I worked for seven years as a financial advisor. For most of that time, I was a licensed stockbroker and for part of the time, I traded stocks in my own account and then on behalf of my clients. As a professional, we were generously offered the chance to pay just $25 per trade. In my margin account, the interest rate was prime + 1%. I didn’t really feel very lucky to pay those relatively high amounts, even if the trade commission was lower than my clients.

When I retired last month (without any recognition or thanks for my service to my employer), I chose to transfer my accounts to HSBC Invest Direct. This is not an endorsement, simply my experience. The good news is that the experience has been entirely positive.

I had to fill out the forms entirely on my own. When I was working, that’s a service we offered our clients, but self-directed means “self-serve” in almost every way. Fortunately, I’m very familiar with account opening documents, so I got them all completed correctly. (I did miss the Alberta CES grant from for the RESP.) I then took the forms in to a branch to verify my identity and send the forms on to head office.

I wanted to open the accounts before transferring any holdings, but I had waited too late in the year for my needs. As soon as accounts were opened, I logged in to check that they were all opened correctly. In my job, we double-checked everything, just in case, and caught an occasional error. In this case, everything seems to have been done correctly, although I can’t see who the beneficiaries are in each registered account. Oh well.

The transfers happened smoothly and quickly. I phoned on the day the transfers arrived to find out if they would reimburse the $131.50 transfer fees for each account. I saw the fee charged in my accounts as they transferred out, and the woman on the phone pointed out that they had already been reimbursed at HSBC. I was pleasantly surprised.

She asked if I had any more questions, so I verified that my trades will be charged only $6.88 commission on North American exchanges. I also found out that I’ll only be charged prime (3.25%) on my margin loan. That’s cheaper than previously, but it’s also slightly less than my secured line of credit. I was very pleased.

I haven’t placed any trades yet, and I haven’t yet found out if they offer Level 2 data (market depth). I generally place limit orders, so they sometimes don’t fill all in a single day. I want to find out how they treat commissions in that situation, but even if I’m charged for each fill, 2 or 3 times, it is still likely to be less than I paid previously.

HSBC Invest Direct

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