Last month, Corporate Insight released its annual e-Monitor Awards and Digital Advice Monitor Awards reports. These reports detail the best features of online brokerages and robo advisor platforms, respectively, across a handful of key areas such as Product Offerings, Account Information and Mobile Capabilities. In our analyses, we review the offerings and capabilities provided by the 18 firms in the e-Monitor coverage group as well as from the 17 firms composing our Digital Advice Monitor competitor set. Each category includes a distinct set of attributes and criteria—based on our proprietary Website and Mobile Brokerage Audits as well as our Digital Advice Audit—that we use to assess and rank firms. Based on these comprehensive results, we award gold, silver or bronze medals to those firms that excel. The gold medal goes to firms that offer products, tools or website features that are innovative and extensive, meeting all our established criteria in each category. Website offerings that provide strong value but suffer from a few small flaws earn a silver medal, while features that are imperfect yet maintain a distinct value or unique capability earn a bronze medal.

Account information is the highest-rated aspect of both the traditional brokerage and digital advice online experiences, according to results from Corporate Insight’s 2019 Investor Survey and 2018 Digital Advice Investor Survey. Strong performance views, in-depth holdings data and detailed account activity logs are each critical, allowing clients to obtain a holistic view of their portfolios and make better-informed investment decisions. In our e-Monitor Awards Report, Fidelity continues to excel in this category, earning its seventh consecutive gold medal due to its user-friendly presentation of account details, best-in-class Full View account aggregation platform and strong performance reporting with available index and benchmark comparisons. The firm continues its reign as the overall leader in this report, earning gold medals in four of six categories. Notably, Merrill Edge wins a silver medal in the Account Information category for the fourth consecutive year, earning credit for its in-depth account performance tools and robust account alerts platform. Morgan Stanley rounds out the leaderboard with a bronze medal here, earning top marks for its secure site homepage detail by displaying all available account types on a single page—including loan information, external accounts and even company stock plans.

blank Fidelity Full View Account Aggregation Platform

View a free slide deck preview of our e-Monitor award winners here:

[slideshare id=217831007&doc=e-monitor2019awards-public-200109160608]

In the digital advice space, Betterment earns the top spot in the Account Information category by providing clients with detailed, easily findable, well-displayed and fully integrated balances, holdings and history data. For balance information, Betterment’s secure site dashboard commendably provides a one-stop shop for clients to view their total net worth, total Betterment balance, funding account balance and tax losses harvested in tiles at the top of the page. Wealthfront earns a silver medal for providing a strong account balance experience, which carries otherwise good but not excellent history and holdings experiences with an aggregated view of internal and external assets. Morgan Stanley takes the bronze medal as one of the few firms to offer a limited version of history details directly on the Access Investing dashboard via the Recent Activity section, which features a table with Date, Description and Amount columns.

blankBetterment Secure Site Dashboard (Top)

View a free slide deck preview of our Digital Advice Monitor award winners here:

[slideshare id=217954399&doc=digitaladvice2019awards-public-200109204341]

Over the past 12 months, we observed firms across the brokerage industry invest heavily in their online investment research offerings.

  • In January, Merrill Edge launched its Fund Stories tool, which mirrors the existing Stock Stories tool and covers ETFs and mutual funds. The following month, the firm introduced a new secure site Portfolio Briefings feature that complements the firm’s previously added Portfolio Stories tool by offering a brief, interactive video outlining clients’ portfolio holdings and performance.
  • In February, Ameriprise debuted new Closed-End Fund (CEF) and ETF screeners.
  • TD Ameritrade launched Micro Charts in February, allowing clients to review fundamental data such as P/E ratio, earnings per share and profit margin for up to 200 securities at once.
  • Robinhood clients saw a June rollout of new secure site candlestick charts with indicators for Moving Average, Exponential Moving Average, Relative Strength Index and MACD as well as a July introduction of a secure site Morningstar Research Report section and Level II Market Data charts for Gold Subscribers.
  • In July, Fidelity introduced a new Mutual Fund Evaluator tool on a standalone page with new and existing features, allowing clients to screen mutual funds using two intrapage tabs, Quick Criteria and Fund Strategies; the latter allows clients to screen by investment strategy, goal or grouping of highly rated funds.

It will be interesting to see if investment in research platforms continues into 2020, as firms look to differentiate their offerings in the face of industry-wide price compression.

blankFidelity Secure Site Mutual Funds Research Fund Strategies Screener

This year also saw the launch of several new products as firms push to diversify revenue streams and provide a one-stop shop for digital financial services. Most new account types fall under the digital advice category, as the robo market naturally matures and firms attempt to meet customer demand for personalized guidance.

  • In July, JPMorgan Chase launched its You Invest Portfolios robo advice product. Like the previously released You Invest Trade, You Invest Portfolios integrates directly into the existing bank and card secure site, which features a redesigned dashboard that better incorporates all aspects of the client’s finances.
  • In September, Vanguard announced the pilot program for its new pure-digital robo advisor, Vanguard Digital Advisor (VDA). The program, currently available by invitation only, can manage both retail and defined-contribution account types.
  • That same month, Ally Invest launched a new “freemium” digital advice offering that includes 90 days of commission-free self-directed trading, more than 500 commission-free ETFs, and new “cash-enhanced” Managed Portfolios with zero advisory fees and an entry point of $100.

Additionally, many brokerages introduced hybrid robo advisors to an already saturated market. The popularity of the products is understandable as firms continue to look for innovative value-adds to distinguish themselves.

In May, Merrill launched Merrill Guided Investing with Advisor, which imposes an investment minimum of $20,000 and charges a 0.85% annual fee.

In July, Fidelity officially launched its hybrid digital advice platform—Fidelity Personalized Planning & Advice—which charges an advisory fee of 50 basis points and imposes a $25,000 investment minimum.