How to choose an online broker to invest in the stock market
In reality, individuals cannot directly access the market to buy or sell financial assets such as stocks or currencies. They must go through intermediaries responsible for transmitting their clients’ orders to the market. It may be a bank, but since the early 2000s, specialized institutions have developed on the internet: online brokers.
What criteria should be used to choose an online broker to invest in the stock market?
For any order placed on the stock exchange, a broker charges you fees called brokerage fees. The amount of brokerage fees is deducted at the time of the transaction from your cash account. The amount and structure of brokerage fees vary greatly from one broker to another. Brokers also offer different formulas depending on your trading profile (average amount of orders and number of orders placed per month), which does not really facilitate comparisons between brokers.
The fee structure is often both fixed (for small amounts) and variable (for large amounts). For example, €2 if the amount of the order is less than €1,000, and €5 for any order of an amount between €1,000 and €5,000, and 0.10% for orders of a higher amount at €10,000. Note that the fees on orders placed on foreign markets (from a broker located in France) are often much higher.
Among the different fee formulas offered by brokers, your choice will be guided by your trading profile defined by the estimated number of orders placed per month. An “Active Trader” profile corresponds to more than 10 orders placed per month.
The amount of the fees is not to be neglected because it can significantly impact the performance of your stock market investment. For an inactive trader placing 2 orders per month for around €500 on Euronext, the total amount of fees should remain below €100. For a very active trader placing 20 orders per month for around €1,000 on Euronext and abroad, the total amount of fees could easily exceed €2,000.
You will also be aware of the account transfer or closing costs.
Markets and products available
In France, online brokers all offer access to the Euronext market, which is the main stock exchange in the euro zone (Amsterdam, Brussels, Lisbon and Paris). Depending on your needs, it may be interesting to have access to other markets: London, Milan, Zurich, US markets, Asian markets….
Likewise, online brokers offer all the standard products like stocks, currencies and commodities. Depending on your needs, it may be interesting to have access to other products: UCITS, trackers, options and futures, warrants… Some brokers (but not all) also offer to carry out leveraged transactions – purchases and sales on credit – with the Deferred Settlement Service (Service de Règlement Différé or SRD).
The ease of use of the platform
The trading platform must be easy to use to both place orders on the markets and follow the evolution of your position (the cash in your cash account and the lines of your portfolio in your securities account).
We will also see if the broker offers a mobile phone application in addition to classic internet access.
From my experience, I have seen that the operation of an account with an online broker (or a traditional bank) is never perfect. We can cite, for example, the difficulty or impossibility of recovering access codes. It is therefore essential to be able to contact the technical support to solve the problems that will arise. We will pay attention to the time slot of the support, the online waiting time and the quality of the answers.
What to do before opening an account
Some online brokerage sites
In France: boursorama.com and Boursedirect.com
In Europe: internaxx.com swissquote.com and keytrade.com
In the United States: etrade.com schwab.com tdameritrade.com interactivebrokers.com or even speedtrader.com and suretrader.com.
Thank you and last advice from a friend
Finally, a big thank you to Prof. Jean-Marie Choffray who shared with me his advice on choosing an online broker. It reminds me of reading two books that need to be studied very carefully: Malkiel (A random walk down Wall Street), and, ESPECIALLY, Clews (“Twenty-Eight Years in Wall Street” updated in “Fifty years in Wall Street”) – the “bible” as far as he is concerned! Its summary could whet your appetite Henry Clews: Twenty-Eight Years in Wall Street
Before entering the markets, it is also necessary to train yourself. The SimTrade certificate allows you to discover the markets in an educational and fun way.
May The Market Be With You!