Questions for your Broker

Discussion in 'Retail Brokers' started by mjt, May 31, 2001.

  1. mjt


    There have been a lot of posts lately about what to look for in a direct access broker. Not regarding software or costs, but stability issues such as having adequate servers to handle all remote clients, redundancy, etc.

    To those of you who understand this stuff a little better, what questions should you ask your broker (or potential broker) that would give you an indication of whether they have the proper infrastructure to handle your trading? At minimum, which of these key elements should direct access traders look for in a brokerage?

    I realize that this question has probably been answered by some of you in other threads in a piecemeal fashion. However, I think it would be good to have one thread people can refer to for this important issue.
  2. Baron

    Baron ET Founder

    This list of criteria for considering a broker was passed along to me recently so I'm posting it here. I realize that it covers a broader scope than what mjt has mentioned above but I figured that this thread is probably still a good place to post this. Any suggestions that anyone has regarding infrastructure questions to ask a potential broker will most likely be added to this list to make it more comprehensive.

    Broker Selection Criteria

    Created and maintained by Vince Heiker,

    • Get all information in writing from broker, before signing any contracts. Then incorporate the written information as part of the contracts, said information overriding any terms and conditions to the contrary elsewhere in the contracts.

      Example. Let's say that the broker charges you $2,000 for initial training and coaching and initial months of onsite workstation usage. Further, the broker tells you verbally that s/he will credit you back for the $2,000 at the rate of half your trade commissions over the next four to six months.

      Get ALL of that kind of stuff in writing. Some brokers offer different deals to different people. Some will be dishonest and develop selective amnesia.

      Also keep in mind that a lot of these items are negotiable, but only if you know that and negotiate accordingly.

    1. Order execution

    • Transaction network
      • Reliability statistics available?
        Speed/timeliness statistics available?

        Brokerage complies with and will continue to comply with SEC Rule 11Acl-5
        which is effective August 2001; unless superseded by an SEC replacement
        for this Rule. This SEC Rule is about disclosing Order Execution Information
        quality. For more info, go to:

        NYSE, NASDAQ and AMEX? CME? CBOT? Other exchanges?
        Equities, options, futures, commodities, bonds, mutual funds?
        NASDAQ II full access to books for ISLAND, REDI, ARCA, other?

        DAT/Direct Access Trading - to/from ECN's, market makers?
        Do you have to preference an ECN/MM to get to it, or is your order given directly
        and only to the specific ECN/MM of your choice for that order?
        Explain exactly what happens if you use broker's superorder routing.

        No human broker order interventions?
        No selling (slow down) of order flow?

        Real time continuous status of account balance, margin balance, open
        positions, closed positions, confirmations, unfilled orders pending, P&L?

        Multiple concurrent sign on's for same account (from home and work)?

        Electronic routing for options and futures of 20 contracts or less?
        CBOE/OCC - RAES? ISE - ISE?
        Bypass pit trades, all electronic ordering? Or, pit trade & 20 second rule?
        E.g., if selling 100 contracts, must they be broken up into 5 orders of 20
        each with 20 second breaks? If so, can the orders be submitted at one
        time and broker's system will sell same at 20 second intervals?

        Shorting - explain uptick rule enforcement, clearly. Who enforces it, how?
        ECN? Clearing house? Both?

      Order execution software
      • Names of packages offered/available:
        Other proprietary:

        LMT, STOP LMT, Trailing Stop (on local PC, not server?), FOC, GTC,
        MKT, MKT Stop, other order types?
        Hot key execution or mouse-only?
        Cancel hot key/button for trades not yet executed?
        Bail out key/button to close all open trades?
        Basket trades?
        Load stop lmt/mkt or trailing stop simultaneously with order placement?
        Preload trades? With automatic if..then..else execution?
        Review pending orders status, open trades, closed trades status displays
        Position minder retains actual costs for open trades held overnight or for
        multiple days, not just prior day closing prices?

      • Costs, if any, for order execution software, network?

      • Shorting - breadth of stocks, fills (e.g., Spear, Leeds & Kellogg)?
        Clearing firm Spear, Leeds & Kellogg?

    2. Real Time Data Feeds for Prices, NASDAQ II, Charting
    • Reliability statistics available?
      For high volume days such as surprise Fed rate change days?
      Speed statistics available?
      Accuracy statistics available?
      Direct Internet feeds to home PC, or via broker's servers?
      Current network architecture map, showing redundancy, available?

      Data feed from HyperFeed? S&P's Comstock? Other?
      Free or at what cost?

      Compatible with what charting/filtering software packages?

      NASDAQ II full access to ISLAND, REDI, ARCA, etc, books.?

      Access to indices (sector, NASDAQ, S&P & other futures, at what extra costs?
      Is CME free or $10/month?
      Does CME at that price include Globex and Globex2? Forex?

    3. Software provided
    • Arrangements for special pricing, data feeds for any of these?
      Apogee (HyperFeed)
      First Alert (Neovest)
      Trade Station (Omega)
      RealTick (Townsend Analytics)?
      Advance Get (Trading Techniques)?
      A-T Attitude (A-T Financial)?
      Apogee (HyperFeed)?

    4. Margin
    • What interest paid to traders' account for overnight balances?
      No margin charged for intraday trades when no stocks kept overnight?
      Margin interest rates relative to brokers' call?
      Margin % available for Longs vs. Shorts?
      Margin % available different for any stocks or sectors of stocks?
      Margin lockout, if position on margin is held overnight and sold the next day,
      is that margin locked out entirely the next day? Or for that stock only?

    5. Trade commissions and fees
    • Target <= $0.025/share for NYSE & NASDAQ lmt orders
      Min ticket price?
      Max ticket price plus $??/share thereafter?

      Include all fees, ECN charges? No other (hidden) charges?
      One fee for multiple trades in same stock in same day?
      Rebates based on trading volume? I.e., for software, data feed costs?
      Any extra charges, such as for odd lots, lmt/stop orders?

      Options ticket size & price, per contract, other fees?
      Futures ticket size & price, per contract, other fees?

    6. Contracts
    • Acceptable and reasonable terms?
      Broker not excused from gross negligence?

    7. Account Statements
    • Daily detailed statements available online each evening?
      Monthly detailed and summary statements?
      Statements clear, easy to understand?
      All statements free?

      Tax aids - I.e., Excel trade details files for download?
      Statements available in mark to market accounting for 475 status traders?

      (Review sample statements for accuracy, timeliness, clarity)

    8. Account Misc
    • SIPC insured?
      Minimum opening balance?
      Minimum sustaining balance?
      Ease and speed of new account set up?

      LLC account ownership?
      IRA - free or @what charges?
      FDIC insured checking - free or with what charges?

    9. Additional services
    • Research?
      Real time news at what extra cost, if any?
      Real time news alerts for selected stocks, open/closed trades?
      Local trading room for back up/emergencies/training/coaching?
      Discounts with other firms for training courses, books, stock picks,
      newsletters, websites, etc.?