IIAwards - Review of TD Ameritrade
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5 October
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As part of the recently announced IIAwards, in which we celebrate innovations in the fintech and crypto industry, today we will analyze TD Ameritrade taking into account different categories.

General information

TD Ameritrade was founded in 1975 and it is one of the biggest US-based stockbrokers. It is regulated by top-tier regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).

Commissions & fees - (3/5)

As of 2019, TD Ameritrade competes among the zero-fee brokers as it charges no commissions for online equity, US Treasury or ETF trades. Trading an option with TD Ameritrade costs 0.65 USD per option contract and the fees for mutual funds are 49.99 USD per trade. The company offers over 4,000 free-to-trade mutual funds out of the 13,000 available. However, if you sell these free funds within 180 days after the purchase, a fee of 49.99 USD applies. The broker will charge 1 USD per bond on secondary transactions (subject to a 10 USD minimum and a maximum of 500 USD). In contrast to other competitors, the fees for futures trading is comparatively high, as the broker charges 2.25 USD per contract. There is no inactivity fee and no withdrawal fee if the client uses an ACH transfer.

Markets & products - (2/5)

One of the key drawbacks is the fact that TD Ameritrade offers access only to US or Canada-listed securities. However, it’s possible to trade a vast number of stocks, bonds, futures, forex, ETFs and more. Cryptos are not yet on the platform, yet can trade CME Bitcoin futures. Opening a position with fractional shares is not yet available.

The company provides everything one might expect of a full-service brokerage, from stock trading to retirement guidance and all account types. TD Ameritrade has a well-developed portfolio management service. It offers three types of managed portfolios which include: essential portfolios, selective portfolios and personalized portfolios.

The essential portfolio is a robo-advisory service. First, you have to answer questions about your investment goal, risk tolerance and time horizon. Based on your answers, you can choose from five ETF portfolios. These portfolios will be automatically rebalanced when needed and the minimum deposit is 5,000 USD. If you choose selective portfolios, you will gain access to a range of more personalized services such as a personal expert. The minimum deposit here is 25,000 USD. From 250,000 USD TD Ameritrade offers a professionally managed personalized portfolio.

Advanced trading platform - (4/5)

TD Ameritrade offers a web-based platform, a downloadable desktop environment (called Thinkorswim) and a mobile platform. The company offers advanced stock, ETFs, options, mutual funds and fixed income screeners.

The Bond Wizard enables clients to search for individual bonds and CDs or build a bond ladder based on answers to five questions. Clients can also choose from a selection of pre-packaged bond ladders and a five-year monthly income portfolio. On the web-based platform, it is possible to find an income estimator that will show what kind of income your portfolio or a hypothetical portfolio would produce in a month-to-month report. The website also has a social sentiment tool. Within the stock profile section of the website, clients can use the peer comparison tool to compare a stock to its four closest peers against a variety of fundamental and proprietary social data points.

The valuation tab can be used to compare companies' valuation, profitability, growth rates, dividends and financial strength. What is more, the thinkorswim Trade Finder helps you detect potential spreads based on market expectations. On the web, you'll find CFRA stock research with its stock appreciation research rankings. Besides, there is the MarketEdge idea generator and the TradeWise options idea generator available. However, these two require a new window each so they clutter your screen.

Innovative account opening - (2/5)

As it can be understood from the securities offer on the platform, the company focuses predominantly on the US market. As a result, the minimum deposit requirement for US clients is 0. TD Ameritrade clients can choose from a huge array of account types, which should be an advantage. However, it can lead to confusion for new investors who are unsure of what they mean. These accounts include individual, joint, business, retirement, pension, college, trust accounts and more. In order to register, the online application process takes approximately 20 minutes and the identity verification procedure can take up to three days. During the setup process, there should be more help available for clients so they can start with the correct account type.

Customer service - (4/5)

The company offers a 24/7 customer service that can be reached via phone, email or live chat. The customer support line is available in English, Chinese and Spanish. There is also a Virtual agent called "AskTed" that helps direct you to relevant FAQ webpages. The average connection time through the phone is less than 1 minute and all of the answers are very professional and friendly. The e-mail support service commonly replies within the same day.

Education - (5/5)

TD Ameritrade's educational activity portfolio ranks as one of the top in the industry. TD Ameritrade sets a high bar for trading and investment education. It offers multiple education modes, including live video, recorded webinars, a demo account, articles, courses with quizzes and content organized by skill level. Much of the content is also available in Mandarin and Spanish. Using artificial intelligence, the website can give clients a personalized experience and suggest relevant content and the next actions.

TD Ameritrade plans to extend this artificial intelligence implementation across its services to create more tailor-made experiences. If you are eager to learn how to use the thinkorswim platform, you can download the simulator, which is called paperMoney. What is more, you'll find daily webinars on topics ranging from introductory to advanced at the Webcasts page. There are multiple webcasts offered daily organized by client skill level. There are articles organized by topic in the Investment Articles section of the website. Plus, clients can subscribe to a print magazine, thinkMoney, founded by the thinkorswim group. Articles are well-structured, simply written without being condescending, and cover a variety of topics. Visit a TD Ameritrade branch for live events - there’s over 1,500 scheduled annually.

Mobile trading / Apps - (4/5)

TD Ameritrade offers two mobile trading platforms - TD Ameritrade and thinkorswim. Based on the level of your proficiency and goals, you can select which one you want to use. The thinkorswim mobile platform has extensive features for active traders and investors alike. The workflow for options, stocks and futures is intuitive. You'll find lots of bells and whistles that make the mobile app a complete solution for most trading purposes, including streaming real-time data and the ability to trade from charts. The regular mobile platform is almost identical in features to the website, so it's an easy transition. Similarly to the web trading platform, TD Ameritrade mobile platform is user-friendly, has only a one-step login, however, there are fewer order types and order time limits than in the web platform.

UI / UX - (3/5)

TD Ameritrade tries to make getting started easy, but the breadth of its offerings works against it. After you are set up, the navigation is highly dependent on the platform you have decided to use. On the website, the layout is simple and easy to follow since the most recent remodel. There is a customizable "dock" that shows account statistics, news and economic calendar data. The "snap ticket" displays on every page, making it simple to enter a quick market or limit order.

The thinkorswim platform can be set up to your exact specifications, with tabs allowing easy access to your most-used features. Customization options on the website are limited, while on thinkorswim, you can specify everything from the tools on each page to the font used to the background color. Every aspect of trading defaults can be set on thinkorswim. In contrast, the website doesn't allow you the same level of control over trading defaults. Most customization options are stored in the cloud, so once you have set them up, they follow you from one device to another.

Digital security - (3/5)

TD Ameritrade is regulated by top-tier US regulators, like the SEC and the FINRA. TD Ameritrade's security algorithm recognizes the computer where a client has accessed the account in the past. Should an unfamiliar computer attempt access, a series of profile questions are used to confirm the client's identity. TD Ameritrade provides each client $149.5M worth of protection for securities and $2M of protection for cash through supplemental coverage from London insurers. Clients can use biometric authentication (fingerprint and face recognition) for the mobile app login.

Novelties

A version of thinkorswim for the web was announced in late May, 2020. It includes live trading and paper money, the trading simulation and all the asset classes available on the desktop version, as well as all the same data sources and trading engine. The main difference is that the web version is primarily transaction-oriented and has a simpler layout than the downloadable package. The biggest difference between the web and the desktop editions is that all available features are collected into one view on the web rather than having numerous different tabs. The web version is not as full-featured as the desktop or native mobile applications.

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