The TOP of the pile
Rating SA’s best stockbrokers for 2015
GT247.com is the Top Stockbroker of the Year, surging from a tie for third last year to displace Standard Online Share Trading/ Stockbroking from the top spot. The format of the survey, conducted by Intellidex, changed substantially this year, with more emphasis placed on specific offerings to clients and client satisfaction ratings, and less emphasis on how stockbrokers would cater to different client archetypes.
While that did influence the final standings, GT247 — known for its innovation in attempting to improve the client trading experience — has been improving dramatically recently. It finished tied third in last year’s survey, having not been in the top 10 in 2013. Being the cheapest of the discount brokers while offering a wide array of value-added services, along with high customer satisfaction levels, sealed its position.
Standard OST/Stockbroking takes second place with an incredible all-round offering. It held off PSG Wealth, which also excels in every category.
An important facet of this year’s survey was to provide more recognition to telephone brokers, those that still give old-fashioned investment advice to clients and who focus on building long-term relationships.
Sanlam Private Wealth/iTrade Online wins our inaugural award for best telephone-based broker, with Vunani second and Afrifocus third. It is the Sanlam Private Wealth unit that offers the high-touch, personalised service though its integration with Sanlam iTrade, which runs the online trading unit. Together they provide a full-service offering.
IG South Africa is the winner of the best online broker spot, followed by Standard and PSG Wealth. The quality of IG’s trading platform and its ease of use was rated highly by clients, nearly half of whom are active day traders who typically need the most efficient system available.
The People’s Choice award goes to DWT Securities — something of a surprise but only because it is the first time that enough of its clients have completed our client survey for it to be a candidate. In that survey clients rate their stockbrokers on various categories of quality and service. DWT, which also caters primarily to active day traders, was ranked highly on every measure. 28E Capital was ranked second and GT247 third. (See page 22.)
Vunani Private Clients wins the Top CFD award, ahead of Standard OST/Stockbroking, with Sanlam Private Wealth/iTrade Online third. In our assessment of tax-free savings accounts (TFSAs), GT247 comes out tops followed by Standard and Afrifocus. These are discussed on page 20. GT247.com A striking feature of GT247 is that it never stops innovating in its quest to add value for clients, while remaining a cut-price broker. And it is not afraid to try original things. The latest, for example, is to offer a gift voucher to trade on its highly rated EasyEquities platform, which is suitable for the small-scale investor. That serves to attract new clients and to get more people to invest in the stock market.
GT247 started out purely as a discount broker but through its evolution it now offers a
high-service model through GT Private Broking as well as full-scale wealth management services through its Emperor Asset Management division. The firm now caters to the full range of client segments.
But it is its EasyEquities web-based platform, geared specifically towards novice investors with extremely low rates, that is particularly impressive. It does not charge monthly fees or minimum brokerage and its brokerage commission is only 0,25%, the lowest in the market.
Neither has it cut back on its service and product offerings — quite the opposite. There is an array of novel features, including the intelligent use of social media, to enrich the trading experience. Clients can see other trades, track professional traders, discuss trade ideas and even follow “guru” portfolios that are structured according to the investment principles of some of history’s most successful traders, including Warren Buffett, Peter Lynch and Benjamin Graham.
The range of research and education assistance for clients is impressive. Educational workshops and a video library, covering things as basic as opening an account to fundamental analysis, are supplemented by blogs, webinars and demo investment accounts.
The self-assessment tool is handy. Not only does it establish a client’s risk and needs profile but provides insight into trading personality and knowledge of investment products. It even provides a recommended portfolio.
Standard OST/Stockbroking must be commended for its excellent all-round performance. Though last year’s winner won’t be happy with second place, it is notable that it contested for top honours in just about every category. It finished second overall and second in the online, CFD and TFSA categories. What held it back was slightly lower rankings than last year from clients in the People’s Choice survey, but certainly the firm excels in all areas.
Similarly, third-placed PSG Wealth is strong across numerous categories. The firm has impressed us with constant innovation and development over the years. Its latest move is to consolidate its Lisp platform with its brokerage accounts, so it may be the first in the South African market to integrate its stock and fund trading platforms, an innovation that has done very well in the UK.
One new development from PSG is a new offshore equity provider enabling reduced fees for clients, and offshore funds will be available soon. It has also developed a new front-end website that is responsive to mobile or desktop access.
One of the main aims of advice-based brokers is to build long-term relationships with clients, and Sanlam Private Wealth does that by providing highly personalised services. More than 70% of clients have been with it for five years or more, showing that it is clearly succeeding in that goal. Furthermore, 71% of clients say they have a dedicated broker to assist them.
Sanlam’s all-round offering is excellent. Clients were especially impressed with the quality of its research. A recent website upgrade has added a range of features including technical analysis research and a stock screening tool on fundamental data. Clients can now also see all their Sanlam products, including life policies and unit trusts, from their stockbroking account. Global online trading will launch in October.
Sanlam Private Wealth/iTrade Online is part of a big, resourceful organisation and that