Busy investors who want to track their investments while they're on the move are finding that brokerage firms are beginning to address their needs. To see which firms provide the best mobile trading capability to consumers, financial services industry advisory firm Corporate Insight recently sampled the mobile trading features of 21 brokerages, from deep-discounters to full-service firms. TD Ameritrade (AMTD) and Fidelity came out on top, but surprisingly, only 11 of the 21 firms surveyed offered any type of mobile trading capability, and only six of those offered downloadable mobile apps.
Forrester Research estimates that 7% of online adults with investment accounts engage in some form of mobile investing. While there isn't yet a large group of active mobile traders, the number of mobile investors is expected to grow as consumers increasingly utilize mobile applications. In addition to upgrading the capabilities of mobile-formatted websites that can be accessed from smartphones, brokerages have begun offering mobile trading apps to help clients stay connected to their accounts.
David Rosenberg, Corporate Insight's senior analyst for brokerage firms, said the availability of mobile trading on a variety of platforms and the number of mobile capabilities offered were the two biggest considerations in ranking the firms. The best firms were considered those which allow users to complete the most tasks similar to what they might do on a computer, such as trading, view account holdings, transferring funds, viewing charts, looking up real-time quotes, accessing investment research, pulling up market news and managing investment watch lists, he said.
TD Ameritrade and Fidelity received the top rating of "A" among the 11 brokerage firms in the report by offering the best all-around mobile capabilities. E*Trade Financial (ETFC) (A-), Charles Schwab (SCHW) (B+) and optionsXpress (B) rounded out the top five rated firms. Vanguard, Scottrade, Edward Jones, Smith Barney, Sharebuilder and TradeKing were the other firms that offered some mobile availability.
Only six of the firms offer mobile apps – optionsXpress, TD Ameritrade, E*Trade Financial, ShareBuilder, Fidelity and Vanguard. Online brokerage firm optionsXpress offers downloadable apps in five different formats – iPhone/iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile and Palm webOS. TD Ameritrade offers four apps – iPhone/iPod Touch, BlackBerry, Android and Windows Mobile. E*Trade Financial offers an iPad app, along with apps for iPhone/iPod Touch and BlackBerry. Fidelity, which had an iPhone/iPod Touch app, just released an iPad app this week. ShareBuilder and Vanguard offer iPhone/iPod Touch apps.
All firms in the report, except Sharebuilder, have mobile-formatted websites and most have upgraded the technology to help investors stay better connected to their accounts. Fidelity's mobile website was rated the best, largely for its ability to allow trading of stocks, options and mutual funds, a currency exchange, plus providing quotes, charts, watch lists, alerts, news and market information. The site even has tutorials that are available remotely.
"Firms have come a long way in terms of the look and feel of trading online. Mobile technology has improved a lot," says Rosenberg. "I expect to see a rise in mobile-formatted websites or firms providing any way for clients to access their account information from a mobile device."
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