There is something quite exhilarating in my work – the opportunity to try all kinds of new things and to share my discoveries. I really wanted to try out the Bank of Montreal’s brokerage platform. Didn’t BMO InvestorLine win many awards and distinctions over the past few years? Here’s a review of one of the leading players in the online brokerage revolution.

The Globe and Mail, Morningstar, MoneySense, Surviscor and Ipsos Reid have each praised the merits of our subject matter. In terms of pricing, it’s fairly reasonable, and is in line with what prevails in the industry. The fixed trading fee is $9.95 per transaction, regardless of the size of your portfolio.

You can avoid the $25 quarterly registered account maintenance fee as long as you maintain a minimum balance of $15,000, have a registered account under the same banner or have performed at least two trades within the previous six months. That’s reasonable. The key remains, nonetheless, to avoid incurring these kinds of fees!

BMO InvestorLine : In “test” mode!

At first glance, everything seems to be well thought-out to make it easier for the investor. From the get-go, I noticed the ability to enter a stock symbol or the name of a company in the main menu bar, with two buttons on the right, “Quote” or “Trade”. A new window opens, providing quick access to the essentials. From the “My Portfolio/eDocuments” menu, the platform provides easy access to a transaction confirmation or a monthly statement. It’s ideal if you have several capital gains to account for in order to prepare your income tax!

I also note that BMO InvestorLine provides many ways to view or display asset details. For investors with multiple portfolio lines, try the “My Portfolio” menu. It’s too bad that the stock split calendar (in the Markets and News menu) is only available for the American market.

BMO InvestorLine : Things That Catch Our Attention

It’s the AdviceDirect service that first piqued my curiosity. It’s part of BMO InvestorLine’s offer, although it requires opening a separate account. This is an online investment service that helps you manage your portfolio with the help of personalized advice. The tool continually monitors your investments so that they remain in line with your investor profile. It notifies you immediately by email about what you need to monitor and suggests ways to adjust your portfolio in order to stay the course. Thus, before you make a sale or purchase transaction, you can quickly see how it will affect your asset allocation and the diversification of your portfolio.

This value-added feature, however, has a cost. If you have assets valued between $50,000 and $100,000, you will pay a fixed fee of $750 per year. Above this threshold, the fee is 0.75% of the managed assets, up to a maximum of $3750 per year. On the other hand, with this service there are no trading fees – you pay only the consultation fees mentioned above. You get 30 free trades per year.

Getting back to BMO InvestorLine, its biggest strength is probably the “Education” menu. The first available menu “Getting Started” provides a quick demonstration on the art of investing online. It’s ideal for those who are taking their first steps.

The second menu (“Information Centre”) helps you go back to the classroom. I had fun watching some webinars, like the one called “Learn to Identify Investment Strategies” or a second called “The Big Rotation Debate”.  And lastly, there are some webinars that have been offered for a long time, as some subjects remain timeless, while others do not.

The “Education” tab is worth a look. The Retirement Planner (third choice in this menu) seems to be in a class of its own. You can begin your financial plan and return to it later. The two other sub-menus menus of interest are “Retirement” and “TFSA”. Under the first, you will find a list of tips tailored to your personal situation (in retirement planning/retirement savings mode, retired or about to be). As for the second one, check it out to understand the ABCs of this registered plan.

BMO InvestorLine : Nothing is Perfect…

  • Unlike many of its competitors, BMO InvestorLine does not offer free trading when you buy or sell Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).
  • BMO’s robo-advisor, called Smartfolio, is not directly integrated into the trading platform. It requires opening a separate account. For those wondering what a Robo-advisor is, it’s an online service that helps you invest in an ETF portfolio that matches your investor profile and is administered by portfolio managers.

BMO InvestorLine : Mobile App

BMO’s tablet app enables you to handle your self-managed investments and your banking in the same place. It is only available for the iPad.

As for the mobile device application, you can follow the market and the major indexes in real time. It is available on the App Store, as well as on Google Play and BlackBerry App World. Somewhat less comprehensive than the sister app for tablets, it enables you, nevertheless, to get quotes and access real-time information in your watch lists, to trade stocks, options and investment funds, to view your recent account transactions and to configure any alerts you would like.

BMO InvestorLine: The Last Word

BMO’s InvestorLine lives up to its reputation. It’s a well-oiled trading platform. Having mobile apps available also gives it an advantage over some of its competitors. The lack of free ETF transactions could make it unattractive to investors seeking to make them the backbone of their portfolio. I’ll leave it at that – there is another platform I have to go explore…

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