Canadian Discount Brokerages – Phone Call Time Comparison

by Mike Holman

I’ve been spending some time recently updating the Canadian discount brokerage comparison which contains lots of information about all the Canadian discount brokerages.

I decided to re-test the average wait time (when phoning) to make sure the shortcuts were up to date as well as the wait times. I thought it would be interesting to share the results here as well as look at the biggest improvements and declines.

My method is fairly unscientific (described in the last paragraph of this post) and doesn’t cover all aspects of customer service, but I think for people who are concerned with wait times when calling their broker – it might give them some idea of how the brokers compare.

Brokerages ranked by wait time

Not surprisingly, the smaller independent brokerages that scored well on wait times last year also did well this year. The main reason for this is that the bank owned brokerages have a lot more messages and more extensive phone trees.

Qtrade and Options Express which have the shortest wait times, only make you listen to a short message and no phone tree. CIBC on the other hand wins the “worst wait time” award, mainly because of the ads, messages, and lengthy phone tree which took me one minute and 46 seconds to get through. When I used the phone short cuts (available on the brokerage comparison), it took a more reasonable 25 seconds to get through.

Brokerage wait time comparison:

BrokerAvg Wait Time (sec)
Qtrade12
Options Express14
Virtual Brokers21
Credential Direct26
Jitney Trade38
HSBC43
ShareOwner43
Questrade51
BMO53
TDW58
RBC63
Scotia68
National Bank84
IB85
Disnat95
CIBC IE107

Biggest changes from last year

None of the brokers did appreciably worse than last year, but on the improvement side – there were a number of brokers that answered the phone much faster.

Questrade was the big winner in this category. Last year they had one of the longest wait times of 168 seconds. This time they were a more respectable 51 seconds. Interactive Brokers, ShareOwner and Disnat also made some significant improvements.

Wait time improvements from last year:

BrokerAvg Wait Time (sec)Last yearImprovement
Questrade51219168
IB85224139
ShareOwner43151108
Disnat9518287
HSBC438643
CIBC IE10714740
Qtrade12197
Options Express14195
TDW58635
Jitney Trade38391
Credential Direct26271
RBC63630
Virtual Brokers2120-1
BMO5344-9
National Bank8464-20
Scotia6847-21

Phone call wait time methodology

The wait time was measured from after I finished dialing to when a customer service rep started talking. The automated message system was quite time consuming in some cases, which is why if you use the key prompt shortcuts, your actual wait times should be much less. The wait time averages were based on a minimum of five phone calls made on business days between the hours of 9:30 am and 4:00 pm.

It should be noted that I did not use any of the automated message system shortcuts to save time – I wanted to replicate the experience of someone who wasn’t familiar with the automated message system.

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