Saturday, November 22, 2008
Siebert Upgrades, and Social Media Expands
SIEBERTNET, AN ONLINE BROKERAGE THAT typically finishes near the top of Barron’s annual review, rolled out updates on Nov. 7 that lend more functionality to its trading game.
"We think clients will find the new features useful,” says the firm’s CEO, long-time Wall Streeter Muriel Siebert. “We have some more in the planning stage. Customer acceptance is growing, and we’re very pleased.”
The new order tickets, which are accessed from the “Trading” tab on the site’s main screen (http://www.siebertnet.com), offer more flexibility and trading data as you create an order. While viewing your position list, you can click on a particular symbol to automatically create a closing trade. For multi-lot positions, the order ticket is populated with all the lots you own, giving you the ability to quickly choose particular tax lot for the sale.
When a ticker symbol is entered, you’ll see a real-time quote plus an intra-day and yearly chart, as well as news. The order tickets are segregated by type of trade—stocks/ETFs, options, mutual funds, and fixed income—and the screen displays your current positions with real-time quotes.
You can stage up to 10 orders to be sent at a later time, and can also generate contingent orders, including trailing stops that help you capture possible gains while limiting losses. The Options Wizard, which helps you fashion complex options strategies, a smoother application than its predecessor. The Wizard provides a table of possible options orders, and as you glide your mouse over it, the details behind each strategy are displayed.
Once you choose an underlying symbol and the strategy you want to employ, a real-time options chain display appears. When you click on the options you want to trade, the ticket is automatically filled in. The Strategy Builder, another options tool, displays real-time debit/credit amounts, maximum gain, maximum loss and break-even points by strike price. Our only quibble with this site for options traders is that the commission structure is still arcane and expensive compared to other online brokers’.
Clients can customize their own “My SiebertNet” page with up to eight mini-applications, including positions, news headlines, the Options Wizard, charting and watchlists. The site’s research offerings, all free to customers, include Validea, VectorVest, MarketEdge weekly reports, Growth Stock Analytics and RTT Streaming Real-time News. There are screeners for fixed-income offerings as well as stock, mutual funds and options. All research has been grouped by type and is easier to find than before.
For clients who are uncomfortable switching to a new trading platform right away, the old site is still there. Siebert explains, “We’ve kept the original trading site up because, in this volatile market, if folks want make a trade right away, they should be able to do so and then switch to the new site at their own pace.” You can take a look at what’s new by clicking on the “Presentation Center” tab on the main Siebert page.
Social Media and Investing: Corporate Insight, market-research and consulting firm focused on financial services, released a report in late October that details the evolution of social media, such as blogs, forums and online communities, that have been created by major financial-services companies.
SOCIAL MEDIA, THE GROUP SAYS, are beginning to reshape the way financial-services firms communicate with their customers, as well as how investors interact with each other.
The Electronic Investor has covered many of the sites intended to appeal to investors who like to share ideas and insights with one another, so we were intrigued. Corporate Insight examined features used by nearly 70 financial institutions, including brokerages, banks and credit-card issuers, annuity providers and mutual-fund companies. Fifteen percent of these outfits added significant social-media features to their online platforms in 2008, and 70% have developed full-fledged online communities.
TradeKing (10,700-plus participants) and Zecco (38,000-plus) allow full participation regardless of whether you have an account. Schwab and Scottrade’s online communities are for customers only. Schwab’s (approximately 4,200 members) is restricted to active traders who make more than 36 trades per year, while Scottrade’s community (approximately 8,000 members) is open to all clients.
TD Ameritrade offers a sentiment-tracking tool on its Website that allows clients to vote on the daily performance of a stock and to assess other traders’ views. Fidelity hosts a community for its WealthLab Pro users but not its broader client base.
Corporate Insight uncovered six brokers with YouTube channels. And OptionsXpress, Scottrade, Vanguard, Wells Fargo and Zecco all feature ideas and tools on their Websites, while E*Trade’s channel is a repository for its TV commercials.
The study didn’t include sites like Covestor and Cake Financial that we’ve reviewed. But it’s interesting to see financial-services firms trying community features to keep their customers coming back.
Published in Barron’s, November 17, 2008.