While a useful and useable trading platform is crucial, you should also take the time to peruse the brokerage’s educational offerings and try out the search function.
If you’re a new investor, you need to be able to search for terms you don’t know or find advice on how to interpret data. If there’s a topic you’ve been wondering about or a metric you don’t completely understand, do a trial run using the search function and see if you can find the information you need quickly and efficiently.
Remember, what’s intuitive and user-friendly for one investor may be a nightmarish maze of fruitless search queries for another, so it’s important to find a platform that you can work with.
Once you’ve spent 20 minutes or so cruising a platform, you should be able to answer the following questions pretty easily. If you can’t, and a quick search of the site for specific answers doesn’t yield the necessary information, it’s likely a sign that the brokerage’s platform is not for you.
Stock Broker’s Quality and Usability
All the educational resources in the world are useless if you can’t access them easily. A good platform or website should provide a wide range of educational offerings, in multiple mediums, to make sure customers are able to quickly and easily find the information they need in a format that works for their learning style. Before we dive into the specific types of educational resources you should expect from a good brokerage, let’s first make sure those resources are user-friendly.
What types of educational offerings does the broker provide? Whether it offers videos, podcasts, user forums, or written articles, the format needs to work for you.
Where does the information come from? If the broker syndicates work from other sites, make sure those sites are reputable. If the site has a blog or other contributor content, then make sure the contributing authors have experience and authority you can trust.
How easy and intuitive is the site or platform to navigate? Make sure getting from a research page to the trading screen is a simple process. You don’t want to feel like you’re clicking in circles. Make suredifferent topics are easy to locate on the site.
Does the broker offer resources for beginners? These can include glossaries or how-to articles, fundamental analysis, portfolio diversification, how to interpret technical studies, and other beginner topics.
How effective is the platform’s search function? You can figure this out by typing in a common investing term or searching for topics you have questions about. How quickly was the search function able to retrieve the information you needed? Was this information immediately visible, or did you have to click through a few pages to get to it?
Here’s an example of a search function that’s not user-friendly:
While Vanguard does allow you to plot the relative strength index (RSI) with its charting tool, its search tool doesn’t seem to recognize the term.
Is there ample analysis for each security? This should include analyst ratings from multiple sources, real-time news items, and applicable market and sector data.
Is there sufficient fundamental data available? Stock profiles, for example, should include historical data for the issuing company, like earnings reports, financial statements (like cash flow, income statements, and balance sheets), dividend payments, stock splits or buybacks, and SEC filings. There should also be information about any insider trading activity.
Is there market data for the U.S. and foreign markets? What about industry and sector data? How deeply are you able to dive into the big-picture conditions surrounding market performance?