Defining excellence: Kiplinger’s ranks E*TRADE best online broker
Kiplinger’s Personal Finance recently released the results of its annual survey of online brokers, and E*TRADE was named best online broker for 2019. E*TRADE received especially high marks for its wide range of cost-effective investment offerings, intuitive website, and feature-rich mobile platform.
Alice Milligan, E*TRADE’s Chief Customer Officer, discussed the Kiplinger’s results and outlined some broader trends in the online brokerage industry.
Q: What does it take to deliver a superior customer experience in an increasingly competitive brokerage industry?
Alice: This is fantastic recognition and illustrates how our team has been firing on all cylinders. I believe it takes a strong understanding of your customer—their needs, wants, and what’s most important to them. At E*TRADE, we use quantitative data and information about our customers to understand what they are doing and what is working for them, but we also spend a lot of time on qualitative research. This enables us to have a dialogue with customers, understand the “why” behind the “what,” and integrate their thoughts into our experiences and products.
With the pace of technological change, we are always looking to meet customers where they are and make it easier for them to do business with us. An example is our recently launched Google Assistant functionality, which allows investors to check their portfolios via voice command on Google-enabled mobile devices, smart speakers, and even cars.
Q: Mobile platforms were given higher weight in the Kiplinger’s survey this year. Can you speak to the work E*TRADE has done on this front?
Alice: Mobile investing in the US has among the highest penetration of any nation globally. We’ve seen an increasing number of customers engage with us through mobile to manage and monitor their investments on the go.
For the digitally inclined DIY investor and trader, delivering a mobile experience that rivals the desktop is critical. Mobile is no longer just a companion to a robust website but a primary channel, so we must make sure site features are also on mobile, optimized for that form factor. This means leveraging swipes and taps instead of just a keyboard and clicks. And it includes everything from the ability to open an account to placing an iron condor options trade to scanning the markets for ideas.
Q: We’ve written about younger people and the struggles they’re having saving for retirement. How is E*TRADE addressing this segment?
Alice: Most Millennials say that saving for retirement is their most important financial goal, but it becomes very difficult when put into practice, as many face significant challenges like student debt or the increasing cost of living. Additionally, financial literacy is a key challenge.
Many investment solutions out there put the onus on the user to figure things out on their own or require a large lump-sum investment to receive professional guidance from an advisor. Given this challenge, we’ve been focused on breaking down barriers. We’ve lowered fees and minimum investment amounts on many of our most popular products and have added educational tools and resources that help investors have more confidence as they make investing decisions. We’ve also launched virtual trading to allow investors to practice and get comfortable before investing with their real money.
Q: There’s still a significant knowledge gap among retail investors, despite huge advances in the tools and resources available. Why do you think that is, and what is E*TRADE doing to move the needle here?
Alice: I think for many people when you talk about investing, trading, and saving, there is a fair amount of uncertainty. Let’s face it: It’s your money we’re talking about, and financial jargon can be confusing. This can make it hard to know whether you are making the right choices. So, we’re trying to lend a helping hand.
We use straightforward, transparent language where we can and provide definitions and clarity throughout the experience.
We are also lowering the hurdles—not just with minimums as I noted before, but by providing multiple formats to get invested. For example, investors can invest in a Prebuilt Portfolio in just a few clicks, take a quiz to find a managed portfolio that could fit their needs, or invest in something they’re passionate about through our Thematic Investing experience.
These are exciting times in the online brokerage industry, and the best is still to come. We’re pleased that Kiplinger’s has recognized the efforts we’re making to deliver a superior customer experience.
In Kiplinger's annual Best Online Brokers Review of 10 firms across seven categories, E*TRADE was awarded first place with an overall score of 82.9 out of 100 and “Best for Mutual Fund Investors”. E*TRADE’s ratings for all category rankings include: Overall (#1), User Experience (#2), Investment Choices (#2), Advisory Services (#3), Mobile (#3), Research (#4), Commissions and Fees (#6), and Tools (#7). Read the full “Best Online Brokers, 2019” survey.