Canada's BEST and WORST Online Brokerage Customer Service Experiences

Canada's BEST and WORST Online Brokerage Customer Service Experiences

Questrade provides the Best Online Brokerage Service Experience in Canada

Customer service, like many other things in life, continues to evolve but the evolution cycle appears to be like a cat chasing its tail. When one is not efficient enough, introduce another, and so on. We love to think that firms offer more to make it easier for us, but the reality is the moves are always self-serving to ease costs associated with providing great service. The investing world runs different from the banking world when it comes to customer service, and always has. In the investing industry, a timely response is the key variable. In banking, appointments and cross-selling discussions are the main drivers. Another key differentiator is coverage periods. Banks and credit unions, for the most art, offer weekend service and longer daytime hours than the online brokerage industry which seems content on offering an extended 9-to-5 type of business day coverage with little weekend service. There was a day, not long ago, when that was the reverse. A time when online investing firms understood the need to support an investor's educational growth, no matter the cost. #HelpMeMore

The year 2021 will long be known as the second, and complete year of COVID-19. It was a time when financial services firms fully embraced the new working environment reality upon them and 2020, along with the lists of excuses, had become a distant memory. The lessons learned, whether good or bad, shaped the rules of engagement for 2021 and will further shape them in the future. In terms of customer service responsiveness, 2021 was a Jekyll and Hyde year for the online brokerage industry. For example, the industry average response time decreased 20% from 2020, which is good, but the top five average rose 13%, which means investors should expect longer wait times. Another example is a record number of firms improved response times, some by close to 50% but 25% but those firms still answer in the 48 - 72-hour range. And finally, it was great to have a new name for the fastest response time, but 9 hours was the worst top response time since 2006, and a 68% increase from 2020. What does it all mean? More firms are back in the game, but the overall level of customer service remains a disappointment. #DemandMore

Inadequate service levels continue to be the real story and cannot be attributed to COVID in 2021. The questions are, what can online investors look forward to in 2022 and beyond? A return to the glory days service levels when the customer came first, or the new reality that may not be in the best interest of investors? Time will tell.

Glenn LaCoste, President and CEO of Surviscor Group


COMPLETE 2021 SERVICE EXPERIENCE RANKINGS

Service Experience RankOnline Brokerage FirmExperience ScoreFull Company Review
1Questrade76 %Full Review
2CG Direct74 %Full Review
3Qtrade Direct Investing73 %Full Review
4RBC Direct Investing66 %Full Review
5Interactive Brokers48 %Full Review
5Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage48 %Full Review
7TD Direct Investing38 %Full Review
8CIBC Investor's Edge32 %Full Review
9Scotia iTRADE31 %Full Review
10Desjardins Online Brokerage30 %Full Review
11Wealthsimple Trade29 %Full Review
11BMO InvestorLine29 %Full Review
13CI Direct Trading25 %Full Review
14National Bank Direct Brokerage18 %Full Review
15HSBC InvestDirect15 %Full Review

Go to Key Service Responsiveness Facts

Go to Lessons Learned

Go to Firm-by-Firm Response Times

Go to The Bottom Line


The BEST and WORST Firms - By CATEGORY

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 investors hold their self-directing discount brokerage partner accountable to the highest standards of customer experience and platform functionality.

The Service Level Experience was expanded in 2020 and focuses in on 3 main categories to establish the best and worst online brokerage firms in Canada. The areas of review include the various customer service contact options and availability at each online brokerage firm, from both the pre-login and logged-in areas of each firm's digital platforms, and service responsiveness of each firm over the latest calendar year. The following table provides a quick look at the best and worst firm in each category:

NON-CUSTOMER INTERACTION RESOURCES

The Non-Customer Interaction Resources category audits the public-site customer service 'touch-points' and personal assistance a self-directed investor can receive from its online brokerage firm, social media, and other access channels through the various digital platforms offered.

BEST Service ExperiencesLink to Company ReviewWORST Service ExperiencesLink to Company Review
TD DIRECT INVESTINGFull ReviewWEALTHSIMPLE TRADEFull Review
QUESTRADEFull ReviewLAURENTIAN BANK DISCOUNT BROKERAGEFull Review

CUSTOMER INTERACTION RESOURCES

The Customer Interaction Resources category audits the self-directed contact methods available with its online brokerage firm including phone support, messaging centres, live chat, and other touch points of the secure login digital platforms.

BEST Service ExperiencesLink to Company ReviewWORST Service ExperiencesLink to Company Review
INTERACTIVE BROKERSFull ReviewLAURENTIAN BANK DIRECT BROKERAGEFull Review
QUESTRADEFull ReviewCG DIRECTFull Review

SERVICE RESPONSIVENESS

The Service Responsiveness category is a summary of the 157 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 the optimal days of the week to interact. The results are collected through Surviscor's proprietary 15-year Service Level Monitoring and Benchmarking program.

BEST Service ExperiencesLink to Company ReviewWORST Service ExperiencesLink to Company Review
CG DIRECTFull ReviewNATIONAL BANK DIRECT BROKERAGEFull Review
QTRADE DIRECT INVESTINGFull ReviewHSBC INVESTDIRECTFull Review


KEY SERVICE RESPONSIVENESS FACTS

The Service Responsiveness category of the 2021 Online Brokerage Service Experience review provides a wealth of information through its collection of near 3,000 individual service interactions. Here is a quick look at some of the key facts:

  • Industry's average response time improved 28% to 39.67 if National Bank Direct Brokerage is taken out of the equation
  • WEDNESDAY is the BEST day of the week to send service inquiries
  • LAURENTIAN BANK DISCOUNT BROKERAGE woke up in 2021, improving its standing by 10 spots, and improving its response time by 58% to 26 hours
  • The top response time in 2021 was 9.13 hours, a 63% increase from 2020's best time of 3 hours
  • FRIDAY is the WORST day of the week to send service requests
  • 4 of the 5 BIG 5 BANKS improved response times by 24-48% but still average a 29 to 54-hour response time
  • TD DIRECT INVESTING response time increased by 45%, or 17.48 hours, to 56.75 hours
  • HSBC INVESTDIRECT dropped 4 spots into last place with an average 81.47 hours to respond
  • NATIONAL BANK DIRECT BROKERAGE abandoned its public-facing email/form-based contact availability

LESSONS LEARNED

The Jekyll and Hyde Year in Responsiveness Statistics

At first glance, the quick reaction is to praise the industry and most firms for stepping up to the plate after 2020 and improving service response times. Additionally, a firm like Laurentian Bank Direct Brokerage came to life and re-entered the game. As we take a closer look into the details, it becomes clear that the worst firms are getting better but the better firms are getting worse as the time to respond continuum has simply shifted in 2021.

Hello Zero Commissions. Goodbye Service?

How does the saying go? Be careful what you wish for.? If Canadian investors demand $0 commissions to be a partner, then its only logical that something would give, and another product or service would suffer. The guess could be higher non-commission fees to replace the lost revenue but that does not seem to be the case. The ongoing poor overall experience at pioneer Wealthsimple Trade and now the removal of traditional non-customer points of contact at National Bank Direct Brokerage, the next firm up, may be a trend.

The Big Banks are Still Missing the Mark

It is great to see the Big Bank owned firms show substantial improvements in 2021 but when you have gone from bad to not so bad, it may not be the time to congratulate anyone. For example, RBC Direct Investing provides the quickest response time at 29.68 hours. TD Direct Investing was the only firm to deteriorate in 2021 and now sits at 56.75 hours while BMO InvestorLine responds in 48 hours, CIBC Investor's Edge 54, and Scotia iTRADE, a whopping 64 hours. Wow, those are long times to wait for a simple question.

Firms are Hiding behind Non-Customer Security Excuses

Pre-login digital areas are designed to educate potential investors and less about communicating with them as most firms would hide behind the fact that the area is non-secure and should be addressed with caution. Fair point. But to sell a service to someone who needs to ask a question before opening an account, the options must cater to the needs and methods those individuals understand and trust.

The secure e-Interaction is Nothing to Brag About

The online brokerage firms, and consumer banking forms for that matter, have made the security concerns of firms about non-secure interactions very clear. The usual message to Surviscor is that customers receive more options and better treatment once inside the walls, but the research indicates otherwise. In most cases, those areas on customer interaction within the walls are dated and poorly designed for near-instant messaging and the turn-around times are not as fast as one would hope once signed-in.

Weekends and Evenings are For Rest, Not Questions

Domestic investment markets traditional run 5 days a week from 9:30am-4pm ET with both pre-market and after-market capabilities at a few firms. Firms may have lost sight on what self-directing investing means and the role they play in educating and assisting the investor through the journey of becoming a confident self-directed investor. Weekend customer service is the norm across the consumer banking industry because it makes sense but is something the online brokerage firms removed years ago due to volumes, unless they are a bank and simply use a bank-run call centre for questions which are rarely answered correctly.


FIRM-by-FIRM RESPONSE TIMES

The ongoing Surviscor Service Monitoring and Benchmarking Program drives the customer service level experience evaluation. The review, now in its 17th year, analyzes the service interaction methods, service availability and 157 individual electronic banking service enquiries per institution, across 15 Canadian Online Brokerage firms, sent between January 1st, 2021, and December 31st, 2021. The service interactions portion of the analysis uses 'mystery-shopping' public-site contact forms/emails and, occasionally, social media interactions.

2021 Surviscor Response Standards

Surviscor has established 4 defined levels of response standards based on the average time to respond to a service interaction. The standards were first established in 2007 and were adjusted with lower response times in 2010 to reflect a good era for service, only to see the standards increased again in 2020 to, sadly, reflect the new normal of customer service expectations. The 2021 Surviscor Response Standards and non-Standards results were as follows:

Response Standard Online Brokerage FirmAverage Response TimeFull Company Review
PLATINUM: < 6 hoursNO FIRMS
GOLD: 6-12 hoursCG Direct9.13 hoursFull Review
SILVER: 12-18 hoursQtrade Direct Investing13.55 hoursFull Review
BRONZE: 18-24 hoursQuestrade19.17 hoursFull Review

Response Times NOT meeting Surviscor Standards

A sad, but true, reality is that only 3 of the 15 Canadian Online Brokerage firms reviewed responded within the Surviscor response standards window of 24 hours. The firms who do not respond within 24 hours are classified into 5 distinct, but nothing to write home about, response clubs. Find your firm:


THE 1 - 2 DAYS TO RESPOND CLUB

Online Brokerage FirmAverage Response TimeFull Company Review
Laurentian Bank Discount Brokerage25.97 hoursFull Review
RBC Direct Investing29.68 hoursFull Review
Wealthsimple Trade35.78 hoursFull Review
Interactive Brokers36.17 hoursFull Review

THE 2-3 DAYS TO RESPOND CLUB

Online Brokerage FirmAverage Response TimeFull Company Review
BMO InvestorLine48.87 hoursFull Review
CIBC Investor's Edge54.67 hoursFull Review
TD Direct Investing56.75 hoursFull Review
Desjardins Online Brokerage57.18 hoursFull Review
CI Direct Trading58.35 hoursFull Review
Scotia iTRADE64.47 hoursFull Review

THE 3-4 DAYS TO RESPOND CLUB

Online Brokerage FirmAverage Response TimeFull Company Review
HSBC InvestDirect81.47 hoursFull Review

THE 4-5 DAYS TO RESPOND CLUB

Online Brokerage FirmAverage Response TimeFull Company Review
NO FIRMS

THE NO MORE e-CONTACT CLUB

The No More e-Contact Club has unfortunately arrived in the Canadian Online Brokerage industry. The club can be described as firms who are no longer interested in communicating with potential consumers via email or public-site forms. Instead, these firms have chosen to push potential consumers to social media, phone, and branch-level contact methods. The irony is, in most cases, the primary point of identification and contact when opening an account is an email address. The message is basically that they will allow you to use email once a customer but until then, you better like social media.

Online Brokerage FirmFull Company Review
National Bank Direct BrokerageFull Review

Go back to the 2021 Service Experience Rankings



THE BOTTOM LINE

Service reputation is the main cornerstone of any business relationship and can be measured in several ways. The simple reality is that the service statistics and concerning newer trends of customer interaction levels like social-media and virtual assistants, send a message to investors that things may not rebound. While the online investing industry has kept pace with the newer customer interaction capabilities, methods like chat and social media are not being serviced as they should be. Chats need to be live and serviced by real people to be effective while social media is a form of instant messaging which is self-explanatory. Let us just get back to the basics and make the customer #1 again.#CustomerFirst


The Surviscor DISCLAIMER

Surviscor takes the ultimate pride in being tough markers and having zero bias in calling-out any firm for both good, and poor, experiences. Identifying firms that offer best-of- breed, industry-leading products, and services to deserving customers is the mandate. Canadians work hard for their money and having a great investing partner is not a privilege. Brokerage firms do very well by Canadian consumers and should be held accountable to the highest standards of customer experience. Do not forget that the consumer holds the cards, not the brokerage firm. There are many firms, big and small, to choose from. #FindTheRightFirm


Learn More about Canadian Service Level Experiences:

Consumer Banking Service Levels: 2021 Consumer Banking Service Level Experiences