Online brokers spend a whole lotta money

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Re Thursday’s post about the profit margins of online brokers, this list of the Top 50 Internet advertisers by media value (by TNS Media Intelligence, via ClickZ Stats) showed up today in my email inbox. Among the top 15 are Fidelity, E*Trade, TD Waterhouse, and Scottrade. That’s four of the five biggest online brokers. The other, Charles Schwab, doesn’t even show up in the top 50. I do think I’ve seen a lot of Schwab print ads lately, though.

Now I’m certainly not going to say there’s anything wrong with advertising online or elsewhere, given that it’s what keeps me and my family fed and housed. And you can argue that, by gathering more assets, brokers can more efficiently serve their customers and presumably cut back on fees and commissions. That’s the case they make at Vanguard, which is owned by its customers and regularly buys ads angling for more. But still, it’s pretty clear that when you pay a commission to buy or sell a share of stock, you’re paying an awful lot more than it costs to buy or sell it.

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