What’s the Best On-Line Portfolio Manager to Track my Investments, Part 1 of 5

Whether it’s just the curiousity for your favourite companies or fantasizing about what you’d do if you were Warren Buffet, or monitoring your RRSP, TFSA, and children’s RESP having an on-line portfolio manager for your investments is fun and convenient.

Introduction

Probably one of the best reasons to have your investments in a web-based portfolio manager is to avoid having to login – and stay logged in – to your brokerage whenever you want to see how things are going. And if your brokerage is also your bank and credit card issuer then it’s really not something you want to leave open on your computer all day!

Besides, most of us automatically log in in to a portal (Google, MSN, or Yahoo) or news site (Globe & Mail, National Post, etc.) anyways so we may as well take advantage of their portfolio managers at the same time.

One thing is certain, there’s a lot of differences amongst all the portfolio managers out there on the web! Not only do they look different, but they offer different functionality – some focus on quotes, some on charts, and some on analysis – and varying amounts of information (and completeness of the information).

The Players

I’ve compared portfolio managers from the portal sites: Google, MSN, and Yahoo; the news sites: Bloomberg, Canadian Business, Financial Post, Financial Times, Globe and Mail Investor, and MarketWatch; financial services: Barchart, Morningstar, and TMX Money; brokerages: Bank of Montreal Investorline, Qtrade, and Royal Bank of Canada Direct Investing.

You can see screen shots of a sample portfolio, quote, and chart from each one in the gallery.

My Methodology

I’ve tabulated a lot of the characteristics of each web site. But of course there’s more to it then you can get from reading down a column and across a few rows. There were three things I really focused on

  1. the user experience: if I felt like I was back in 1995 and using Netscape Navigator rather than a modern browser on a modern web site then the portfolio manager got a thumbs down!
  2. completeness of the data, especially dividends: investing for dividends is one of my primary methods and the more a web site tells me about the dividends the happier I am!
  3. charts: I like my charts to cover 3 to 5 years, show Bollinger Bands, and dividend payments – AND I want all that in as few clicks as possible!

Everyone looks for something different, of course news, analyst opinions, financials tables, and more are all available to varying degrees.

I would also like to see a portfolio manager that goes beyond the generic performance calculations and puts something together not only for my portfolio but that also takes the dividends my investments generate into account. It’s easy to calculate total return and other metrics based on your cost and the current market value. It’s harder to take cash flows and time into account but I’d really like to see a web site that did that.

One thing I don’t like to see is a lot of advertising. I realise it’s inevitable these days but some web sites do a better job of integrating the ads and on others it is far to distracting to make the web site usable.

There’s a few I specifically didn’t compare:

  • Vuru.co since they couldn’t provide analysis for bank stocks (good for dividends) or stocks younger than five years (conversions from Income Trusts);
  • Quotestreamer since it’s a paid subscription and way beyond a simple portfolio manager;
  • Globe Investor GOLD since it’s another expensive subscription service;
  • Mint because they only work with linked accounts (I thought I could create a manual account but apparently no longer); or
  • Yodlee since their portfolio manager is barely ready for alpha let a lone general use!

And I’m sure there others out there too that I missed, and I’d be happy to hear about them in the comments.

In the next installment I’ll look at the what the portals have to offer.

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – Calculating Returns and The Portals
Part 3 – News Outlets
Part 4 – Financial Services and Brokerages
Part 5 – Comparison Table and Conclusion

Cross-posted on 2FatDads

Disclaimer The material in this article does not constitute advice and you should not rely on any material in this article to make any decision or take any action.

Advertisements