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National Bank Direct Brokerage Review

Published by Usman Ahmed, MBA (Researcher)

Reviewed by Bowen Khong, ACCA

National Bank Direct Brokerage (NBDB) provides services in a style that is different from average brokers. This article reviews some of the features and mentions its ups and downs for investors to judge if the broker would work for their trading and investment purposes.

Overview

NBDB is a division of National Bank Financial Inc. It is also a trademark owned by the National Bank of Canada (NBC) used under the National Bank Financial Inc (NBF) license.[1]

NBF is a member of the Investment Industry Regulatory Organization of Canada, the Canadian Investor Protection Fund, and a subsidiary of NBC. NBC is a public company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange. NBDB provides order execution only services, and it does not make investment recommendations.

NBDB is the only brokerage firm affiliated with the Canadian banks that have abolished commissions for all online trades on Canadian and US stocks and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

According to Claude-Frederic Robert, President of National Bank Direct Brokerage, the company needs to evolve and not rely on the status quo to benefit its clients and investors across the country. This is one of the reasons the company is looking for new ways to equip and support Canadian investors. The $0 pricing is another step in its effort.

The National Bank of Canada had $351 billion in assets as of April 30, 2021, making the Bank, together with its subsidiaries, form one of Canada’s leading integrated financial groups. The Bank has more than 26,000 employees and has been recognized as a top employer. It has also been recognized for its commitments to diversify its securities.

Through the NBDB, you can trade different types of equities, ETFs, options, mutual funds, bonds, exchange-traded debentures, and a lot more securities. Besides having various assets to trade, it is also safe to trade with the broker because of its strong regulation.

ProsCons
No commission for stocks and ETFs
Has a variety of investment products 
It is owned by a big bank (safe to trade with)
Charges annual inactivity fee
Restricted to Canadians to a large extent 

Who is National Bank Direct Brokerage for? 

The broker is for Canadians who have their regular banking with the Bank and prefer to keep all (or a part of) their investments with the bank. 

It is also suitable for people looking to cut a few dollars off their non-ETF trading fees. However, this is not a good reason because many brokers offer such low costs with better services. 

This broker might not work for average traders and investors because it does not provide the popular platforms that many traders and investors are used to. 

It also does not provide mobile trading options and other features that the average trader would use on many other brokerage platforms.

Rating: 3/5

Is NBDB Safe?

National Bank Direct Brokerage is a part of the National Bank Financial Inc. The National Bank Financial Inc. is a member of Canada’s Investment Industry Regulatory Organization and the Canadian Investor Protection Fund (CIPF).[2]

IIROC is committed to protecting investors and market integrity and building Canadians’ trust in financial regulations and those managing their investments.

Its CIPF membership offers asset protection to its clients for up to $1million if the firm becomes insolvent. 

The broker is also part of the National Bank of Canada, founded in 1859, and is one of Canada’s largest banks.

It is safe to trade with NBDB because it is submitted under strong regulatory practices. Brokers who Tier-1 regulators regulate have a track record of good services and fraudulence-free acts. NBDB being controlled by a big and reputable bank is also a plus.

Rating: 4.5/5

Year founded:1999
Publicly traded: No
Licenses: IIROC
Backlist: No

Offering of Investments

The broker provides a wide range of instruments for trading. It provides equities, exchange-traded funds, options, mutual funds, bonds. Exchange-traded debentures, GICs, and linked notes. It does not offer cryptocurrencies or forex, which are the significant instruments most traders are interested in trading. For this, I believe it might not attract many traders.

Rating: 3.5/5

Forex: Spot TradingNo
Currency Pairs (Total Forex pairs)
Social Trading / Copy-Trading
CFDs instrumentsEquities, ETFs, Bonds, Options, Mutual funds, Linked notes.

Commissions & Fees 

The Bank offers some exclusive rates. The commission and fees charged will be highlighted below:

ETFs and stocks: no commission is charged for Canadian and US ETFs. They also do not have any minimum required amount.

No commission is charged for options, but a fee of $1.25 per contract is charged. Values that are more than $2000 offer a minimum fee of $6.25, the maximum fee of 19.95 is charged for values less than $2000.

No commission is charged for Debenture. Most of the mutual funds also do not charge commissions for trades.

For orders placed with an agent, regular commissions apply. For this, Canadian stocks and ETFs have a minimum commission of $44.95, the same as the minimum commission of US stocks and ETFs. 

The commission for Canadian shares of $2 or less is 2% of the transaction value, while its US counterpart is 2.5%. For shares of 2.01 or more, $44.95 + 4c per share is charged for Canadian Stocks and ETFs, while the US counterpart charges $44.95 + 6c per share. For value less than $2000, the charge for both is $44.95.

The pricing is quite favourable when compared with many other banks. Compared with other banks’ stock trading services, it could be above the industry average. 

When compared with brokerage firms, the pricing is not favourable by any standard. The broker also charges $100 yearly as an account management fee for accounts that hold less than $20,0000. I find this quite ridiculous.

Rating: 3/5

Minimum Initial Deposit$0
Average Spread EUR/USD – StandardNA
All-in Cost EUR/USD – ActiveNA
Minimum withdrawal $5

Platforms

The trading platform can be used to track your investments, carry out transactions at your convenience, access decision-making tools, look up stock quotes and market data, and benefit from the expert analysis of National Bank Financial and Morningstar.

You can customize the platform in different ways: identify your account roots, choose your preferred homepage and select the account to be displayed by default. 

With the comparison tool, you can see four stocks, mutual funds, or ETFs simultaneously, which can help you make decisions. You will also have access to returns, asset classes, management fees, and a lot more information.

With the platform setup, it is easy to see which of your securities fluctuate the most daily, either in dollar or as a percentage in the ‘top movers’ section. This way, you can easily know the shares that can influence your portfolio most on a particular day.

You can also set a watchlist on the platform. Your watchlist could contain up to 10 lists of securities to monitor, rename and place them in order of preference.

There are many tools from the Trading central can help you optimize your share searches according to your criteria, identifying bull or bear signals, and do many other things. 

Even though the platform has many useful tools for different traders, it could be quite challenging for many traders to get used to the site. Many retail traders are used to using the MetaTrader 4 and 5 and getting used to this might make the NBDB platform challenging to operate.

Rating: 3.75/5

Tools 

The broker provides some analytical tools that include:

Trading central: Through Trading central, you get three tools free of charge. These tools help you to weigh your decisions and explore investment ideas. The Trading central tools are built to be a strategic builder, value analyzer; it also gives technical insight.

Market Q: It shows prices in real-time so that you can get the best of market opportunities. Market-Q has sophisticated fundamental and technical analysis features.

OptionsPlay: It gives ideas for options trading. It allows clients to compare three strategies they can use.

ETF center: it helps in choosing ETFs based on management style, industry, annual fees, historical performance, and some other factors. The graphs in the ETF center are customizable and could be used to track ETF price fluctuations.

Decision-plus: It helps you to develop tailored investment strategies with three different tools. The tools are MarketVisionPlus, MarketGurus.tv., TraderPlus.

Performance tools: it helps in viewing the real return using the Shape ratio for every unit of risk.

Alerts: The alert helps in knowing when security has reached a targeted price. 

NBDB, providing its unique analytical tools, would help traders in making the most of its platform. The challenge some traders might have might come in when they are new to the platform.

Rating: 4/5

Virtual Trading (Demo)No
Proprietary PlatformYes
Desktop Platform (Windows)Yes
Web PlatformYes
MetaTrader 4 (MT4)No
MetaTrader 5 (MT5)No
Charting – Indicators / Studies (Total)NA
Charting – Drawing Tools (Total)NA
Charting – Trade From ChartYes
Order Type – Trailing StopYes

Research

You can’t get access to analysis from National Bank Financial and Morningstar. The broker organizes seminars and webinars. The events usually cover brokerage accounts, tools, investment products, taxation, and portfolio management. Details about upcoming events are on the website.

The broker also provides research tools in the form of financial publications that helps one to understand the market to devise better strategies. The financial publications include: 

Weekly economic watch: it shows the week’s economic news based on some indicators.

Market Reviews: it provides a daily end-of-trading summary of the global markets.

Currency market analysis: This also gives detailed information about the major currencies, including opening and closing rates, futures and it also shows the volatility of CAD/USD options. 

Monthly equity monitor: this shows an analysis of financial markets and focuses on some key sectors

Monthly fixed income monitor: This allows traders to benefit from an in-depth analysis of interest rate fluctuations.

Other research tools include Canadian economic breakdown, economic and financial outlook.

The research tools are diverse and cover different areas of investment that you could exploit in your dealings with NBDB.  

Rating: 4/5

Education  

The broker offers trading education to teach more about its online trading platform.

The tutorials have different guides, which include: ‘how to transfer funds into your brokerage account?’ How to buy a stock with NBDB, ‘how to create alerts,’ ‘how to place stop loss order.’

It provides education on options trading. It contains six webinars aimed at deepening its client’s knowledge of options. The education teaches the basic concept of options trading, the basic rules to follow, show some mistakes to avoid, and how to create strategies. The broker created this education in partnership with Montreal Exchange.

There are featured articles that cover several markets and could be used as sources for trading information. The articles usually contain information that is educative and informative. The downside to this is that the articles are not released often.

 The investment strategy and online stock exchange guide are also available. It teaches how to identify support and resistance, check for chart patterns, ETF trading practices, benefits and limitations of technical analysis, and many more useful tools.

Other forms of education provided include direct brokerage tips online and tips for direct brokerage accounts online. 

The education provided is not much, and it also is not released frequently. This act would make it challenging for a newbie who would not consult a third-party platform to learn how to trade.

Rating: 3.75/5

Mobile Trading

NBDB does not have any app for mobile devices, though its website adapts to mobile devices and functions for people on mobile devices.

Rating: 3/5

Mobile devices NA
FeaturesWebsite adaptation 

Final Thoughts

I have highlighted some of the basic and important features you need to know about National Bank Direct Brokerage. The summary of all I have gathered is that it is not so friendly to regular retail traders. 

Safety of funds is important, and the broker meets safety regulatory standards—traders with bigger funds who care more about safety ca  decide to trade with the broker. The truth is that some other brokers provide better services and also provide a secure platform.

If you would like to check out the broker’s services, kindly click here. 

Overall rating: 3.75/5

Usman Ahmed, MBA (Researcher)
Usman Ahmed, MBA (Researcher)
Usman Ahmed is a currency trader and financial market analyst with more than 7 years of active trading experience. Besides holding a Masters degree in Business Administration, he has worked for some of the most renewed companies in the forex industry including FXCM, IQOption, MetaQuotes, Alpari, FXStreet, DailyFX and several others. Usman possesses strong technical analytical skills and is famous for his very own, informative and entertaining, writing style. He believes in naked chart trading analysis that is commonly known as price action trading. He follows global financial news and macro-economic events very closely.
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