Capital One Investing Review

capitalone_lShareBuilder started out with the goal of making investing affordable and easy. Its automatic investments, pleasant customer service, and clean site design have succeeded in accomplishing its goal of attracting the portfolios of many investors over time.

Today, ShareBuilder is part of the Capital One family, and the online broker continues to thrive, executing in key areas that matter most to its clients.

Commissions & Fees

ShareBuilder is the only broker to offer its clients a separate rate to take advantage of discounted automatic investments.

Under the broker’s base commission structure, regular stock trades cost $6.95, options trades run at $6.95 plus $0.75 per contract (complex, multi-legged options are not supported), and automatic investments are $3.95 each.

Compared to the big-name brokers such as TD Ameritrade, ETRADE, Scottrade, Fidelity Investments, and Charles Schwab, ShareBuilder is less expensive. However, compared to other discount brokers such as OptionsHouse, TradeKing, MB Trading, and the like, ShareBuilder is more expensive.

Commissions & Fees

Where ShareBuilder comes out on top in a big way is with its automatic investments, giving clients the ability to automatically buy shares of stocks, ETFs, or select mutual funds each month (all automatic investments take place on Tuesdays). It is this simplicity that makes ShareBuilder so attractive for investors who want to “set it and forget it” with their IRAs.

Customer Service

ShareBuilder’s phone customer service is consistently an enjoyable experience, and we were impressed. Reps were always enthusiastic, professional, and helpful. We were never on hold for more than one minute and the reps were clearly well trained, always asking us if we had further questions before ending the call and concluding all calls on a warm closing note. For phone support, ShareBuilder finished No. 2.

Phone aside, however, there is room for improvement. Email support was a very inconsistent experience. In one test, a rep responded within 24 hours and delivered a good email. After asking several follow up questions, however, we never heard back from ShareBuilder support at all.

Lastly, in past years, live chat support used to be ShareBuilder’s greatest strength; however, when testing for our 2015 Review, we found it to be good, but not great. Connection times averaged 1-2 minutes, compared to less than one minute last year. Once connected, support reps were professional and courteous; however, they did not leave us awed like our phone tests.

Ease of Use

The shining star in ShareBuilder’s arsenal is the website’s ease of use. Everything, from navigation to placing trades and performing research, is an effortless experience. The website boasts a very clean design, and it is clear ShareBuilder takes its time before launching anything new to ensure top-notch user experience.

If there is one recommendation we would make for ShareBuilder in 2015, it would be to create a customizable dashboard for clients to replace the current boring My Accounts overview page.

Research

For research, we found ShareBuilder’s coverage of equities, ETFs, and mutual funds to be very strong, thanks to their use of Morningstar as their primary provider. Although the broker purposely supports little more than 1,000 mutual funds for trading (focus on quality over quantity), we were impressed by the depth of research provided.

After pulling up Apple (AAPL) in the research area, we were pleased to see four third-party research reports available for us to read. To dig deeper into research, clients have ability to build custom side-by-side stock comparisons and compare fundamental data.

ShareBuilder’s research offering extends beyond vetting potential trades – it also includes client portfolios. The Portfolio Allocation and Total Return tools allow clients to assess their portfolio allocation, returns, and even break down their real equity exposure by fund. Full transparency into the client’s portfolio is something few other brokers provide.

Other Notes

ShareBuilder does not offer a formal desktop or web-based trading platform; instead, it relies on its website. Put simply, there isn’t anything for advanced traders to be excited about because active traders are not ShareBuilder’s target market.

That said, ShareBuilder does have its fair share of innovative tools for regular investors. Our favorite is the new PortfolioBuilder tool launched in 2014. Using PortfolioBuilder, clients can create their own diversified portfolio with up to eight ETFs, aligning their investment style and long-term goals. Once a new portfolio is cooked up, it can be purchased for a single flat rate of $18.95. Only one other broker in the industry has a tool similar to Portfolio Builder, which is cost effective and a terrific asset for long-term investors.

sharebuilder-portfoliobuilder

 

Tools aside, as far as investments go, ShareBuilder has a mixed offering. Complex options are not supported, nor are after-hours trades or shorting. However, ShareBuilder, through Capital One, is the only company (alongside Bank of America Merrill Edge) to offer credit and debit cards, checking and savings accounts, as well as home mortgages. The company also supports universal login for clients for easy account management.

Closing Thoughts

ShareBuilder shines in ease of use; it performs very well in research and customer service, but suffers in its efforts to appease the tool-hungry active trader.

As a part of Capital One, ShareBuilder should only continue to thrive in doing what it does best, offering a great solution for casual investors and those seeking automatic investments alongside giving current Capital One 360 clients an easy way to access the markets.

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