When TradeKing launched in December 2005, its goal was simple: to provide low-cost commissions and quality customer service, and offer investors a place to go to every day to share ideas, discuss the market, and ultimately place trades.
Today, TradeKing’s vision has evolved, thanks partly to its merger with Zecco in late 2012. Instead of its community, costs, and service being in focus, the overall client experience is in focus. Zecco brought premium research alongside quality mobile trading to the table (among other things). These , combined with TradeKing’s core offerings, have placed TradeKing in a position to become the ultimate value broker.
Time will tell whether or not TradeKing will succeed in its mission. This TradeKing review will explore some of the offering’s highlights and lowlights.
TradeKing’s commissions structure is pretty much in line with its discount competitors. Offering flat-fee trades, regular stock trades are $4.95, with options trades costing $4.95, plus $.65 per contract. Penny stock traders will not find TradeKing’s commissions structure ideal, however, as stocks valued at less than $2 per share cost $4.95, plus $.01 per share (up to 5% of trade value).
Commissions & Fees
When it comes to trading on the TradeKing website, one thing I did not like was the process of placing a trade. Instead of an all-in-one trade ticket, TradeKing has more than a dozen separate trade ticket pages, which makes it inconvenient. Fortunately for clients though, the trade ticket provided in the new TradeKing LIVE platform is far superior and I highly recommend using it rather than the website whenever possible.
Traditionally speaking, TradeKing defines what quality customer service should be for clients. While TradeKing’s support slipped during testing for our 2013 Broker Review (the TradeKing Zecco merger was in full force during testing), the broker bounced back with a very strong result in our 2014 Review, finishing with 4.5 stars overall. Which leads us to this year’s testing.
During this year’s 2015 Broker Review, we found the broker once again to be very strong. However, the industry as a whole has evolved over the years, improving across the board as training and templates used by service agents have improved dramatically. Thus, based on today’s standards, TradeKing is good, mostly on a par with industry standards, but is no longer the Best in Class.
Of the three methods we tested – phone, email, and live chat – phone support was TradeKing’s weakest method. Response times were terrific, averaging less than a minute each, and the reps were mostly well trained and polite. The key flaws came with standards we now expect to see in places across the industry; for example, only once did a rep ask us if we had further questions before concluding the call. Also, several reps weren’t 100% positive when answering our questions; they either hesitated or required a confirmation before answering.
Phone support aside, email and live chat were a better showing for TradeKing. Live chat finished fourth overall in the industry, and email support finished sixth. In the end, TradeKing ended up with a 4 star rating for customer service; this was good but no longer a standout “great.”
Ease of Use is a category encompassing quite a large area. From logging in to navigating the website, placing a trade, managing account preferences, and conducting research, it’s about the full experience. TradeKing has had its fair share of challenges in the past. From its login process, which still asks us to answer security questions even though we check to have it remember our information, to navigating the site’s triple navigation maze, it’s a rough journey.
Fortunately, TradeKing is changing all that with its new TradeKing LIVE 100% responsive website, which launched in 2014. Still currently housed in a separate area, TradeKing LIVE couldn’t come soon enough. Everything about the client experience has improved. Real-time streaming quotes are everywhere and trades can be placed from any page using the right sidebar trade ticket. A fully customizable dashboard takes advantage of tiles similar to Microsoft products to be pleasing to the eye and 100% mobile friendly. Even monitoring orders, pulling quotes, and assessing performance have been creatively refreshed.
Overall, we couldn’t be more excited about the future of TradeKing LIVE. Ironing out any bugs, adding some additional functionality to round out core client activities, then pushing LIVE into the limelight as the default experience for every client we imagine is, without a doubt, TradeKing’s #1 goal for 2015.
One suggestion for TradeKing: adding a colored feedback tile to the dashboard, with a simple type-and-send form, will significantly improve engagement from clients, instead of requiring them to click “Help” at the top, then scroll down to find a bland old survey to fill out.
Every research area needs quality charting, and while most discount brokers are lacking in this area, TradeKing delivers. The charting area utilizes the full width of the screen, with a clean layout that is flexible and easily adjusted on the fly. Each indicator or study added to the chart is displayed with a mini box and x for quick removal. Being able to display corporate events such as splits, dividends, and earnings is also a nice addition.
While research is mostly a data-mining experience, TradeKing goes the extra mile to bring visual appeal to the graphs illustrating data. The graphs have overlays that identify key points, which makes the experience far more insightful than staring at straight data. That said, we could go without the random banner advertisements promoting TradeKing’s products.
Lastly, TradeKing provides only one third-party research report from Standard & Poor’s. With the offering of discounted trades, multiple third-party reports cannot be provided because the cost is simply too high. Given that nearly all of TradeKing’s close discount competitors provide no reports at all, this is fine with me.
TradeKing launched TradeKing Advisors in 2014. This service, powered by ibbotson, a Morningstar company, looked fairly impressive during the short term we spent exploring the product. While we do not cover advisory services here on StockBrokers.com, it is worth noting that TradeKing is now moving beyond offering a strictly trading platform.
TradeKing’s community, the Trader Network, allows clients to share their real trades, make notes for why they made them, and interact with the rest of the community via blogs, forums, and groups. While the area always seemed to be active initially, over the past several years, it seems clients have found other interests. The last client Trade Note published was on 08/15/13. Blog posts were far more popular, with several per week, but the majority were from TradeKing staff, and only three of the first 40 had a comment. Finally, the forum showed the most life, with roughly half a dozen responses posted in the past 24 hours.
As far as TradeKing LIVE goes, the platform is very sleek, clean, easy-to-use (especially for placing trades) and well laid out, but is also very limited. Besides the real-time watch list, clients can only see a detailed quote for a stock, their current holdings, current account balance, basic charting and view options chains.
Having been a TradeKing Community follower since day one, however, the current activity is a far cry from the past. Our best guess is that the rise of social media, i.e., services such as StockTwits, now dominate investor discussions, and for good reason. TradeKing isn’t the only broker to experience a decline in its community activity. In 2014, Scottrade shut theirs down altogether. Either way, TradeKing needs to either address its weaknesses and try to put some creative development into revitalizing its community or consider moving on, as others have. Integrating third-party social network feeds from StockTwits into TradeKing LIVE would be the most logical replacement.
While TradeKing does have drawbacks, the broker provides a positive client experience at a discounted price. The broker still needs to do some work if it wants to compete with the big, full-service brokers; however, compared to other discount broker competitors, such as OptionsHouse, Firstrade, MB Trading, and Just2Trade, TradeKing stands out for its all-around offering and has a bright future with its new TradeKing LIVE interface.