March 2014: Account Balances

In this e-Monitor Report, we reviewed the account balance figures provided on the private websites of our coverage firms. Account Balances was identified as one of the most important online brokerage topics based on Corporate Insight’s Investor Survey, in which 92% of investors rated account balance information as either “very” or “extremely important. ” We looked at standalone balance sections or pages and reviewed the account balance offerings based on the following key criteria:

  • Depth of account balance details provided on the private website.
  • Data freshness of the account balance figures offered.
  • Features provided on the account balances page or section, including alerts, accessibility and the ability to download and/or export balance information into a spreadsheet.

Overall,
e-Monitor firms do a good job of providing account balance figures to clients on the private website as 67% received a grade of B or higher. The majority of
e-Monitor firms (66%) provide a standalone balances page or section on their sites. All but two firms in this group place their balances section or page as a sub-menu within their main site navigation. One firm positions all balance details directly within its Account Summary section, which also serves as the firm’s private homepage.

 

Account balance figures are dependent on several different factors, including the type of account held, margin availability and assets held. Based on our accounts and holdings, we found that 72% of all firms provide some type of buying power data, and 10 firms provide detailed buying power applicable to specific asset classes. The change in daily balance values is less commonly offered (by only 40% of firms), and only four firms provide the figure in both dollar amount and percentage.

One of the most important parts of balance figures is data freshness – how often information is updated. Half of all firms update account balance figures in real-time; all other firms offer delayed figures. The majority of firms (72%), however, offer a refresh option (other than selecting a browser refresh option) that allows clients to update balance values.

Additional key findings include:

  • Thirteen firms offer buying power figures.
  • Only five firms provide balance-related alerts.
  • All firms that offer online trading except one also provide buying power or balance details directly on trade tickets.