The Desjardins Group might sound like a firm that owns NHL teams, but they’re actually a large federation of nearly 300 Canadian credit unions. Desjardins Group provides retail banking, insurance, venture capital and brokerage services to millions of Canadians, mostly in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Disnat is one of the most popular Canadian brokerages thanks to a wide range of investment offerings. As all Canadian investors know, it’s important to read the fine print regarding fees and commissions.
Who’s Disnat For?
Disnat aims to please since it’s owned by a credit union. Services are available for both novice and advanced traders and customer service standards are the highest in the industry. Day traders will appreciate the tools and speed of the Disnat Direct platform and buy-and-hold investors can fund retirement accounts with cost-effective securities like ETFs and mutual funds.
Canadian citizenship is required to open an account. Clients can hold U.S. and Canadian dollars in their accounts. Disnat grants access to all major North American markets but international exchanges are off-limits. Unlike many of its Canadian competitors, Disnat allows short-selling and uncovered options strategies.
Disnat’s Platform and Tools (4 Stars)
Disnat has 2 different trading platforms for clients: Disnat Classic and Disnat Direct.
Classic may be the basic platform, but that doesn’t mean it lacks tools and research reports. Disnat Classic can be adapted for use on a computer, tablet or smartphone and the learning curve is far from steep. The first thing you’ll see will be your Holdings screen, which can be expanded and analyzed with just a tap. Next, you’ll flip to the Trading screen, where you can place market and limit orders for stocks, bonds, options and mutual funds. The Markets screen has your last 10 quotes displayed with fungible charts and the Research screen has news and analysis on your watchlists and holdings. Streaming data fees apply, but you can waive this fee by making 10 trades per month.
Disnat Direct is for advanced traders. You’ll get all the news and research of Classic along with an unlimited number of watchlists, quotes and charts. Advanced technical signals can be used to analyze charts and execute trades right on the same screen. And unlike Classic, Direct users can view Level II quotes, which give a view of the underlying market. Instead of simple bid/ask spreads, you’ll peer inside the market and see where the orders are coming from and what lots are available. Disnat Direct is a far more powerful platform than Classic, but a platform access fee does apply.
Disnat offers access to 2 other tools for market research and analysis: Hardbacon and Recognia. Hardbacon is like the Canadian version of Personal Capital — an all-in-one stock tracking app with research tools, portfolio analysis and even access to a personal advisor. Disnat clients can get a free 3-month trial.
Recognia is an in-depth market research tool that can focus on both technical and fundamental trading strategies. Traders can watch for short and long-term technical events using Technical Insights and fundamental strategies using the Value Analyzer. Recognia will also meld both technical and fundamental strategies into a single portfolio.
High-net worth clients can get trading discounts and fee reductions through Disnat’s Prestige service. If your account balance is $1 million or more, you’ll be a Prestige Gold client, which comes with $7.95 trading commissions and no fees on registered accounts or for inactivity.
Young investors with little capital have options with Disnat, too. The Brokerage 18–30 account is for (you guessed it) clients who are 18–30 and want to learn the basics of investing. Brokerage 18–30 clients get 5 free trades, no fees for inactivity and no minimums for registered accounts like TFSAs and RRSAs.
Disnat’s Research Offerings (4 Stars)
Disnat has market research from only 2 official sources: Morningstar and Desjardins Wealth Management Securities (which comes from Disnat’s mother ship). Both are fine sources of market news and analysis, but a little more diversity of opinion would be beneficial to clients. However, Disnat’s Learning Center is a treasure trove of knowledge on both basic and sophisticated market concepts.
The D Bulletin is a monthly newsletter that features topics like retirement savings vehicles, the role of central banks and the latest in global market news and economic commentary. Disnat also provides educational videos and a glossary of market terminology. Disnat’s Learning Center is a great place to start if you need a fast-tracked finance education.
Disnat’s Commission and Fees (3 Stars)
Disnat’s trading commissions vary from $5 to $9.95 depending on the platform used and the price and quantity of shares traded. You’ll need to trade 10,000 or fewer shares of a security priced at $2 or less to get the $5 commission. Only Disnat Direct users trading stocks and ETFs can get the reduced trading commission — all stock and ETF trades on Disnat Classic are charged $9.95. Options commissions are $8.95 per trade plus $1.25 per contract. Most mutual funds trade commission-free, but other fees may apply. Fixed-income trades have a $50 minimum commission.
Disnat has a bunch of fees, and here are the most common ones you’ll run into:
- Monthly streaming data fees (Level I): $30 for Classic clients, $35 for Direct users. Access to TSX Venture exchange boosts this fee to $55 and $60, but Classic and Direct waive it if you make 10 or more trades per month.
- Monthly streaming data fees (Level II): $105 for Direct clients only ($155 if accessing TSX Venture). It can be waived by making 41 or more trades per month.
- Inactivity fee: $30 per quarter for all non-registered accounts with less than $15,000 balances. It can be waived by making 6 trades in a calendar year.
- Registered account administration fees: $100 annually for RRSP/LIRAs and RRIF/LIFs unless you make 125 trades per year or maintain a $15,000 balance. RESPs have a $50 annual fee unless the market value is $25,000.
Other fees for transfers and currency conversions may apply. Prospective clients will need $1,000 minimum to open an account. Be sure to read the fine print on all your transactions before executing.
Disnat’s Security (5 Stars)
Desjardins Group is committed to the highest levels of security regarding client information. Disnat clients are protected by a variety of encryptions, firewalls and digital certificates. Real-time fraud alerts are in place to detect suspicious activity. Disnat employees will never ask for your password or account information and the fraud alert team will contact you via phone, email or text message to confirm all transactions that look out of place.
Disnat’s Customer Support (4 Stars)
Disnat can be contacted via email and phone with the information listed below. The general customer service line is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Unfortunately, there’s no option for live chat, which is a major disadvantage.
Despite the lack of chat accessibility, Disnat earns high marks for its response rates. According to MoneySense Canada, customer inquiries are responded to within 19 hours on average. A 19-hour response time is far shorter than competitors like HSBC InvestDirect or BMO InvestorLine.
Disnat’s Tradable Asset Classes (4 Stars)
Disnat doesn’t have a long list of securities like some competitors. But you can trade stocks, ETFs, mutual funds, options and fixed-income securities on major North American exchanges like the NYSE, NASDAQ, AMEX, CBOE, TSX, TSX Venture and CSNX. No forex or futures trading is available and mutual funds are limited to certain families. Here are a few examples:
Mutual funds on the Disnat list do trade commission-free, however. Trades can be made both online and over the phone. Disnat clients can also get unique access to IPOs and fixed-income assets like bonds, Treasury bills and money market funds.
Disnat Guided Portfolio Strategies (GPS) can build an autopilot portfolio for you. Disnat GPS has 5 model portfolios to choose from, each based on a different theme like U.S. equities or Canadian fixed income. Clients can adjust portfolios to avoid certain stocks or particular strategies.
Disnat’s Ease of Use (4 Stars)
Thanks to the presence of platforms for both novice and advanced investors, Disnat’s platform and website are fairly easy to navigate. Disnat Direct requires a little bit of getting used to, especially if you aren’t familiar with technical trading concepts. Getting customer assistance can be difficult outside of working hours, too.
Disnat Classic is incredibly user-friendly and Desjardins Group is known for its business sense and customer relationships. Getting started is a simple process.
Overall Rating: 4.5 Stars
Desjardins Online Brokerage is a fantastic service for Canadian investors to access North American capital markets. You won’t find as many investment options as global platforms like InvestDirect, but there’s no shortage of stocks, ETFs and mutual funds to build a portfolio with. Disnat clients also have access to options markets like the CBOE and Montreal Exchange.
Charting tools on Disnat Direct are excellent and the Learning Center gives clients a full-course education on trading stocks, bonds, ETFs, mutual funds and options. However, fees can rack up quickly, especially if you’re not meeting the monthly trading minimums. Registered accounts like TSFAs and RRSPs are available, too. Whether you’re a market pro or a newbie investor, Disnat has something you’ll find appealing.