Research is a key area for any online broker trying to differentiate itself from its competitors. With third parties providing much of the data for the research content, companies that offer comprehensive in-house research as well as a user-friendly interface are clearly way ahead of their peers who don’t.
The leading providers in this category offer both in-house and differentiated external content, which covers individual stocks, funds, ETFs, bond and even currency markets. Disappointingly, however, some providers simply deflect the user off to a third-party provider or offer little to no research at all.
Our No. 1 pick in 2017 for research is Barclays. We found the research area within the Barclays MarketMaster platform very impressive, with a depth of fundamental data on individual stocks, funds and bonds. Barclays clients have access to Citywire Selection’s independent, award-winning fund research and analysis. Stockbrokers TV is an in-house video archive of exclusive interviews with prestigious fund managers, investment professionals and Barclays experts. The videos can be explored by topic or chronologically, with interview transcripts also available. The Barclays Blog has up-to-date articles on current market activity. Finally, the Barclays Gilts and Bonds Microsite gives a comprehensive overview on bond markets and encompasses a “fixed-income university”, an entry-level education to gilts and bond markets.
Interactive Investor took second place in the research category, providing both a high quality and quantity of news and research content. Breaking Market News has reports broken down into categories by chronological order, directors’ deals, broker views etc. There is a Features section, which provides in-depth articles and a downloadable PDF magazine, View from the Top. In-house researchers publish under pseudonyms, such as Share Sleuth, Trends & Targets and Stockwatch (with Share Sleuth having a model portfolio, which can be followed). Content is delivered by the Interactive Investor in-house team and by the sister companies, Moneywise and Money Observer, as well as from third-party providers.
Fidelity International’s research offering came third on our list and is far above the industry standard. We believe Fidelity International’s in-house research is among the best in the UK, providing a daily market review, daily investment insights and regular investment ideas. Separate research sections provide fund ideas, investment trust insights, the latest news and analysis and a newspaper roundup and portfolio ideas. This content is delivered in written format, but also via video, with interviews with equity, bond and commodity fund managers. There is also a MoneyTalk section, with videos offering broader, more generic investment research and advice. However, the absence of any significant research on individual stocks is disappointing and keeps Fidelity from attaining a higher position in our rankings.
In summary, the top brokers provide an excellent experience for traders and investors researching stocks, funds fixed income etc. However, it is the in-house research, together with unique features and functionality that represents real value added and differentiates the brokers.