Investing online has been around since 1994 with TD Ameritrade through their acquisitions of other web based investment companies. However, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that it really caught on. Today, there are more than 200 portals worldwide that allow for online trading through various platforms.
In this article, we will discuss the ins and outs of online investing, what online investment services are and how they operate. We will take a brief look at some of the most popular investment companies that facilitate online to give you a better idea of how to invest your money.
What Are Online Investment Services?
Prior to the 1990s, if you wanted to invest your money in stocks, bonds or the like, you had to use a stock broker and make a phone call or visit in person. You would build a portfolio that was a hard copy kept in a file cabinet in some office and every time you made a trade, bought or sold a stock or otherwise invested, your portfolio was manually pulled and edits made.
While this was going on, your stock broker made phone calls to the trading floor to put in your request. While this still happens today, more and more people are turning to online investment companies. The process is now mostly digital and automated using web based or online platforms where you rarely have to talk to another human being.
The process can be handled through your computer or smartphone and trades or changes take seconds instead of minutes. The entire process is streamlined and you can even see your results and changes in real time right on your computer.
Robo-Advisors are a digital form of an actual stock broker. Instead of a human reading charts and offering you their advice, everything is done with computers running algorithms and checking databases to give you answers to your questions.
Prior to 2008, this form of automation was only available to brokerage firms, so the end user, or investor, still had to call a broker to make an investment. After the great recession of 2008 the technology became available to the public.
Now, you can answer a survey online and the program will collect your data. Using this data, the Robo-Advisor can then provide you with details about your portfolio, investment opportunities or even make investments for you.
While some scoff at the idea of an automatic investment tool, others embrace it and feel that the complex nature requires computer assistance. The younger generation has more trust in the machines handling financial management and trusting them with personal information. However, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission treats robo-advisors just the same as human advisors. They must be registered to be able to conduct business.
Investing Your Money
When it comes to investing money, you want to ensure you have all the available resources to do so. Online investment services allow you to ask your questions, conduct your research and follow patterns just as a brick and mortar trading house will do. You will even have the option (in most cases) to speak to a human if you so desire.
Most, if not all, of the brokerage firms have some sort of online investment platform for you to use.
What Do Online Investment Services Do?
Online investment services work virtually the same way as a human stock broker. They will gather your information, ask you questions and based on the answers and data you provide, will map out a projected course of action.
You can, at any time, change your course of action, buy and sell, trade or make changes to your portfolio. Just like a stock broker the online version will assist and guide you or let you roam on your own, however you see fit.
The main difference is the lack of humanity. Having a digital broker can be more secure and they must follow the same SEC rules and regulations. While a vast majority of trading companies also offer online services, there are a few that are online only. Which one you choose and how you decide to take action is completely up to you, your needs and desires.
Who Are The Online Investment Companies?
When it comes to online investment companies, you definitely have your pick. From some of the most well-known names in the business down to crowd-funded startups you may have never heard of. Here, we will take a look at a handful of the most popular companies.
E*Trade is considered the pioneer of online trading. Over ten years before TD Ameritrade made online trading popular, E*Trade had the first ever online transaction. The company was founded in 1982 and by 1983 successfully made an online trade.
Since that time, the company has grown by leaps and bounds to become one of the most popular names in online investing. They secured IPO status in August 1996. While the primary focus of E*Trade is online account management, they have seen the desire and need for brick and mortar stores for their customers.
Headquartered in New York, E*Trade currently has 30 physical branches for it’s customers to go to in person. To accompany this, they also offer toll free customer service numbers and online services to aid each investor in his or her own portfolio, situation or questions they may face.
E*Trade owns its own bank that allows them to maximize their brokerage funds value through their trades. The IPO trades under the NASDAQ market with the ETFC handle. They offer sign up bonuses and percentage and flat rate fees based on the types of stocks, bonds, EFTs and mutual funds you are investing in.
You can use the E*Trade login on the computer or through the mobile app to gain access to your account, their services and make trades or update your portfolio.
Fidelity is a name synonymous with investing. Since their inception they have been at the forefront of trading research, development and technology. Of their core values, they most pride themselves on customer relations and education.
Fidelity has been around since 1946 and has been a private, family owned company ever since. The company goes out of their way to ensure that every customer has the knowledge needed for sound investing. In 1983, they opened their first investment center open to the public with the draw that anyone could walk in off the street and have any question answered at any time.
A year later, in 1984, Fidelity sent out a floppy disc with the Fidelity Investor’s Express program on it. This allowed individuals to make investments and portfolio changes on their computers. While there wasn’t an online option at the time, the convenience won over a lot of investors.
In 2008, Fidelity released Fidelity WealthCentral. The online wealth management system has transformed into the company’s online services platform. Now complete with web based or mobile app integration for your portfolio management.
Scottrade isn’t as old as some of the other well-known names, but their focus and determination made them a leader in online trading. Founded in 1980 under the name Scottsdale Securities, the company set out to change discount brokerage business.
Unlike other companies, Scottrade wasn’t out to transform the internet, in fact, they were transformed by the internet. In 2000 the company re-branded from Scottsdale Securities to Scottrade for the simple reason that the domain name was available.
By 2004, after the dot com burst, the company had regained itself and kept moving forward. By the end of 2004 over 98 percent of all trades handled by Scottrade were done online. Because of their ease of use, free advice and use of the internet, Scottrade introduced their mobile app.
Using the app, investors could take full control of their trades, stocks and portfolios using only their cell phones. This movement soon became the norm for most other online brokerage firms.
In September 2017, TD Ameritrade acquired Scottrade as a merger, allowing the company to continue the use of the name that has become so familiar across America.
Charles Schwab Corporation
Like most other companies, Schwab hit the online boom of the late 1990s. The company, founded in 1971, has grown to one of the largest trading platforms in the world. They offer online and in person trading and haven’t slowed down.
Their research and development teams have scouted some of the best minds to keep them on top of the industry and allow them to better serve their customers. Their mobile app and online trading give their investors the opportunity to manage their wealth and assets 24 hours a day, seven days a week, even allowing for instant, overnight trades and paperless statements.
You have a lot of choices when it comes to online investment services. Which one you choose is up to you. Thorough research for things such as trading abilities, fees, percentages and availabilities need to be investigated.
With the tools at your fingertips, online trading has never been more secure, informative or user-friendly.