A robust trading platform, desktop and mobile. Relentless innovation. These are just some of the elements that have helped keep TD Ameritrade (AMTD) a top favorite among investors in the latest IBD Best Online Broker survey.
Other factors are expanding research functions as well as a level of web-based and person-to-person service that satisfies sophisticated customers, including professional advisors.
Judging by the broker’s latest accomplishments and progress on integrating a historic merger with another industry giant, Scottrade, the Omaha, Neb.-based TD Ameritrade shows no signs at all of resting on its laurels.
In this year’s results, TD Ameritrade again finished among the top five, which it has consistently done the past five years. Plus, among the 19 online brokers explicitly listed in IBD’s extensive questionnaire, TD Ameritrade received the most respondents, even more than Fidelity and Charles Schwab (SCHW). This alone provides another layer of proof that the decades-old company draws a group of investors who are passionate about investing and trading with success.
The firm is not the lowest-cost broker, but it ranked among the five best brokers in 12 of the 14 categories in IBD’s annual investor survey. And in an industry war of low commissions that began two years ago with brokers like Charles Schwab, Ameritrade has reduced its fees over time. Commissions have dropped to $6.95 per one-way trade from $9.95.
Ameritrade earned the highest Customer Experience Index rating for its Options Trading Platform for the second straight year. Other categories where Ameritrade ranked highly included Investment Research as well as Site Performance, Equity Trading Tools, Research Tools, Mobile Trading Platforms, Educational Resources and Trade Ideas.
TD Ameritrade strives to stay on the cutting edge of options-related services by going as far as providing specific option trade recommendations. TradeWise Advisors, an affiliate, sends recommendations to a customer’s inbox; the emails include details on analytical methods that veteran floor traders apply when making such recommendations. Qualified TD Ameritrade clients may also direct the broker to execute the trade automatically through the Autotrade service.
TD Ameritrade Mobile Platform
Over the past year or so, Ameritrade also has worked hard to “further bridge the gap between mobile and desktop trading.” How? For starters, it’s successfully added event icon overlays on its mobile charts, including earnings information and stock splits. It’s added “Market Maker Move,” which allows clients to set and edit complex order conditions on their mobile devices, as well as the ability to view order history on trading activity.
In a move to boost account security, Ameritrade recently launched “2-factor authentication” for its customers in Singapore, and plans to expand this into the U.S. in the near term. Also on the mobile side, the company debuted a function that automatically locks the application when a user leaves his or her Web-enabled device and requires either a password or touch ID after the “Request Authentication” interval set by the user has expired.
Mobile trading is becoming a significant chunk of Ameritrade’s business. In 2017, it saw 331,000 average daily mobile users, up 24% vs. 2016, and enabled 126,400 mobile trades on average per day, up 33%.
“As we continue to invest heavily in our platforms, we are not only focused on delivering new functionality but also enhancing existing tools and features to improve the client experience,” Melissa Matson, a spokeswoman at Ameritrade, told IBD in an email exchange.
Data Available With TD Trading Accounts
Here is a list of other head-turning new innovations:
- Customized candlestick bars on charts. Users of Ameritrade’s highly respected thinkorswim platform (or TOS) can create and name their own Japanese candlestick patterns “that include any number of Up, Down or Doji candles with any given relationship to one another.”
- Earnings tab. The TOS platform features a new interface that researches the effects that earnings news has on stock and options prices. A user can quickly gather and analyze price history, historical implied volatility, actual earnings, the projected range from Wall Street analysts and crowdsourced estimates from Estimize.
- Social sentiment gauges. TOS users now can chart the number of mentions that a publicly traded company’s product or service has across social media. Each mention “is analyzed and tagged for sentiment, which will show if a given company’s mentions are trending more negatively or positively.”
- FRED. Ameritrade users now have easy access to economic data from 80 domestic and international sources and access to 400,000 data points from the Federal Reserve Economic Database via TOS.
TD Ameritrade Educational Offerings
TD Ameritrade is also big on ongoing education.
The company notes that it houses more than 200 instructional videos, tutorials and investing publications. Then you have the live webinars. For instance, on Jan. 17, Scott Thompson, an options expert, led an evening session entitled “Volatility, Vega, and VIX Option Strategies” to help customers “understand the critical role volatility plays in determining an option’s value, and consequently in choosing option strategies,” the company said on its website. TD Ameritrade held the session as part of its advanced level “Active Trader” presentation series.
Over the past month, TD Ameritrade also held events, all of which are archived, to discuss the topics of swing trading (Jan. 9), sector rotation and intermarket analysis (Jan. 10) and discerning the differences of growth, value and income (Jan. 11). Also on Jan. 11, it held three separate sessions titled “Portfolio Management: Enhancements and Protections,” “Active Trading: Complex Options Strategies,” and “Getting Started with Futures.”
Ameritrade’s merger with longtime rival Scottrade last year has led to significant gains in average trading volume. In the fiscal first quarter ended in December, Ameritrade chalked up an average 726,000 trades per day across all securities, up 49% from a year earlier.
Total client assets jumped 48% to $1.2 trillion.
Want to read more about the other top brokers, the latest commission trends and more? Check out the full IBD Best Online Brokers special report.
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