct Investing here.

    TD Direct Investing is a division of TD Waterhouse Canada Inc., a subsidiary of The Toronto-Dominion Bank. TD Waterhouse Canada Inc. – Member of the Canadian Investor Protection Fund
    Marybeth Jordan,       Managing Director & Head CIBC Investor’s Edge

    CIBC Investor’s Edge

    2014 was an exciting year for CIBC Investor’s Edge.

    In October, we extended our loyalty pricing offer to all CIBC Investor’s Edge clients by implementing $6.95 pricing for everyone. This low pricing establishes CIBC Investor’s Edge as a price leader in online trading, making it more accessible for investors, regardless of their account balance or how frequently they trade.

    We have continued to make progress against our goal of providing an exceptional experience for our clients including:

    • Ongoing improvements to our web and mobile platforms
    • Extension of our chat capability services
    • Completion of a multi-year investment in our technology infrastructure
    • Market-leading research tools including a technical analysis client newsletter and technical analysis online module
    • Personalized service for clients with more complex needs

    In 2015, we will continue to enhance our client’s experience by:

    • Launching a new e-documents centre where clients can view all of their statements, trade confirmations, and tax documents
    • Delivering new online notifications enabling clients to opt out of paper statements and trade confirmations with confidence, knowing they can monitor their account activity in real time
    • Continuing to advance our Markets & Research portal with new content and design enhancements

    CIBC Investor’s Edge gives our clients the independence to take control of their financial future with access to easy-to-use online tools and calculators, high-quality research, and competitive pricing. We’re looking forward to continuing to provide our clients with a leading self-directed experience in the new year.

    Marybeth Jordan
    Managing Director & Head
    CIBC Investor’s Edge

    To learn more about CIBC Investor’s Edge, visit their website or view our profile of CIBC Investor’s Edge here