Make sure you like the service

Regardless of how good a firm looks on paper, that counts for little if the online trading platform is slow and buggy, the telephones are always engaged or the customer service staff are unhelpful.

I have dealt with a number of big-name firms whose guiding principles seem to be inflexibility, arrogance and incompetence. Perhaps I was just unlucky, but I’ve heard similar stories from other users of the same companies.

With some of the leading stock brokers, I’m amazed how they manage to hang on to clients. Do not assume that being well-known and widely advertised means the company is any good.

I recommend asking other investors for recommendations and searching online for opinions and reviews. However, remember that unsuccessful traders have a tendency to blame everyone else for their mistake, so always assess how credible a review is.

Bad reviews are always likely to outnumber good ones, because people are more motivated to review something that’s gone badly. But if every review is awful and everyone is grumbling about the same problems, that may be a warning.

There seems to be little connection between cost and service. Some of the ultra-low cost providers offer outstanding service, while some relatively expensive ones are shambolic.

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