What’s the Best On-Line Portfolio Manager to Track my Investments, part 4 of 5

I’ve previously looked at what other sites like the big portals and popular news outlets have to offer investors who want to track their portfolios. But there’s two other important players: the financial services web sites who are typically at the root of the financial data, and the brokerages where we hold our portfolios. In this part I’ll see what they have to offer.

Financial Services

These are companies that are actually in the money business, they provide a portfolio manager as a courtesy or add-on to their primary business.


Like the name implies this company specializes in charting the underlying financial information; and there’s a lot of impressive stuff you can do with their charts! And there’s even more technical information for those who invest by the numbers. There’s not much fundamental information though, like dividends and yields are missing. The site also has a very 1990’s feel to it – except for the charts, although beautiful they don’t quite fit into the surrounding site.


This is another name everyone who’s ever looked for the slightest financial information has run across, they are everywhere. And they’ve very generously made a lot of their information available on their web site with very nice quotes, charts, and other detailed financial and historical information. For the amateur the amount of information can be overwhelming, but you get a sense of what the professionals deal with.

And since Morningstar makes their money selling subscriptions to the pros the advertising on the site is minimal and most of the space is given to data and charts.

TMX Money

Let me get this off my chest: Why does the Toronto Stock Exchange – the primary source – ship us off to another company when we want to lookup TSE stock quotes?! Admittedly they’ve outsourced to Quotemedia, who turn numbers in works of art, but it still bothers me. The actual functionality is basic but the data is all there, amidst a fair bit of advertising though.



This is where the transactions really happen, so they’re listed here as a point of comparison since we’ve already established that you wouldn’t leave your banking homepage open on your computer all day long. A big difference with these portfolios is that you’re a paying customer, so there’s no advertising (apart from the occasional self-promotion) and you often get some premium features you’d have to pay for elsewhere.

Bank of Montreal Investorline

The BMO Investorline site provides clear but basic asset tracking information and has recently added some nice graphing features to track trends and mark dividend payments. The site is easy to use and the recent GUI upgrades provide a brighter look and feel . That said, some of the tabs still have almost a beta look to them and one can only hope they are not quite finished with their current overhaul.

In the gallery, if you look closely at the chart screen shots of BMO Investorline and the Financial Times we can see the look almost identical, so either they’re using the same provider or same underlying tools to generate the charts. Either way, Investorline has not make their portfolios as nice as the Financial Times has.


They’ve received numerous, well-deserved, accolades for customer service and innovation. The web site works very well and the portfolio has a comprehensive set of views. The quotes and charts are standard fare but since you’re a paying customer you do get more information than aforementioned free portfolios.

RBC Royal Bank Direct Investing

RBC’s on-line portfolio is probably one of the oldest in existence – or at least it feels that way. The on-line banking web site is making great strides towards the 21st century but the brokerage still seems stuck in the 90’s. Once you’re there though, and you’ve forgiven them for not looking like an Apple or Google web site, you’ll find plenty of information from Thomson Reuters that is well laid-out and accessible.

So what we’ve seen here is the portfolio managers from the brokers and from the companies supplying the financial data are not much better (or worse for that matter) than any one else’s. There’s no real advantage to using your broker’s portfolio and there’s the big disadvantage of leaving the site open and exposed for an extended period of time.

In the final installment I’ll summarize all my reviews in a categorized table and leave you with my final conclusions.

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.

What’s the Best On-Line Portfolio Manager to Track my Investments, part 3 of 5

Last week I introduced on-line portfolio managers for your investments, and how to calculate the returns on your portfolio. I also looked at what the big portals offered their users. This week I’ll start by looking at what other sites have to offer.

News Outlets

News papers and syndicates that deliver the news; in particular the outlets that have a business focus we expect to have a robust portfolio. We all typically have a news outlet we go to first for our news, and we might even log-in so we can leave comments. Most likely the newspaper offers an on-line portfolio.

Some of these news outlets offer premium features to paying subscribes, or even have entirely separate offerings for professionals. This review however is focused only on what’s available to the general public as a free service. For the average individual, who just wants to keep tabs more frequently than monthly or quarterly statements, the fees to access the premium services are not justified.


Bloomberg is an American news outlet with a business focus. Their portfolio, quotes and charts are clean and efficient. I especially like the use of charts directly in the portfolio. Overall though the portfolio is fairly basic and not very innovative.

It should be noted that Bloomberg is one of the primary providers of news and data for professional advisors and portfolio managers. But what I’m looking at here is what is available to the general public, without a subscription.

Canadian Business

This is more of a business magazine than a daily newspaper outlet and the appearance of the web sites reflects it. They’ve outsourced their portfolio, quotes, and charts to Barchart and unfortunately it shows – everything related to stocks seems to happen in its own little box. There’s some nice little fly-overs in their portfolio but you don’t get as much information as other sites.

Financial Post

They have a very impressive Watchlist feature that scrolls a ticker across top of the web site, and you can click on a symbol to get more information or go to a full blown quote & chart page. Although in the actual portfolio manager, the quotes, and charts are bare-bones and visually un-appealing. This a web site that makes me think of the early days of the web when Flash ads were all over the page!

Financial Times

This site has everything – including a pink background. And does it really well. My initial impression of the web site was not very good; but in terms of data and functionality this gets an A+. With the added bonus that it really is international – not just North American. There’s a lot of information provided on the first page for each stock, and charts open over the page (very web 2.0 – even though they preserve the Netscape-look of the site while doing it).

Globe and Mail Investor

The quintessential Canadian business news web site. Their stock and fund filters are the foundation used by many other organizations. They recently revamped their on-line portfolio and it looks much slicker, but it no longer has all the detailed functionality of the old one. You can’t track your exact position but, for stocks at least, you can track how many shares you own. The quotes and charts pages are split up along traditional lines, and their functionality is limited but at least all the Canadian data is there.

There are premium features available to Globe Plus and Globe Investor GOLD subscribers but these were not reviewed here.

Market Watch (Dow Jones)

Here is a very innovative portfolio manager, from the way it is laid-out to the way it works (it’s the only one that allows you to tag a stock and filter your stocks by tag). You can’t track all your transactions, but you can track your positions. The quotes for Canadian stocks are complete, and the charts are from Big Charts (another Dow Jones company so it’s not really out-sourced) so they’re very well done.

Note that Dow Jones is another important service relied upon by many professional investors and portfolio managers.

Of all the news outlets the best of the bunch are definitely the Financial Times and Market Watch. Unfortunately the Canadian ones in the bunch aren’t stepping up.

In the next installment I’ll look at what financial services companies offer the public and what customers of brokerages get.

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.

What’s the Best On-Line Portfolio Manager to Track my Investments, part 2 of 5

In this installment I’m going to take a look at what the big web portals have to offer. But first I want to review how returns are calculated and what you should be looking for from those numbers.

Calculating Your Returns

There’s a lot of ways to calculate your returns, but unfortunately all these web sites use the simplest of methods: Total Return. Basically, they compare the ratio of your gains (or losses) to your costs without taking time into account. This is fine if you bought all your investments in one shot (at least on the same day) and now you’re going to sit back and watch them.

Pass the popcorn!

In reality you want to know your annualized return. Which is a fancy way to say you want to your average annual return. Except it’s not as easy as dividing the Total Return by the number of years you’re invested (that would be the simple or arithmetic average – and it’s the wrong way to annualize your returns). A better way would be to calculate your geometric average or compound return.

But there are even better ways: Money-Weighted or Internal Rate of Return, Time-Weighted or Linked Internal Rate of Return, Modified Dietz Rate of Return, or the Daily Valuation Method. The best would be the Daily Valuation Method, but unless you have a super-computer you won’t be calculating this one.

Of all these probably the best compromise between efficiency and accuracy is the Modified Dietz Method (also known as Approximate Time-Weighted Rate of Return). Once you’ve calculated that for each period (monthly, quarterly, or annually) you can link it together geometrically to see your annualized return over the years.

Once you know your annualized rate of return you can properly compare your investments and see which ones really are doing well, and which ones just sound good.

For more details on the calculations, PWL Capital has a great white paper on on How to Calculate your Portfolio’s Rate of Return.

Now hopefully one of these web sites, at least the ones that track dividends, take all that information to calculate a proper annualized rate of return.

The Portals

These are the big internet sites where a lot of us start our day. They bring a lot together, like news and weather, functionality like web searches, e-mail and calendars, and more. Adding a portfolio to that isn’t a stretch but since it’s not their focus we might not expect anything exciting from them, but we hope that with everything else going there’s going to be some interesting integration – like easy searches, e-mail alerts, and social sharing.


They nailed the user experience with a clean and simple design that puts more data onto one page than any other site, and there’s even a gadget for my iGoogle home page and functions for my Google DocsDrive Spreadsheets. The charts are perfection: I could configure my own default settings and with one click I could expand the chart to the full width of my screen. But they blew it on data since dividend information for Canadian stocks (ETF’s in particular) is sometimes missing, in-complete, or just plain wrong!


They have one of the nicest portfolios – it’s actually a Silverlight app so it better be slick! But the rest is held together with duct tape and bubble gum. And basic information for Canadian stocks – even blue chip stocks – is frequently missing. The initially beautiful web site falls apart just below surface.


This is what you’d expect from a web-base portfolio. It looks nice, but the functionality is pretty basic and regrettably dividend information is often missing for Canadian stocks and the news is U.S. focused. Since Yahoo has fallen on hard times they’re probably not putting a lot of effort into something you can get everywhere else, so unfortunately I have to recommend you go somewhere else!

In the next installment I’ll take a look at what the news outlets have to offer. While some are astounding there are a few stinkers in the bunch!

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

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.


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.