As Canadians turned to investing and trading during the prolonged pandemic lockdowns, both new and seasoned market participants helped drive the growth of financial tools and apps designed to keep portfolios organized, and to generate and share ideas.
Within a six-month period in 2020, reports Environics Research, COVID-19 advanced the adoption of digital financial tools in general by at least three to five years. When it comes to investors specifically, two-thirds report that they use at least one tool offered by their dealer to help manage their investments, according to a recent survey of self-directed investors by the Ontario Securities Commission.
In 2021, fintech reached mass adoption – at least south of the border – as 88 per cent of U.S. consumers said they use technology to manage their finances, according to an October report released by financial services company Plaid, with the use of savings and investing apps increasing the most on a year-over-year basis.
While there are thousands of investing tools to choose from in an app store, with trading platforms and brokers such as Wealthsimple Trade and TD Canada sitting near the top of the charts in terms of downloads, investors are also using a few extra apps to help them track, screen and aggregate their holdings. Here is a look at some of their choices:
Wealthica is a portfolio tracking app that allows investors to link, view and analyze their holdings from different financial institutions on a central dashboard, including their individual investment or portfolio fees, diversification, performance and downside protection, with data syncing daily.
Earlier this year, the platform also added support for more than 65 cryptocurrency exchanges and wallets to its app, allowing users to sync their digital currency accounts to their dashboard. Investors can join for free, but premium tiers are also on offer.
Bob Lai, a Vancouver-based investor and blogger who pursues a self-directed dividend investing strategy, is a fan of Wealthica as a visual tool for doing a quick check-in of his investments.
“It’s free for the most part and I’ve come to quite like Wealthica over time – you could just quickly check your net worth and how things are performing regularly,” he says. “If people are not spreadsheet savvy, Wealthica is great to use.”
Jason Pereira, financial planner with Woodgate Financial and host of the Fintech Impact podcast, says portfolio tracking tools can be valuable for some investors when it comes to aggregating investments they hold in multiple places; the tools will also allow them to keep their track record and other data if they move advisers.
“Oftentimes, if someone deals with two, or let’s say three advisers over their lifetime, they really have no idea what their total experience was, start to finish,” he says. “That’s the reality of it and so, is it valuable to them, that data? Absolutely.”
One drawback for Mr. Lai is that Wealthica is always updated and available – and he aims to leave his portfolio alone for the most part. “When these tools are at your disposal, then you tend to check more often than needed,” he says.
For those investing in exchange-traded funds or who want to put their portfolios on autopilot, Passiv is a portfolio management tool with both free and elite-level subscription levels that lets do-it-yourself investors build a passive investment strategy at their online broker (the app has partnered with Questrade in Canada) by setting a target allocation, and automatically rebalancing the portfolio based on their available cash.
Mr. Lai has signed up for and dabbled in Passiv – although he says it doesn’t fit with his investment style – and recommends this tool for those looking for more of an automated approach.
“You can set rules like, ‘if I deposit $500 a month, then buy this.’ So, I think it’s pretty cool – you’re putting yourself on autopilot,” he says.
In the first 10 months of 2020, investors took an interest in stock and ETF research and analysis platform Stock Rover, which reported that it increased its user base by more than 450 per cent compared with the same period in 2019. The tool, which offers three plan levels, screens some 8,500 North American stocks, 4,000 ETFs and 40,000 mutual funds using more than 250 financial metrics, to compare, evaluate, rank and chart investment options.
Jason Tremere, a computer scientist and technical analysis investor based in Moncton, subscribes to Stock Rover, as well as stock and commodities charts and quote provider Barchart.com – both of which track hundreds of different metrics, including factors such as implied volatility. The only downside of tools like these as well as another site he’s used for years – stockcharts.com – says Mr. Tremere, is how complex the analysis can get.
“You go into StockCharts and you could spend like a month reading about every different indicator in there,” he says.
Looking to provide a more streamlined way of tracking stock trends and performance in the current market, Mr. Tremere joined the ranks of developers himself earlier this year and created his own tool that uses a colour-coded “heat map” system. It combines price trend and momentum to score whether, and how fast, a stock is trending up, and allows him and other users to create personal watchlists and filters.
Another tool that has garnered some attention from investors online looking to back-test their portfolios’ asset allocation is Portfolio Visualizer. The platform, which also offers portfolio optimization, asset analytics factor models and Monte Carlo simulations, is available for free, with more comprehensive, fee-based models available for subscribers.
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