I’ve been using TD’s discount brokerage since 2009 when I made the switch from mutual funds to DIY investing. At that time, TD Direct Investing’s WebBroker platform left much to be desired. The legacy web design was clunky and difficult to navigate (with 55 different navigational links!), trades cost $29 each way, and the platform offered little in the way of personalized account reporting.
TD took a lot of heat over its lack of innovation as an online broker – most notably in The Globe and Mail’s annual ranking of discount brokers, where TD Direct Investing graded out as a mediocre C in 2013. After addressing the account reporting tools and adding U.S. dollar RRSP accounts, TD moved up a grade with a solid B, but that came with a caveat:
“There’s room for TD to move higher if it finishes the job of modernizing a website that still parties like it’s 1999.”
TD Direct Investing WebBroker Platform
That all changed at the end of 2015 when TD Direct Investing took its WebBroker platform to the next level. In fact, I’d say the new design rivals that of the nimble robo-advisor start-ups in terms of the overall user experience, simple navigation, and design.
Add in their best-in-class performance reporting, research, and educational tools (including expert webinars and videos), and you can see why TD leaped ahead of every other big bank brokerage in last year’s online broker rankings.
I switched from the old WebBroker platform to the new one back in December, so I’ve had a chance to play around with the tools and features for a few months now. Here’s what I like:
New and simple home screen design
It was a nice transition going from 55 navigational links on the home screen down to just a handful of buttons on a dashboard. You get a snapshot of today’s market activity at the top, plus some notes and featured reports along the sidebar. The main box shows you all of your accounts, total balance, yesterday’s change, plus a nice graph that depicts your balance trend for the past month.
From there you can breakdown your accounts into four main categories: holdings, activity, performance, and gain & loss:
A typical looking dashboard and overview of holdings that you’d expect to find from an up-to-date online broker. Here you can find the number of holdings in your account, along with details such as the number of shares, average cost, market price, book value, market value, plus your overall gain or loss by security.
Breaking down your account by activity allows you to view the details and history of each transaction. In the above example, you can see a monthly contribution, the purchase of mutual fund, a dividend reinvestment, and a deposit of the Canada Education Savings Grant based on the $400 contribution (split into two deposits because this is an RESP family plan for two children).
Without a doubt the coolest and most useful tool in the TD Direct Investing WebBroker platform is the performance section. Here you can see your rate of return by account, broken down into common time-periods such as last month, last 3 months, last 12 months, and year-to-date. You can also set a custom date range or view the account and its rate of return since inception:
The only downside to the custom date range feature is that the data only goes back to December 31st, 2010.
I like that I can set my own annual target rate of return – in this case, it’s 8% – and then compare your actual rate of return to not only your target rate, but also other benchmarks such as the S&P/TSX Composite Total Return Index and the S&P 500 Total Return Index.
As you can see above, my RESP portfolio is up 52.86% since inception, and that works out to 10.55% on an annualized basis. Those results handily beat the TSX (9.53%) and my annual target (38.48%) over that timeframe, but can’t keep pace with the roaring S&P 500, which was up 101.63% since 2012.
If you want to see the impact that deposits or withdrawals have on your portfolio and its rate of return then just toggle over to the “balance trend” view. As you can expect with an RESP portfolio, especially in the early stages, the majority of the growth is coming from new deposits rather than changes in market value or dividends.
It’s worth noting that TD Direct Investing uses the time-weighted rate of return method to calculate investment returns. This method takes into account any deposits or withdrawals that affect the portfolio.
Balance trend is a nice touch for those who prefer to see the value of their portfolio grow in dollar terms rather than in percentages.
Gain & Loss
Another new and interesting feature in the newly updated TD WebBroker platform is the Gain & Loss section. Orion Szathmary, TD’s manager of investor education, told me that gain and loss reporting gives investors the opportunity to zero in on important information such as dividends and interest, as well as capital gains and losses. You can break this information down by individual security, by account type, or by registered vs. non-registered accounts.
Szathmary explained that when investors decide to sell a stock, for example, that information no longer appears on the main dashboard or holdings screen. Investors lose the ability to see the impact of that stock on their overall portfolio gains or losses. With gain and loss reporting, this information is readily available and easily sortable going back several years.
In the above example, you can see the gains and losses from my RRSP account in the year when I sold my dividend stocks. So now, anytime I get the itch to pick stocks again, I can just view this report and remind myself of the bath I took on Canadian Oil Sands stock in 2015. Problem solved.
Finally, one section that stood out for me is called Your Top Movers and it sits on the home screen dashboard just below your account breakdown. This report shows you the individual securities that are having the biggest impact on your portfolio by change in market value. It highlights any news or events that may be affecting the security, and shows the current analyst ratings from Morningstar. I could see this snapshot being really useful when I owned dividend stocks and could follow the biggest winners and losers.
I’m just a simple index investor, so I know I’ve only scratched the surface of some of the new WebBroker features that are now available. Even with its clunky old platform, TD always prided itself on having top-notch research and screening tools. They’ve become more active in investor education – both for beginners and more sophisticated investors. For example, active traders, such as the ones who trade options, have a number of new tools at their disposal, including updated and powerful search features that make it easier to find option contracts.
I’ve become obsessed with transparency and simplicity when it comes to investing and financial planning, and that’s why I was really pleased to see the changes made to TD Direct Investing’s WebBroker platform. It allows me to keep tabs on my indexing portfolios, track my performance, and compare them to several relevant benchmarks. The new dashboard gives me an excellent overview of my accounts – just enough to see what’s happening in my portfolio, relative to the market.
I’m not sure if TD, or any online broker for that matter, pays much attention to reviews or rankings in blogs and newspapers. For what it’s worth, I’d give TD’s newly revamped WebBroker platform an ‘A’ for overall experience.