Brokerages still need to work hard to improve their websites, but the most pressing areas they should focus on are account balances, charts and detailed quotes - which investors consider most important according to a new survey by Corporate Insight.
According to the study of 1000 investors, 72% think that it's very important for a website to provide detailed quotes, while 68% said charts for stocks, mutual funds and indices are very important.
Overall, 90% said it is very important to see their account balances, 85% said it is essential to see their account positions, and 80% mentioned the importance of having access to their account history, from the time they opened their account to their latest trade.
Other highly in demand features include being able to access online account statements, trade confirmations, and being able to track the performance of a portfolio over the past year or quarter. Most brokerages have improved their quotes, charts, ETF screening tools and options screening tools substantially since 2007 as the vendors they work with have developed better offerings and tools, James McGovern, VP of Corporate Insight said.
Nevertheless, Corporate Insight's brokerage audit service showed that only 15% of brokerage firms the survey tracked actually earned a 'Good' rating for their account information, James McGovern, VP of Corporate Insight, said.
"Mediocre account alerts and the lack of performance analysis tools are two of the biggest reasons why firms struggle here," he says. "There's no one firm that's doing a superb job."
A couple of brokerages are doing a better job than the others: "Merrill Edge has good account performance information, and Fidelity is doing a good job with account aggregation, and its Yodlee tool which allows clients to see information held outside Fidelity. "But there's no one firm that has the perfect package there," McGovern said. The study also found that brokerages must focus more on mobile customers. While still a minority - just 28% of survey participants had logged into their firm's mobile platform in the past 12 months - these mobile investors tend to trade significantly more than non-mobile users.
Still, 28% was a figure that was higher than expected, McGovern said. "The mobile platform is an important space for development." Additionally, mobile investors tend to be younger than non-mobile users -- 48% are under the age of 40 - and they also have a higher average household income than non-mobile investors.
Brokerages have realized the importance of focusing on mobile platforms, and have started actively pushing out iPhone, Android and iPad apps. But as a next step, firms now need to focus more on the features that mobile customers really want: These include "the ability to trade futures and options, live customer service chat and the ability to use more nuanced and sophisticated trading techniques," says Andy Rooks, senior analyst for brokerage research, Corporate Insight.
At a basic level, firms also need to focus on getting the word out about their mobile applications, says McGovern. "They need to keep them front and center and show people how to access them," he points out.
Mobile users are also heavily using Facebook and Twitter for information about their brokerages, McGovern said. "Mobile and social media go together. So firms need to highlight changes on those social media sites," he added.