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Wealth Management

(New York)

It actually took longer than we expected. Last week there was a big splash in markets and media when Schwab, TDA, and E*Trade all cut their commissions in response to a first move by Schwab. Now, unsurprisingly—except for how long it took—Fidelity has followed suit. The unique part about Fidelity’s move is that in addition to free trades, it is also offering free money market funds for any cash left in accounts. Those are currently 1.58%, and way ahead of the near zero yield you get on cash at Schwab, TDA, and E*Trade.

FINSUM: The whole market has gone to zero on trading commissions. One wonders if the same is going to happen on large ETFs.

(New York)

Have you ever thought to yourself “I would love if they could put the downside protection of structured products into an ETF”? Probably not, but someone did, as there is a new category of ETFs, called Buffer ETFs, which are seeing big capital inflows. The ETFs work by guaranteeing only a certain level of losses in exchange for limiting potential gains. The ETFs have a year-long term, and their details change constantly. But a good example would be one with a 9% “buffer”. This means that if the ETF loses 12% in the year, the holder would only see a 3% loss and the product provider would absorb the rest. The first and only provider of these ETFs is called Innovator and has partnered with MSCI, Nasdaq and more to create a handful of exchange traded funds. Check out KOCT, NOCT, EJUL, and IJUL.

FINSUM: These are very tricky ETFs, just like the structured products from which they drew their inspiration. That said, they seem like they have some utility if they are executed properly.

(New York)

Charles Schwab may have just changed market access forever. The giant custodian and broker-dealer just announced that it was eliminating all trading commission on stocks, ETFs, and options. It is unclear if it is doing the same for advisors on its platform, but it said it would extend the offer to clients of RIAs who trade on its platforms. TD Ameritrade immediately matched Schwab’s offer within just a few hours. Following the announcements, brokerage stocks plunged. TDA fell about 26% and E*Trade fell 16% to new 52-week lows. Estimates are that the change in fees will depress both TDA and E*Trade’s earnings by 22%.

FINSUM: This is a game-changing move. Hopefully they will extend this to all trades for advisors. This is a brutally competitive landscape and retail investors and advisors are seeing the benefits.

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