A reader of this column has a couple of retirement accounts with one of the big banks. "Can I pick my own investments," he asks, "or do I have to buy what my fast-talking adviser suggests?"
One of the quiet perks of having your investments with a bank is how easy it is to move from having an adviser to becoming a DIY investor who picks his or her own investments. Banks have anticipated investors making this kind of move – that's why they all own online brokerage divisions where you can pay less than $10 to buy and sell stocks and exchange-traded funds. But don't expect anyone at a bank to talk up the benefits of DIY investing. Banks make far more money advising people how to invest than they do in providing a platform for do-it-yourselfers to buy and sell investments.
This reader obviously has trust issues with his adviser. I suggest a meeting where the client explains his reservations about following the adviser's recommendations. Maybe this relationship can be salvaged by becoming more collaborative. Why not just snatch the account away from the adviser and go DIY? Because DIY investing requires a fair bit of time, expertise and motivation. If you can't deliver all three of these things, an adviser is a better fit.
If this reader is set on going the DIY route, it's worthwhile to take a look at the latest edition of the Globe and Mail online brokerage ranking. But to keep things super simple, this reader could just transfer his advised account at the bank to the in-house online brokerage. Transfer-out fees apply when you move an investment account from one firm to another, but he should be able to avoid them by essentially transferring an account from one arm of a bank to another.
A compromise solution for this reader: Start up an online brokerage account on the side to get comfortable with DIY investing, and then transfer the advised account later. Lots of investors look after some of their investments while also using an adviser.