A robust menu of features lands Schwab in the No. 1 online Brokerage slot of the latest PowerRankings by Forrester Research, Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR). Forrester PowerRankings combine survey data from online consumers and unbiased shopping tests to provide objective rankings of the leading eCommerce sites in various categories. Following Schwab are SURETRADE, Datek Online, TD Waterhouse Securities, Fidelity Investments, Ameritrade, E*TRADE, and DLJdirect.
Schwab finishes ahead of the competition by offering quick trades and helpful tools, including a stock analyzer and equity report cards. Its site also clearly displays commissions prior to confirming a trade, and it also makes the login process simple. On the downside, Schwab charges the most to trade online.
“Despite charging $29.95 per trade and additional fees to pay bills online, Schwab offers unique features that cater to users’ individual needs and help investors make decisions,” said Tom Rhinelander, senior analyst at Forrester. “The competition is growing stiffer as SURETRADE, Datek Online, TD Waterhouse Securities, and Fidelity Investments are essentially tied for second place — less than one point separates their scores.”
SURETRADE comes in second with the lowest commission for market orders, a simple login and trading process, and impressive customer service. Email replies are quick and online chat support is available 24 hours a day. The two drop-down menus on either side of a page mar SURETRADE’s otherwise simple navigation, and weak mutual-fund selection tools do little to help investors make decisions. Third-place Datek offers quick order execution and one low fee for all trades. A downloadable Streamer application provides real-time market data and doesn’t require installation on a PC. Datek’s cardinal weakness is the lack of basic advisory tools like retirement planners.
Fourth-place TD Waterhouse’s site is uncluttered and easy to navigate, executes all market and limit orders for just $12, and offers checking and bill payment at no charge. Email responses are quick — but unhelpful — and the company does not make stop-limit orders available online. Fidelity comes in fifth with a first-rate call center and helpful retirement planning tools, but it is dragged down by high fees that are second only to Schwab’s and email replies that are the slowest of all sites tested.
Ameritrade comes in sixth, with top scores in service and usability, but the lowest mark for features and advice. Landing in seventh place, E*TRADE provides customers with a consistent interface to access its feature-rich site but lacks helpful customer service. Last-place DLJdirect asks customers to pay premium commission for fairly standard offerings; however, it excels at ease-of-use.
For the updated PowerRankings, Forrester surveyed 19,000 consumers from Greenfield Online’s 600,000-person online panel. These consumers identified the most recent eCommerce sites that they purchased from and rated their experiences. A team of Forrester shoppers then evaluated the shopping experience for sites with a statistically valid number of consumer respondents, performing a series of rigorous tests in six areas. The consumer data and Forrester shopper scores were then synthesized and weighted, with consumer views accounting for two-thirds of the overall PowerRanking. A complete set of PowerRankings results — both consumer and Forrester shopper data — are made available to all ranked companies for no charge.
In the coming weeks, Forrester will be announcing results in additional PowerRankings categories. Additional information about each of the categories, including a complete set of rankings and scores, can be found at the PowerRankings Web site — powerrankings.forrester.com.