Share options – buying and selling and how best to do it
If you’re going to dabble in shares for the first time or venture online rather than maybe through the more traditional channels, where do you start?
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange
Given the latest hike in Dirt, never mind the potential impact of paying PRSI as well depending on how much interest you earn, share trading may not have looked as attractive for people chasing real return in quite some time.
After all, markets are still in bull territory, while any gain you might make on share trading will be taxed at a more amenable 33 per cent rate, compared with as much as 45 per cent for a savings account or investment fund.
Not only that, but if you do end up taking a hit, you can use this loss to offset against any taxable gains you might have in the future. The caveat, of course, is the higher level of risk that share trading presents compared with a deposit account.
You’ll have to be prepared to brace yourself for potential uncertainty and volatility ahead. The one area where you can be sure of some certainty is in the charges share trading will involve. What is also guaranteed is that online trading will prove the most economic option
So whether you’re looking at dabbling in shares for the first time, venturing online rather than through the more traditional channels, or simply looking for an alternative for your Danske Bank online trading portfolio now that it has announced it is pulling the plug on its personal service for Irish customers, what are your options?
Go it alone or get some advice?
Undoubtedly, the cheapest trading rates are available for those who are willing to act on their own instincts and don’t need professional advice.
Of course some would say it might end up costing you in the long-term, but if you’re happy to opt for an execution-only online service you can expect to pay as little as €10 a transaction, plus additional charges such as foreign transaction charges etc.
If, on the other hand, you would like the comfort of professional advice before buying or selling, there are plenty of options available.
Davy has an advisory option, for example, where a financial adviser will advise you and execute the trade on your behalf if you wish to proceed with it.
The minimum amount needed to open such an account is €50,000 and the broker charges an annual fee of 1 per cent on your balance.
So, for example, should you have a portfolio valued at €125,000, the fee will be €1,250.
Commission charges on transactions also apply, varying from up to 1.65 per cent on shares and exchange-traded fund (ETF) transactions, and a €40 foreign transaction charge on overseas trades.
Similarly, Investec (formerly known as NCB Stockbrokers) offers advisory services. At Investec, no definitive minimum account size applies, although it does recommend that an investor should own at least 30 equity holdings, or alternatively collective managed funds and ETFs.
Its lowest administration charge is €100 a year, but this varies depending on the nature of the advice given.
Its standard commission rates are 1.5 per cent for the initial €25,000 and the balancing amount above the €25,000 being charged at 0.75 per cent.
Custodial charges for foreign stocks range from €45 to €80 depending on the region.
Choose the pricing model that suits you
If execution-only is more your thing, you’ll find that the market has shrunk somewhat since Danske Bank’s departure.
However, there are still plenty of options available. Davy, for example, offers an execution-only option through its Davy Select service, with a minimum transaction fee of €14.99 or 0.5 per cent of the trade. You will need just €500 to open an account.
Campbell O’Connor operates a telephone dealing service only, but you can expect to pay a higher fee – €25 or up to 1.5 per cent of the transaction. However, unlike Davy, you won’t have to pay an account maintenance fee. So for the infrequent trader this could prove to be more attractive.
Another way of looking at it comes from Interactive Brokers, which applies different charges depending on where the shares you’re buying are.
For example, US shares cost $0.005 cents each to trade, for a minimum charge of $1 (€0.74) and a maximum of 0.5 per cent of the trade value.
British stocks will cost £6 (€7) to trade up to a maximum trade value of £50,000 (€59,087). Trades above this will attract an additional charge of 0.05 per cent on the incremental amount. It also offers a “cost-plus” option, where commission decreases depending on volume.
However, while transaction commissions may be low if you don’t spend $10 (€7.40) on commissions every month, the difference between this fee and the commission you have paid will be deducted from your account as an inactivity charge.
The best deals, not surprisingly, are often pitched at frequent traders. TD Waterhouse, for example, judges the frequency of trades transacted with it on a three-month basis.
If, for example, you have completed 10 or more trades in one three-month cycle, you will be eligible for a frequent trader rate for the next three months. This brings the transaction cost, which is typically €20, down to €15 a trade.
Davy has launched a new frequent trading account, Select Trading Plus, which has no maintenance fee, but rather an “all-in” annual dealing charge of 0.9 per cent of the account balance (subject to a minimum of €400). You need to do about 20 trades a year to get the value out of this account.
Of course the advice for most investors is to buy and hold rather than trading frequently; it would be a foolish investor who decided their trading behaviour mainly on the basis of an attractive high frequency rate from a broker.
Remember, stock trading is not all about maintenance fees or transaction charges. If you’re looking to buy US stocks, for example, be prepared to pay additional charges.
Campbell O’Connor has a minimum commission charge of $50 (€37, compared to €25 normally) for US and Canadian transactions, while at Goodbody you will pay an extra charge of €19.05 to cover the cost of holding and transaction fees passed onto it by its US custodian agents. Foreign exchange fees are also often levied.
TD Waterhouse, for example, charges a spread of up to 2 per cent depending on the value of the transaction, so a US trade valued at €10,000 could cost you an additional €200.
Remember, too, if you’re buying an exchange traded fund (ETF) in addition to any brokerage charges that might apply, you will also be charged an annual management fee by the fund provider. iShares, for example, has a total expense ratio (TER) or annual charge of 0.4 per cent on its FTSE 100 ETF.
If you are an infrequent trader, you can expect to pay an inactivity charge. Sharewatch, for example, charges £25 a month if you trade fewer than three times a month.
If you are a customer of Danske Bank you will need to find a new home for your portfolio unless you want to cash out altogether.
According to the bank, its online trading service – which had a minimum transaction fee of €20 – has already been withdrawn for new customers.
However, if you are already a customer, the service will stop in the first half of 2014. A spokeswoman for the bank said it would write to customers giving them two months notice before this happens.
When doing so, look for a provider that will do transfers “in specie”, which means they won’t have to sell and re-buy any of the assets, thereby avoiding commission charges and exit penalties.
Davy Select, for example, has indicated that Danske Bank clients can transfer to them (shares, bonds, ETFs, and funds) without incurring any transfer costs.
And finally . . .
Remember that stamp duty also applies to your share purchases when buying Irish stocks (1 per cent) or British stocks (0.5 per cent. However, thanks to Budget 2014, if you buy stocks listed on Ireland’s junior ESM market, you will no longer have to pay stamp duty.
Names listed on this exchange include First Derivatives, Fyffes and CPL.