Virtual Brokers and Qtrade Investor named top online brokers for 2016

The two firms have bested 10 other brokerages that cater to mainstream investors

Virtual Brokers and Qtrade Investor named top online brokers for 2016
QTrade and Virtual Brokers have topped the list in the Globe and Mail’s 18th annual ranking of online brokerages. This year’s pool, which consists of 12 firms, was ranked according to usefulness to mainstream investors – an exercise that has become more challenging due to development in the self-directed investment industry.

“The old binary world of full-service and do-it-yourself investing is dead,” said Globe and Mail columnist Rob Carrick. “Robo-advisers have created a midway point, and it’s a safe bet that innovations to come will offer even more choice. This ranking is designed to highlight the brokers that are most effectively adapting to a more competitive world.”

Firms were compared based on 40 attributes under four categories: “life as a client,” which considers convenience for users; “cost,” which counts measures that allow clients to minimize costs; “portfolio building,” features that help clients compare and switch between investment vehicles; and “account reporting and maintenance,” elements to help keep track of portfolio mix and performance.

“The emphasis here is on features that help people build and manage their portfolios effectively, notably user-friendly websites,” Carrick said.

From the 12 competitors, Qtrade Investor and Virtual Brokers emerged as co-winners. Virtual Brokers earned praise for its updated version that provides users with “more stock research, and an improved website that breaks new ground in briefing them about what’s happening in their portfolios.” On the other hand, Qtrade Investor was noted for its useful tools to help clients choose ETFs, and was commended for delivering a “fresh, clean and client-friendly package.”

Some of the functionalities shared by QTrade Investor and Virtual Brokers are allowing clients to generally trade for $10 or less; offering US-dollar RRSP, RRIF, and TFSAs; providing commission-free low-cost Mawer mutual funds; and letting clients compare their results to benchmark stock and bond indexes.

The co-winners each earned an A overall. They were closely followed by bank-owned firms TD Direct Investing, RBC Direct Investing, Scotia iTrade, and BMO InvestorLine; TD Direct Investing got a B+, while the rest were tied overall with a B each. Notably, Toronto-based online broker Questrade also managed to earn a B+.

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