Firstrade is ready to take on its bigger rivals
August 24, 2018

By Lan Wenik

In the midst of downward pricing pressure across the industry, a Queens-based brokerage scraps commissions on all mutual fund and ETF trades.

Firstrade Securities has one-upped its giant competitors in the ongoing brokerage price war.

The online brokerage has eliminated all fees on trades of mutual funds, ETFs, options and stocks on its platform, the company said Thursday. The changes are effective immediately.

Firstrade’s decision comes at a time when brokerage platforms are scrambling to cut fees and gather assets. Wednesday, Vanguard launched its expanded commission-free trading suite of over 1,800 ETFs. The next day rival JP Morgan joined the race.

JP Morgan’s existing brokerage platform charges a minimum of $24.95 per trade. However, the firm has now unveiled a new platform, dubbed ‘You Invest,’ that will feature new tools accessible to anyone using the firm’s existing mobile banking app, such as an automated portfolio construction tool. As part of this, JP Morgan is offering 100 free trades to any customer in their first year using the service, with unlimited free trades on offer for its Chase Private Client customers, who usually have over $100,000 in assets. After an investor uses their 100 free trades, they will be charged $2.95 per trade thereafter.

‘Free trading, coupled with our ongoing commitment to provide self-directed customers with the best possible tools and resources to make wise investing decisions, makes us the ideal platform for all self-directed investors,’ Firstrade chief executive officer John Liu said in a statement. ‘This announcement is a natural progression for us as we continue to deliver for our customers through our advanced technologies, customer service and now, no-cost trading.’

While Firstrade used to charge $2.95 per trade, the firm now has zero account minimums on its platform, much like rival Fidelity, which eliminated investment minimums on all of its mutual funds and rolled out a pair of zero-fee index funds earlier in August. The company says its offers over 11,000 mutual funds and 2,000 ETFs, including products from Vanguard and BlackRock’s iShares ETF division.

A spokeswoman for the Queens-based brokerage declined to discuss the firm’s total assets on its platform. Fidelity had $114.6 billion in commission-free ETF assets under administration (AUA) on its platform as of July 1.

Vanguard would not disclose assets under management on its online brokerage service. The firm has $5.1 trillion in total assets under management, 30% of which is from the firm’s retail investor group. The retail investor group includes Vanguard’s brokerage platform, as well as its IRAs and other retirement accounts.

- Source: Citywire