Thursday, May 14, 2009

ThinkOrSwim - Best Barron's Online Broker 2009

This is what I wrote a while back in my review of few online brokers I have first hand experience with or have heard good reviews from people I trust:

"When I first discovered TOS, I was impressed as much as back in 1996 when I moved my account to DATEK. I think TOS is as cutting edge today as DATEK was before Ameritrade acquired it.
Multiple fee schedules for every taste and they are open for negotiation based on your trading volume.
Execution speed - if it is marketable order - I have not finished pushing "send order button" and message popping up confirming executed order. W O W
In addition when you place an order you SEE your order on level 2 ( based on your order ID)
The only broker I know who communicates REAL time any technical problem with traders over popup messages.
Desktop Trading software is on par with cockpit of space shuttle...and it WORKS...and it works so fast with such a huge amount of data transmitted that I keep wondering "how did they do that?". No delays, no hiccups, no problems.
( There is also Web Based trading, Cell Phone Trading, Pocket PC Trading - they got all covered )
Education they provide is THE BEST free education. PERIOD."

That was about a year ago, I was proud and happy to be a part of this newly found experience... I was.

Since then ThinkOrSwim deserved Barron's #1 ranking again - great...

Published at Barron's Online
MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2009

Blue Chips

Now, I generally agree with Barron's review and highlights, especially this one:

"There is a cloud in the sky, however, which is the recent acquisition of thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade,..."

Well, if that would be all - I, as a former DATEK customer, would not be too upset - after Ameritrade acquired DATEK they kept fees structure for former DATEK's customers and, speaking of DATEK's great trading interface (at that time) - have not changed it a bit for many years (well, they did introduce "Command Center" which is nothing more than sliced/diced original DATEK's famous STREAMER.

But here is another part of Barron's review which raised my eyebrows:

"The company had zero downtime in 2008"

Excuse me?

Well, may be if "downtime" is a complete failure of all services - including, but not limited to software AND web based AND phone support AND ... AND.... then MAY BE, then I will agree - there was no COMPLETE downtime, at least not as I know of.

BUT, there were and still going on "incidents" when applications freezes completely, data feed stops, order placement stops responding, charts freeze up (Slimmed down Prophet charts and TOS charts) and it constantly happens when market is on the move on high volume - just the time when customers NEED to be able to trade more than at any other moment.

True or not, TOS blames exchanges, data providers, traders' computers - anyone and anything, but themselves. 

Let me ask you that - for me, as a customer, trader, ACTIVE trader, why do I care "whose fault is that"?  And I was not born yesterday and I can separate brokerage's SERVERS and datalines bandwidth being inadequately beefed up from "bad quotes from exchanges" excuse - in my past life I was not the last grade computer professional, it is an insult to my intelligence when "3rd level tech support person" (who is in reality, most likely, simply an "in house" trader who gets some freebies for answering calls/chat) tells me that "I did not set something right" and wastes my time.

It saddens me indefinitely that (and I'd like to give credits where credits are due) one of the best (REALLY) brokerages out there, with the best software platform, ingenious people in charge (I respect Tom and Scott greatly for their ability to build unique kind of brokerage house and for the way they deal with customers, and educational resources they provide for their customers - for free) in attempts to increase customers' base (Per Barron's: "to $3 billion from $1.1 billion") to increase the value of the company - they let infrastructure lag as mush as it does now.  And at the end it does not matter if they added "30% or 40% capacity" - IF IT DOES NOT WORK - then it is NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

Brokerage, no matter how good it is, how good people are, how software is sophisticated - is ONLY AS GOOD AS CUSTOMER's ABILITY TO PLACE THE TRADE BASED ON RELIABLE INFORMATION/EXECUTION WHEN CUSTOMER NEEDS IT.

Otherwise - it is just a fancy GPS device with movie viewer, book reader, stars counting GPS - WHICH DOES NOT PROVIDE ROUTING RIGHT WHEN YOU NEED TO MAKE A SHARP TURN.

Wake up ThinkOrSwim - you CAN fix things...

It costs money to your customers, it costs health to your customers, it costs loss of respect for TOS and people who work there.

It costs ME loss of respect for MYSELF after calling you on the phone after one of "inexistent" hiccups and cursing my brains out in savage anger.

And least of all I need to hear from customer service who forced to listen to me shouting on the phone this question:

"What can we do for you?"

Because there is only one thing I might possibly need from online broker which is:


Wake up ThinkOrSwim - you CAN fix things...