Canada's BEST and WORST Mobile Brokerage Experiences

Canada's BEST and WORST Mobile Brokerage Experiences

Questrade provides the Best Mobile Brokerage experience for Canadian Self-Directed Investors

What does Mobile Self-Directed Brokerage Experience mean? And how does it differ, if any, from an Online Self-Directed Brokerage Experience? Both good questions, with many underlying questions, and the answer continues to evolve. Today, a mobile self-directed brokerage experience represents the investing experience an investor is faced with using either an application-based (iPhone, Android or Proprietary) platform or a mobilized version (adjusts to smaller hand-held devices) to perform every day self-directed investing needs. Simply put, it evaluates the overall user experience of managing a self-directed investment account using a phone or tablet.

The overall mobile brokerage results continue to disappoint as there was minimal development capital spent to improve mobile-based experiences for self-directed investors despite record trade levels at all firms since the start of COVID. The results indicate a larger year-to-year problem across the self-directed investing landscape which should be of note to both seasoned and beginner self-directed investors. For example, BMO INVESTORLINE has managed to maintain a top-level mobile-based ranking despite an original design (with some modifications) that is at least 5 years old. What does that mean? It confirms the lack of development amongst the older and traditional firms and the inability of newer firms to provide a WOW for investors. #WowMe

For the second straight year, QUESTRADE provides the best overall mobile-based self-directed discount brokerage investor experience through its layered platforms that help an investor move along the self-directed investing growth cycle. Conversely, for the second straight year, WEATHSIMPLE TRADE provides the worst overall experience due to its nuts-and-bolts platform which, unlike QUESTRADE, does not offer investor self-growth opportunities.


Surviscor Mobile Brokerage Rankings

The 2021 Mobile Brokerage Experience Review audited 11 Canadian discount brokerage firms whose primary business is to offer self-directed DIY investing capabilities to its customers. The audit took place in September and October 2021 and evaluated each firm by analyzing over 340 individual usage criteria. The criteria are derived using almost 3000 objective questions per firm to establish the best experiences over 6 main categories made up of 23 sub-categories.

Mobile Experience RankBrokerage FirmExperience ScoreDetailed Company Review
1Questrade - Edge Platform77 %Detailed Company Review
2BMO InvestorLine73 %Detailed Company Review
3TD Direct Investing72 %Detailed Company Review
4National Bank Direct Brokerage64 %Detailed Company Review
5CIBC Investor's Edge63 %Detailed Company Review
6RBC Direct Investing57 %Detailed Company Review
T7Desjardins Online Brokerage56 %Detailed Company Review
T7Qtrade Direct Investing55 %Detailed Company Review
9CI Direct Trading54 %Detailed Company Review
10Scotia iTRADE48 %Detailed Company Review
11Wealthsimple Trade33 %Detailed Company Review
Not ReviewedCanaccord Genuity DirectOther Company Reviews
Not ReviewedHSBC InvestDirectOther Company Reviews
Not ReviewedInteractive Brokers CanadaOther Company Reviews
Not ReviewedLaurentian Bank Discount BrokerageOther Company Reviews

Not many firms can say that they have made any mobile-based improvements in the past year which became evident when a larger-than-normal number of firms asked not to be ranked this year. It should be noted that each firm is offered the opportunity to tell its story during the review but not all firms want to participate which, could be, a sign that they are not proud of the offering. Whatever the reason, the following firms either refused to participate or ignored the invitation despite Surviscor's no-fee model which differentiates from most reviews:

HSBC INVESTDIRECT, LAURENTIAN BANK DISCOUNT BROKERAGE and CANACCORD GENUITY DIRECT are, yet again, not reviewed as they do not offer a mobile-based solution.

Go to The BEST and WORST Firms by Category

Go to MOBILE vs. ONLINE - Features and Functionality Insights

Go to The Bottom Line - Zero Commissions Could Hamper Development


Lessons Learned

Mobile Experience is Still Lacking

Different year, same message. The Canadian discount brokerage industry was late to the financial services mobile party, and it still lags behind both its Canadian banking counterparts and its US-based counterparts. With the current sophistication of mobile devices, investors should demand to have the same experience on their phones as they would on a desktop or laptop.

Most Firms are Not Giving Back to the Investors That Made Them

The self-directed DIY discount brokerage industry has been operating for over 30 years and through each growth and mature operational and product cycle, many firms have stayed the course by re-investing in the platforms used by investors that drove the success. Unfortunately, that pattern has stalled, especially in terms of mobile-based platforms. What's that say about the millions of investors who have contributed so much to the bottom line over the 30 years and especially during COVID? The depressing fact for Canadian self-directed investors is that they simply are being taken advantage of and not only by the big banks.

Beginner Investors are the New Focus - They Get Less and Pay Less

Each new, or beginner, investor should take note that the discount brokerage firms are focused on them and are attempting to win their business, but don't fool yourselves, they are being targeted with lower commissions only. Having order-taking capabilities at a digital brokerage firm is like having payment facilities on Amazon. Obviously, a necessity, but not having access to all types of products and the inability to sift through all the information to make the best purchase is where they lose out. Tune-out the marketing messages that try to convince us all that less features and functionality is better for us and search for real partners. #BewareTheWealthsimpleMessage

Beware of the New Brandings and Buzz Words

Trade or Investing? Which makes more sense to attract new investors? It appears that a few firms are thinking a re-brand will drive self-directed investors, but the reality is, the brand name must live up to its platform capabilities. CI purchased VIRTUAL BROKERS and decided to go the TRADE route as its Investing designation was already used by its robo-investor platform. QTRADE INVESTOR, once an industry powerhouse, dropped the Investor and introduced DIRECT INVESTING while WEALTHSIMPLE added TRADE. At the end of the day these moves are like playing a shell game as the ranking confirms in each case that perhaps less on marketing and more on platforms would make better sense.

Banks are Choosing to Piggy-Back Banking Platforms

We are hard on some of the bank-owned firms for falling from grace over the years, but the results indicate a larger problem across the industry. The appearance is that the big banks are content with piggy-backing existing banking platforms when re-introducing the newer self-directed investing platforms rather than ensuring that the essential features and functionalities of online brokerage are offered in the mobile platforms. Wealth generation and retention means less mobile-based features and functionalities for self-directed investors.

Scotia iTRADE Customers must be Frustrated

What has happened to the once powerhouse SCOTIA iTRADE who made its presence known early in the digital game taking advantage of its E*TRADE Canada purchase? It has been many years since the original post-E*Trade Canada management group was switched out and there has been little to no advancements since then despite numerous management changes and a strong Scotiabank digital banking presence.

Is CIBC Investor's Edge - The Poor CIBC Cousin?

CIBC INVESTOR'S EDGE has been the poor cousin for sure within the CIBC family as it has floundered for over a decade within the discount brokerage space despite a strong CIBC digital banking presence. It is hard to know if this is a management issue or a capital issue? Either way, another new management group is in place with more marketing and capital markets background, so our fingers are crossed for CIBC IINVESTOR'S EDGE customers who deserve better.



The BEST and WORST Firms - By Category

It is important to keep in mind that the depth of any Surviscor review translates to an environment of tough marking and firms being required to earn rankings. Ranks are not given to firms by sponsored ghost writers or false marketing pieces and messages. In addition to being tough, Surviscor will also give credit where credit is due. The hope is that all Canadian self-directed and DIY investors hold each discount brokerage firm accountable to the highest standards of customer experience and platform functionality.


MOBILE vs. ONLINE - Features and Functionality Insights

We continue to measure mobile platforms against the online, or desktop, platforms and try to persuade industry firms to close the development gaps that exist between the platforms. Firms try and convince customers, and themselves, that certain features and functionality do not translate well to mobile platforms instead of finding a way to make them work. There are many examples, but the following are the most glaring development gaps.

No Screening Tools for Mobile Users

Screening tools are designed to help investors narrow-in on potential investment opportunities and/or decisions as there is so much information to sift through. While the tools are deemed important by firms for online platforms, only 2 of the 11 firms offer mobile-based functionality and the coverage is barely relevant.

Transaction Types limited on Mobile

The main mobile-based transactional functionalities are for stocks and ETFs and most firms offer mutual funds and options trading if applicable. That is where the patterns end as alternative investments like GICs, bonds, foreign exchange and commodity trading are, for the most part, not covered. Only 2 of 11 firms offer some functionality but like screeners, they are very limited.

Forget Market Notifications using Mobile

4 of the 11 reviewed firms register some score when it comes to allowing investors to setup alerts surrounding general or specific market activity. BMO InvestorLine is given credit for the best coverage and its level of coverage is basic at best.

Educational Resources are Limited

Educational material via a mobile device? Why would anyone want that right? Wrong. It's time for the firms to realize that mobile platforms are not alternatives to all investors but rather the main platform to perform self-directed investing. 5 of 11 firms register some level of a score but only TD Direct Investing has decent coverage.


THE BOTTOM LINE - $0 Commissions Could Hamper Future Development

Discount brokerage firms have made good money for years but most of the firms have not kept pace with providing improved digital capabilities, especially mobile-based solutions. Now introduce an age of zero commissions and one could guess that the future looks bleak for current and new self-directed investors. These firms won't go away but if firms weren't investing back in its account base when they are making money, it won't get any better once there are no profits. Our fear, warranted or unwarranted, is that zero commissions will lead to less features and functionality for self-directed investors and simply turn these once powerful engines into order-taking machines. #DoYourOwnHomework


Back to the Full Rankings


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