Service Level Experiences at Canada’s DIY Online Brokerage firms

Canadian DIY Online Brokerage Service Level Rankings

Questrade provides the best Self-Directed Online Brokerage Service Experience in Canada

For all Canadians, 2020 will go down as the year of the global COVID-19 pandemic. For the firms in the Canadian self-directed online discount brokerage industry, it was also a year of record profits through record trades and account openings. With success often comes sacrifices and, in this case, the success of the online brokerage industry came at the expense of the Canadian DIY investor that experienced, and continues to experience, system downtimes and unacceptable service responsiveness. The Surviscor Service Level Assessment program has been monitoring Canadian financial service levels since 2006 and the 2020 results indicate that COVID-19 is only masking system-wide service issues that have been present since the mid-2010's. #PoorServiceLevels

The good news is that its not all gloom and doom but, contrary to what Canadians expect, its not the bank-owned firms that are providing the good news, a disappointing trend that is verified in the Canadian digital banking industry as well. The trend begs the question of is it the banks who are not stepping up or are independent firms better at service experiences due to their size? Two firms stood out yet again in 2020, Questrade and Qtrade Investor, with exceptional average response times of four hours or less while newly branded Canaccord Genuity Direct rounding up the top three. National Bank Direct Brokerage won the best bank-owned firm honour while big bank-owned firms BMO InvestorLine, Scotia iTRADE and CIBC Investor's Edge response times clearly indicate the lack of interest in service levels. #BankProfits>Service


Go to Top Insights

Go to Key Facts

Go to The Bottom Line


Breakdown of Online Brokerage Service Response Times

Surviscor's Service Monitoring and Benchmarking Program drives the customer service benchmarking and performance evaluation. The review, now in its 16th year, analyzes the service interaction methods, service availability and evaluated 163 online brokerage service enquiries per institution, across 15 Canadian discount online brokerage firms, sent between January 1st, 2020 and December 31st, 2020. The program primarily uses 'mystery-shopper' public-site contact forms/emails and, in some cases, social media interactions.

2020 Surviscor Response Standards

Surviscor has 4 levels of response standards based on the average time to respond to a service request. The standards were first established in 2007 and were adjusted with lower response times in 2010 to reflect a great time for service, only to see the standards increased again in 2020 to sadly reflect the new normal of customer service expectations. The 2020 Surviscor Response Standards and non-Standards were as follows:

Response StandardDiscount Brokerage FirmAverage Response TimeFull Company Review
Platinum: < 6 hoursQuestrade2.90 hoursView Company Review
Platinum: < 6 hours Qtrade Investor4.02 hoursView Company Review
Gold: 6-12 hoursCanaccord Genuity Direct11.15 hoursView Company Review
Silver: 12-18 hoursNo Firms
Bronze: 18-24 hoursNo Firms

Response Times not within Surviscor Standards

The 2020 results indicate that 79% of online brokerage firms (11 of 14) did not respond within the established Surviscor standards that max-out at 24 hours. The remaining response time results are:

1 - 2 Days Response Times
Discount Brokerage FirmAverage Response TimeFull Company Review
National Bank Direct Brokerage29.38 hoursView Company Review
RBC Direct Investing39.17 hoursView Company Review
TD Direct Investing39.27 hoursView Company Review
2-3 Days Response Times
Discount Brokerage FirmAverage Response TimeFull Company Review
Interactive Brokers52.28 hoursView Company Review
Laurentian Bank Direct Brokerage62.30 hoursView Company Review
3-4 Days Response Times
Discount Brokerage FirmAverage Response TimeFull Company Review
BMO InvestorLine76.10 hoursView Company Review
HSBC InvestDirect77.55 hoursView Company Review
Desjardins Online Brokerage89.75 hoursView Company Review
Virtual Brokers91.68 hoursView Company Review
Scotia iTRADE94.20 hoursView Company Review
4-5 Days Response Time
Discount Brokerage FirmAverage Response TimeFull Company Review
CIBC Investor's Edge104.17 hoursView Company Review
Notes:

Surviscor does not allow response times more than 120 hours and Wealthsimple Trade does not offer a non-social, e-contact facility to contact firm.


Go to Full Results table for Service Experience Scores




TOP INSIGHTS

Two Firms are Consistently at the Top

Questrade and Qtrade Investor must be mentioned for their continued commitment to service excellence. Like many others, both firms can experience tough times, but the difference is they are typically short-lived experiences, and they bounce back. That does not appear to be the norm at most other firms as service challenges appear to result in the new response times becoming the norm moving forward.#SimpyTheBest

How the Mighty Have Fallen

There was a day when firms like BMO InvestorLine and Scotia iTRADE ruled the Canadian online discount brokerage industry, especially when it came to service levels. Throw in CIBC Investor's Edge who has never been an industry force in anything but price, and these bank-owned firms' average response times of 76, 94, and 114 hours show just how the bank-owned online brokerage firms have lost sight on service which starts at the executive level.#MakeThem Accountable

Service Response Times do not support the Marketing Messages

Many firms will respond to these results with excuses of COVID-related busy markets and staffing issues or, better yet, that the focus is spent on servicing actual customers not potential customers. The latter makes sense for sure as the statistics confirm the theory but if you are an investor of big bank stocks, what does that say for marketing dollars spent? For example, TD Direct Investing is heavily advertising for the first time in a decade but if a non-customer wants more information, they must wait on average 39 hours to hear more which does not seem like a productive use of funds. Maybe spending that money on more staff makes better sense and if TD Direct Investing is 5th overall in response times, imagine what the other firms are wasting.#OverPromiseUnderDeliver


The BEST and WORST firms by CATEGORY

The 2020 Service Experience review expanded slightly from its 15-year history of focusing on the service interactions. It was expanded to include the various contact choices available at each firm and looked at the availability of them, from both the pre-login and login areas of all digital platforms. Let us take look at how Canadian discount self-directed brokerage firms performed in each of the three main categories by not only focusing on the two best firms in each category but identifying the bottom 2 firms who are clearly missing the mark and should be held accountable by Canadian DIY online brokerage customers.


The Best and Worst Firms for Service Responsiveness

The Best and Worst Firms for Non-Customer Interaction Resources

The Best and Worst Firms for Customer Interaction Resources


The BEST and WORST Firms for SERVICE RESPONSIVENESS

The Service Responsiveness category is a summary of the 163 service interactions collected per firm initiated through the online brokerage firm's chosen public-facing interaction facility, including an average time to respond, a peer-based service level index, the success of any stated response promise guidelines and information on which days of the week are optimal for investors. The results are collected through Surviscor's proprietary 15-year Service Level Assessment program.

The BEST Firms for Service Responsiveness:

QUESTRADE - #1

Questrade is consistently in the top three in terms of monthly average response times with an impressive average response time of under 3 hours.

QTRADE INVESTOR - #2

Qtrade Investor, the longest standing winner in the review, finished a close second with an average response time of 4 hours and remains the leader in the peer service level index score.

The WORST Firms for Service Responsiveness:

SCOTIA iTRADE and CIBC INVESTOR'S EDGE

It is sad to see Scotia iTRADE, once a leader in this review, drop to unacceptable average response times of 94 hours while investors should be worried about CIBC Investor's Edge even answering a service interaction with an average response time of 104 hours. #TheFirstImpressionTellsAll


The BEST and WORST Firms for NON-CUSTOMER INTERACTION RESOURCES

The Non-Customer Interaction Resources category audits the public-site customer service 'touch-points' and personal assistance an investor (or potential investor) can receive from firm staff, social media and other access channels through the various digital platforms offered.

The BEST Firms for Non-Customer Interaction Resources:

TD DIRECT INVESTING - #1

TD Direct Investing's public site offers both potential customers and current investors a well-designed Contact Us area with access to industry-leading service interaction functionality and availability.

QUESTRADE - #2

Questrade's public site is a close second offering quick interaction methods for potential, and existing, investors.

The WORST Firms for Non-Customer Interaction Resources:

LAURENTIAN BANK DISCOUNT BROKERAGE and WEALTHSIMPLE TRADE

Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage woke up in 2020 but the lack of a mobile platform and a poorly designed public site explains the poor showing. Wealthsimple Trade does not offer a non-social media, e-contact method which is very odd. #YouGetWhatYouPayFor


The BEST and WORST Firms for CUSTOMER INTERACTION RESOURCES

The Customer Interaction Resources category audits the direct customer contact with firm staff including phone support, messaging centres, live chat, and other touch points of the secure login digital platforms.

The BEST Firms for Customer Interaction Resources:

INTERACTIVE BROKERS - #1

Interactive Brokers has an edge over other industry firms based on its availability of Contact Us resources through its mobile platform.

QUESTRADE - #2

Questrade's strengths lie in its Contact Us options offered to customers through its online platform, highlighted by its market hours chat capabilities.

The WORST Firms for Customer Interaction Resources:

CANACCORD GENUITY DIRECT and LAURENTIAN BANK DISCOUNT BROKERAGE

Canaccord Genuity Direct, the newest brand in the industry, and Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage both lack a mobile platform and provide customers with only basic service interactions. #TimeToStepUp





KEY FACTS

The 2020 Service Experience review provides a wealth of information through its collection of data through 2278 service interactions. Here is a quick look at some of the key facts:

  • MONDAY is the BEST day of the week to send service inquiries
  • Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage appears alive once again as they are responding to service request for the first time in several years
  • The industry average response time in 2020 was 59.31 hours
  • FRIDAY is the WORST day of the week to send service requests
  • 68% of the 2,278 service requests sent were responded to within 120 hours
  • BMO InvestorLine did not respond to any of the 14 service requests in December 2020
  • Scotia iTRADE responds to only 13% of its service requests within its stated guideline
  • CIBC Investor's Edge has not responded to a service request since July 2020

THE BOTTOM LINE

First Impressions - Do They Really Last the Longest?

You never get a second change to make a first impression and, in this case, investors should be listening better than ever. Service reputation is the cornerstone of any consumer and business relationship and can be measured in several ways. In today's new world, consumer marketing is at an all time high as we are marketed to every minute of the day and presented with both real, and fake, information with respect to partnership possibilities. Financial services' partnerships are not like other consumer-business relationships. Consumer hard-earned cash is at stake and trust should be established from the first contact and if the experience is poor, move on as there are plenty of firms to choose from. #MakeTheFirstImpressionLast

Service is Trending in the Wrong Direction but Don't Blame COVID

COVID-19 may have been a reason to excuse firms for poor service, but the truth is, most firms provided the same, or even improved, service levels in 2020 as compared to 2019. For instance, National Bank Direct Brokerage improved its response time by 54% but still sits at an average response time of 29 hours while RBC Direct Investing's average response time increased 135% in 2020 and sits at 39 hours to start 2021. To dig deeper, we compared online brokerage response time trends over the past 10 years and the truth is concerning. The average industry response time in 2011 was 16 hours as compared to 62 hours in 2019, a near 400% increase despite a pullback to 55 hours in 2020. #BuyerBeware


The Surviscor DISCLAIMER

Keep in mind that we are tough markers and have been for close to 15 years. Sure, we can be tough on many firms, but we also have no issues praising the ones who work hard to offer best of breed, industry-leading products, and services to deserving customers. Canadians work hard for their money and having a great investing partner should not be a privilege but rather a requirement. Brokerage firms do very well by us, and we should hold them accountable to the highest standards of customer experience. Do not forget that you hold the cards, not them and there are a lot of firms to choose from. #DemandTheBest


FULL RESULTS - All Firms under Review

Service Experience RankDiscount Brokerage FirmExperience ScoreFull Company Review
1Questrade97 %View Company Review
2Qtrade Investor91 %View Company Review
3Canaccord Genuity Direct67 %View Company Review
4National Bank Direct Brokerage51 %View Company Review
5RBC Direct Investing42 %View Company Review
6TD Direct Investing41 %View Company Review
7Interactive Brokers30 %View Company Review
8Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage23 %View Company Review
9BMO InvestorLine19 %View Company Review
10HSBC InvestDirect14%View Company Review
11Virtual Brokers14 %View Company Review
T-12Desjardins Online Brokerage13 %View Company Review
T-12Scotia iTRADE13 %View Company Review
14CIBC Investor's Edge6 %View Company Review
n/aWealthsimple TradeNo Service LevelsView Company Review


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