Surviscor Canadian Online Brokerage Experience Reviews - Canada's BEST and WORST Online Brokerage Experiences

Canada's BEST and WORST Desktop-based Online Brokerage Experiences

Scotia iTRADE provides the Best Desktop-based Online Investing Experience for Canadian Self-Directed Investors

Desktop platforms have been, and continue to be, the main online brokerage investor platform for any firm that has been around longer than five years. The reason is simple. Prior to smartphones and other handheld devices, it was the online real internet-based delivery option and firms were forced to put their best foot forward to attract the self-directed investor who was looking for discounted fees. The firms soon realized the advantages of providing an online-based solution. It quickened the investing process for investors while allowing firms to educate investors and share valuable market intelligence without the need for costly and timely phone interactions. The investors, once they accepted the internet in general, also recognized the advantages.

The adoption of mobile devices into daily routines hampered the ongoing development of desktop platforms despite the core necessity of the platforms for online brokerage firms. In the past two years there has been renewed signs of life in the desktop-based platforms around the industry as firms finally realized that, at a minimum, the older dated sites were in desperate need of design re-builds. In many ways, that trend has been led by bank-owned firms as they needed to enhance bank products and delivery platforms into the most recent digital development standards.

Content Overview

Go to Review Breakdown

Go to Results by Firm Type

Go to Review Insights

Go to Platform Inconsistencies - Desktop vs. Mobile

Go to Full Rankings

Go to Why the Surviscor Reviews are Different

Review Headlines

The original Online Brokerage Review was introduced in 2006 when only desktop platforms existed. With the introduction of mobile-based platforms, and the inconsistencies that exist between the two platforms, became the need to narrow in on the pure desktop-based self-directed online brokerage experience. The review explores a typical laptop/desktop-based self-directed investor experience, including both the pre-login and login areas, that evaluates the desktop-based investing journey through each self-directed investor process and typical investor experience.

As noted in the 2022 Canadian Mobile-based Brokerage review, online brokerage firms have taken different approaches when it comes to providing self-directed investors with mobile-based platforms, many settling on transactional-based mobile platforms with basic account and market information. A direct result of the strategy has heightened the necessity of the desktop-based platforms to provide traditional account management, educational material, and the deeper investment information to form investment strategies thus forcing self-directed investors to use both handheld devices and desktops to receive the best overall digital experiences.

SCOTIA iTRADE is the #1 Firm

SCOTIA iTRADE moved up one position in 2022 and now provides the best desktop-based self-directed online brokerage investor experience through its industry-leading features and functionality across the platform that cater to all types of Canadian self-directed investors.

CIBC INVESTOR's EDGE Improved the Most

CIBC INVESTOR's EDGE was the most improved firm in 2022, moving up three positions to #6 overall in the ranking.

WEATHSIMPLE TRADE is the Lowest Ranked Firm

For the third straight year, WEALTHSIMPLE TRADE provides the worst overall desktop-based platform experience amongst rated firms. In an attempt to attract the new investors and grow the corporate brand, the desktop platform was built after the mobile platform and continuously takes a development backseat. Either way, both platforms finish last in each review as neither provides a self-directed investor much opportunity for self-growth despite aggressive marketing saying otherwise.

Today's two-platform strategy is puzzling as the message is confusing. Online brokerage desktop platforms offer an investor everything the firms has to offer. Mobile-based platforms offer ease and quick actions and are marketed to the rookie investors using that message. The desktop platforms are what rookie investors need for educational guidance and growth and alternatively, the mobile platforms should be attractive to seasoned investors who know what they want to do and want to do it quickly, but they are not built for them.

Glenn LaCoste, President and CEO of Surviscor Group

Surviscor Personalized Validation and Selection Tool scorChoice for Consumer Bankers and Online Investors to find their own #1 firm

How Surviscor Evaluates Each Firms

The 2022 Surviscor Canadian Online Brokerage Desktop-based Experience Review audited 12 Canadian Online Brokers exploring a typical laptop/desktop-based online brokerage investing experience, including both the pre-login and secure login areas. The audit took place in November 2022 and evaluated each firm over 6 experience categories, including 27 sub-categories, evaluating 394 individual usage criteria based on 3600-plus objective user experience questions per firm.


CategorySub-Categories# of Criteria# of Questions
INITIAL EXPERIENCEOnboarding Experience, Service Availability, Usability Experience, Market Information, Public Resources84640
USER EXPERIENCEUser Protection, Customization Experience, Navigational Design, Product Availability55416
ACCOUNT EXPERIENCEApplications & Forms, Relationship Services, Account Information, Account Management, Account Notifications84603
MARKET ANALYSIS EXPERIENCEQuote Services, Market Information, Charting & Technical Analysis, Research & Fundamental Analysis55595
TRANSACTIONAL EXPERIENCEEquity/ETF Trading, Option Trading, Mutual Fund Trading, Bond Trading, Global Equity Trading, Alternative Trading47497
INVESTING & PLANNING EXPERIENCEScreening Tools, Market Notifications, Planning & Analysis Tools, Educational Resources69895

Click here for a more in-depth explanation of each category and sub-category.

Desktop Experience Rankings - By Firm Types

The Canadian Online Brokerage landscape offers Canadians self-directed investors with just over a dozen potential platforms to consider and a choice of bank-owned and independent firms. Whatever your preference, here's a look at the best and worst firms in each segment:


If you feel more comfortable investing through a bank-owned firm, here is how they stack up when narrowing in on a pure laptop/desktop-based experience:

Industry RankingBrokerage FirmExperience ScoreFirm Likes & Dislikes
1SCOTIA iTRADE92 %See Likes & Dislikes
T-3TD DIRECT INVESTING88 %See Likes & Dislikes
5RBC DIRECT INVESTING82 %See Likes & Dislikes
6BMO INVESTORLINE80 %See Likes & Dislikes
7CIBC INVESTOR's EDGE78 %See Likes & Dislikes
11HSBC INVESTDIRECT66 %See Likes & Dislikes

Bank-owned firms account for three of the top five and five of the top seven desktop-based platform rankings but really two firms dominate. SCOTIA iTRADE is not only the top bank-owned firm, but also the top overall desktop-based firm, and TD DIRECT INVESTING is right behind in 3rd place. Both firms offer industry-leading features and functionalities and are well ahead of the next grouping of bank-owned firms, RBC DIRECT INVESTING, BMO INVESTORLINE and CIBC INVESTOR'S EDGE. The third grouping includes NATIONAL BANK DIRECT BROKERAGE, who performs better in the mobile platform review, and possibly soon to be dismantled HSBC INVESTDIRECT who always performs poorly.


If you feel more comfortable investing through a non-bank-owned firm, here is how they stack up when narrowing in on a pure laptop/desktop-based experience:

Industry RankingBanking FirmExperience ScoreFirm Likes & Dislikes
2QTRADE DIRECT INVESTING91 %See Likes & Dislikes
T-3QUESTRADE88 %See Likes & Dislikes
8CI DIRECT TRADING77 %See Likes & Dislikes
12WEALTHSIMPLE TRADE20 %See Likes & Dislikes

History has shown that firms do not need to be bank-owned to succeed in the online brokerage self-directed investing arena. QTRADE DIRECT INVESTING, who mainly supports the credit union system and its members, has long been considered the leader and continues to shine. QUESTRADE, the #1 firm in our 2022 mobile-based platforms review, has a robust desktop platform that is essentially used to drive the mobile platform. WEALTHSIMPLE TRADE remains the lowest ranked non-bank firm due to its inability to fully service a true self-directed investor.

The pending sale of HSBC Canada to RBC should be welcomed news to HSBC InvestDirect customers who have suffered through one of the worst online brokerage digital solutions ever in Canadian online brokerage history. RBC Direct Investing is by far not the best solution, but miles ahead of the poor digital strategy and history at HSBC InvestDirect.

Glenn LaCoste, President and CEO of Surviscor Group

Review Insights

We have all heard of the saying 'No two things are created equal'. It's a strong and bold statement but a good one. It represents more than 'best or worst' scenarios. It represents a options to consider and some are 'better or worse' for a person's specific needs. Yes, that is different. Think about it. Our needs differ and the fact that even last place firms have customers proves the theory. Each Surviscor Experience Review validates the theory whether it's a self-directed online brokerage or a consumer banking review.

Here are some high-level insights from the 2022 Canadian Online Brokerage Desktop Experience review:

The Meaning of the Scores

It makes sense to wonder what the difference is between a 92% and a 20% Surviscor score. The basic explanation is it that the score represents a firm's ability to offer the features and functionality that exist in the global industry platform pool. Think of it as a pace car. Is the firm keeping up to all the features and functionality that exists amongst all the competing firms or is it losing ground. Translation, a firm score of 60% means that the firm is operating at a 60% pace to the available features and functionalities amongst all the firms. The higher score the better the pace or improved experience.

Higher Overall Scores = Mature Industry

If you religiously follow the Surviscor reviews, you may have noticed that the average industry scores tend to be higher in online desktop-based experience reviews than in mobile-based reviews. The explanation is simple. Desktops, or online functionality, came first. Mobile followed 15 years later. The key is to look at the industry gap from the top score to the bottom score to see the truth that lies behind the numbers. Be careful not to fall in the niche trap. Niche does not mean a firm is excellent at the minimal number of features and functionality they offer. Niche typically translates to lazy, and a niche player promotes it differentiation. Be careful, differentiation doesn't not equate to greatness.

Education is Finally taking the Next Step

Finally. This is a subject we have been hammering home since the adoption of smartphones. Education, or interactive real help, not FAQ's. The newest, non-animal related, improvement in all digital financial services is the growth of interactive educational videos and article ranging from improving product knowledge to actual demonstrating individual transactions/tasks. Firms are introducing Educational Hubs and using video, audio, and written material to help consumers which is great. But remember, and yes there is often a 'but', no two things are created equal.

2022 Was a Busy Development Year

As was the case with the recently released 2022 Mobile Banking, 2022 proved to be a step in the right direction for many online brokerage firms as a good amount of them made platform changes or are working on changes for 2023. It was nice to see some life at these firms and possibly some renewed energy into the offerings. The energy should translate into better experiences for Canadian self-direct investors. Time will tell as change does not guarantee user improvement despite the messaging.

New Designs Not New Improvements

Yes, 2022 was busy and 2023 is already starting to look like a good follow-up year for platform development. How about another saying? In many cases, the recent changes could be equated using the saying 'It's like putting lipstick on a pig'. Pig is a harsh word so let's soften the blow by simply stating that making design and navigational changes does not mean that the underlying features and functionalities are improved. The platforms simply look nicer. Hopefully Canadian online brokers take the next step and improve the features and functionalities for online self-directed investors.

The Plague - Development Inconsistencies

Development inconsistencies have plagued the self-directed online discount brokerage industry for the past 5-plus years. What exactly does that mean? Have you ever noticed in Surviscor reviews that a firm excels at one platform but yet struggles to keep industry-pace in another? Well, it's a thing and from our perspective, it represents a concerning issue. Digital platforms should be vehicles of usage not, offerings and it only takes one firm to take the industry into an area of inconsistencies and confusion as most firms feel compelled to follow the innovator, regardless of what that means. These inconsistencies will fall once firms get on board with the fact that a hamburger is the offering and the counter, or drive-thru, or even delivery service is the vehicle to get the offering to the ultimate end-user.

At first glance, placing a trade is a placing a trade. The truth is, there are many differences and Canadians should take notice. Not every stock or ETF transaction experience is the same. The best firms consider each investing process from end to end and maximize the overall experience with supporting features to enhance the functionality and investment journey.

Glenn LaCoste, President and CEO of Surviscor Group

Surviscor Personalized Validation and Selection Tool scorChoice for Consumer Bankers and Online Investors to find their own #1 firm

Platform Inconsistencies - Desktop vs. Handheld

This general observation deserves its own section, but the subject drives questions more than it does answers. How about we define the questions and let you define your own conclusions. To start, why are there so many inconsistencies between online brokerage firms' industry status in Desktop versus Mobile rankings? Would a rational assumption not be that if a firm is top 3 in one ranking that it would be a top 3 in a next to identical ranking that simply changed a device and used the same logic? Can it be explained by simply stating that firms focus more on one platform than the other? And if so, would it not be logical to assume that the firm's intention was to draw the investor into that platform as it serves its own needs?

The list of questions can lead an investor into an artificial intelligence endless internet loop of doubt. No matter what, let's agree that firms do not usually have the investor's best interest at heart, or they would offer robust platforms on all devices and allow the investor to choose the device but not at the expenses of the overall experience.

Let's look at the top platform discrepancies in 2022 by Industry Rank:

Rank DifferentialBrokerage Firm2022 Desktop Rank2022 Mobile Rank
9 ranksSCOTIA iTRADE1st10th
4 ranksBMO INVESTORLINE 6th2nd

The inconsistencies are troublesome for such a mature industry but they may be a blessing to some if they tend to use one specific platform as they will be able to quickly navigate the firm pool for a quality and relevant partner. To be clear, these firms are not mentioned to pick on them but rather point our where the development focus may exist. We would rather see firms with clear identities than firms who consistently underperform regardless of the platform, like WEALTHSIMPLE TRADE.

At the end of day, investors must choose which how they interact with a firm, or multiple firms. There's no law that says an investor must choose one firm and based on the clear development inconsistencies at many firms; investors may want to consider multiple relationships to be successful.

Glenn LaCoste, President and CEO of Surviscor Group

COMPLETE RESULTS - All Firms under Review

Desktop Experience RankBrokerage FirmExperience ScoreView Company Review
1SCOTIA iTRADE92 %See Likes & Dislikes
2QTRADE DIRECT INVESTING91 %See Likes & Dislikes
T-3TD DIRECT INVESTING88 %See Likes & Dislikes
T-3QUESTRADE88 %See Likes & Dislikes
5RBC DIRECT INVESTING82 %See Likes & Dislikes
6BMO INVESTORLINE80 %See Likes & Dislikes
7CIBC INVESTOR's EDGE78 %See Likes & Dislikes
8CI DIRECT TRADING77 %See Likes & Dislikes
11HSBC INVESTDIRECT66 %See Likes & Dislikes
12WEALTHSIMPLE TRADE20 %See Likes & Dislikes
Refused*CG DIRECTn/aSee Other Reviews
Not RatedINTERACTIVE BROKERSn/aSee Other Reviews

*Note: Both CG DIRECT INVESTING and LAURENTIAN BANK DISCOUNT BROKERAGE were approached to participate and either refused or did not respond. INTERACTIVE BROKERS CANADA is not reviewed due to its non-Canadian centric desktop platform.

The keys to finding a reliable and appropriate investing partner for an investor are to QUESTION the status-quo. EXPLORE alternative relationships. And BEWARE the marketing messages and false internet narratives.

Glenn LaCoste, President and CEO of Surviscor Group

Why Surviscor Reviews Are Different

The Surviscor Experience Reviews are the largest and most unbiased evaluations in North America and known for uncompromised facts, and truths, about clearly defined customer experiences and online journeys. The differentiation between Surviscor and other review and ranking firms, and those individuals who claim to cover the Canadian online brokerage industry, is that Surviscor reviews are based on facts, and a lot of them, not on subjective, and often firm-sponsored or limited sample size results that are unfortunately plague the internet narrative.

Keep in mind that the depth of the Surviscor reviews means an environment of tough marking and firms being required to earn their rankings not be given them by ghost writers or false marketing messages. In addition to being tough, Surviscor will also give credit where credit is due, and you can trust that the money Canadians work hard to make is being considered by identifying the premier online brokerage partners who deserve consideration. The hope is that all Canadians hold each firm accountable to the highest standards of customer experience.

Learn More about the Canadian Online Brokerage Industry

Best Online Brokers Rankings: Canada's Best and Worst Online Brokerage Firms

Mobile Experience Rankings: Canada's Best and Worst Mobile-based Online Brokerage Experiences

Commissions and Fees Experience Rankings: Canada's Best and Worst Online Brokerage Commissions and Fees Experiences

Service Experience Rankings: Canada's Best and Worst Online Brokerage Service Experiences

Surviscor Personalized Validation and Selection Tool scorChoice for Consumer Bankers and Online Investors to find their own #1 firm

Explore other Surviscor Rankings

This review is only one of many Surviscor yearly digital experience reviews for Online Self-Directed Brokerage and Consumer Banking firms. Take a look at your current firms, firms you always thought about using, and maybe you'll even find a new firm to consider.