For over two decades, Corporate Insight’s e-Monitor research service has provided valuable insights into the brokerage industry’s digital offerings. In 2004, we introduced the Brokerage Website Audit, followed by the Brokerage Mobile Audit in 2017. Now, in 2023, Corporate Insight unveils the Brokerage Website & Mobile Experience Benchmarks, leveraging an updated framework and grading criteria backed by user surveys to identify leaders across the industry.

Below, we preview some key findings from our 2023 investor survey and the results of the 2023 Brokerage Website & Mobile Experience Benchmarks. These findings are further explored in a free webinar.

Understanding Survey Data Trends in Brokerage Services

Age-based segmentation is an increasingly important trend in the brokerage industry, particularly with the emergence of Gen Z investors. CI recently surveyed over 2000 investors as part of our 2023 Investor Survey, asking a range of demographics about their brokerage-related preferences.

Younger Investors, such as Millennials and Gen Z, place a relatively stronger emphasis on tools and educational content that can help them achieve their financial goals. They also engage more frequently with these resources compared to older investors. In terms of overall daily usage, our investor survey revealed that 52% of Young Investors (a combination of Millennial and Gen-Z cohorts) logged into their brokerage accounts daily, while the figures were 39% for Gen X and 22% for Boomers.

Young Investors also engage more frequently with other website features, especially regarding trades across different asset classes. They exhibit a higher frequency of trading in stocks, ETFs, bonds, mutual funds, options, futures, and forex compared to Boomers. However, certain usage trends remain steady across all age groups, particularly in account information categories such as viewing account performance statistics and trade confirmations. See the chart below for a detailed comparison of engaging in these web activities across generations:

A chart showing the preferences of different brokerage demographics

Survey results indicate that the majority of investors (64%) who use both the mobile app and the website consider the mobile app their primary way of accessing their accounts. This preference is particularly strong among Young Investors. As the mobile user experience continues to improve, investors are gaining confidence in performing more complex actions on their mobile devices. Within the past six months, a significant percentage of respondents used mobile apps for actions such as placing stock/ETF trades, viewing quotes or charts, and using personal financial management (PFM) tools. In contrast, desktop websites were used less frequently for these activities. These findings highlight the importance of brokerages ensuring that mobile tools offer the same capabilities and ease of use as their web counterparts. The preference for mobile apps over desktop sites varies across generational segments. For respondents using both web and mobile, whereas 74% of Young Investors consider mobile apps as their primary access point, only 30% of Boomers and 21% of Silent Gen respondents prioritize mobile apps.

A chart showing demographic preferences for brokerage apps

The 2023 Brokerage Website & Mobile Experience Benchmarks

The Experience Benchmarks are a comprehensive evaluation that aims to maximize the strengths and address the weaknesses of brokerage websites and mobile apps, offering clients guidance for enhancing their digital offerings. Corporate Insight offers two versions of the updated Web and Mobile Experience Benchmarks: a syndicated version that firms can purchase “off-the-shelf” providing rankings (both overall and by category), firm profiles, best practices and a light firm spotlight of strengths and weaknesses, or a fully customizable version that also features a more in-depth review of the given firm’s strengths and weaknesses as well as scores on the subcategory level along with specific recommendations to improve the firm’s digital experiences. We also work with the firm to create a customized weighting system if desired.

The Brokerage Experience Benchmark meticulously assesses brokerage websites across eight categories and 42 subcategories, encompassing over 175 website attributes. Similarly, the evaluation of mobile apps covers seven categories, 36 subcategories, and more than 150 attributes. These attributes encompass design, functionality, navigation, and usability. Skilled analysts with subject matter expertise grade each attribute based on predefined criteria, ensuring objectivity and consistency. To provide a comprehensive user experience analysis, the Experience Benchmark assesses 12 core web and 10 core mobile app digital journeys commonly undertaken by investors, such as reviewing transaction history, placing trades, and getting quotes.

A screenshot showing categories used in the brokerage website experience benchmark
Brokerage Website Experience Benchmark Framework

 

A screenshot showing the mobile app experience benchmark categories
Brokerage Mobile App Experience Benchmark Framework

To further enhance the accuracy of the Experience Benchmark, Corporate Insight incorporates data from the investor survey. The survey results help assign importance weightings to different aspects of the Experience Benchmark framework, ensuring alignment with investor expectations. The survey-backed data empowers brokerage firms to tailor their offerings to specific client demographics, such as Millennials and Gen-Z investors, who have distinct financial needs and usage patterns.

A list of firms covered in the brokerage experience benchmarks

The Experience Benchmark ranks 20 leading brokerage firms based on the design, functionality, navigation, and usability of their websites. Charles Schwab emerges as the frontrunner, earning an overall score of 87, closely followed by Fidelity at 85. These firms excel in areas like account information, design, and navigation. E*TRADE and Merrill Edge also secure positions in the Leading group, providing robust web experiences. Over half of the firms fall within the Achieving tier, offering a broad range of digital functionality. Meanwhile, five firms in the Effective tier provide a limited range of features and face design and usability challenges.

A screenshot showing the brokerage experience benchmark scores
Brokerage Experience Benchmark Score and Classification Table

Brokerage website rankings

The mobile app rankings reveal Charles Schwab at the top with a score of 68, with E*TRADE, Fidelity and Merrill Edge following closely behind. While no firm achieves the Leading distinction, many fall within the Achieving tier, providing a wide range of digital functionality. Charles Schwab stands out for excelling in multiple categories, including Design & Navigation, Trading, and Support. Nine firms land in the Effective tier, offering limited functionality, while four firms trail behind due to insufficient content or capabilities.

Mobile rankings for brokerage firms

The investor survey highlights the importance of account information, with 93% of respondents considering it extremely important. Attributes within the Account Information category receive high scores, and seven firms earn the Leading distinction in the Brokerage Website Experience Benchmark. Charles Schwab and Morgan Stanley excel in account data and analysis tools, while Morgan Stanley offers robust account activity and portfolio analysis experiences.

Account information rankings for brokerage firms

View CI’s free webinar to learn more about the investor survey and the 2023 brokerage experience benchmarks. Our brokerage research experts will examine valuable data and insights regarding investors’ preferences, habits and levels of satisfaction with the brokerage digital experience.

Brandon Judge

Brandon Judge is an Analyst on CI's brokerage team.

Ian Bonhotal

Ian Bonhotal is the Research Manager for CI's brokerage team.