Best financial investment companies. Top 5 financial firms for investing with highest ratings and lowest fees in the U.S. in 2019

Best Financial Investment Companies Overview

Five top rated financial investment firms that are growing faster than their peers are E*Trade, Schwab, Ally Invest, Scottrade, and TD Ameritrade. This article will make a detailed analysis of each broker and try to determine what exactly investors like about these companies that cause them to expand.

E*Trade

E*Trade was founded in 1982 as TradePlus. The company launched its IPO in 1996 as E*Trade Financial Corporation. In 2005, the company acquired Harrisdirect, and it purchased OptionsHouse. Today, the company has over $250 billion in client assets deposited in brokerage and bank operations. The OptionsHouse acquisition, when completed, will add another $3.6 billion to that figure. OptionsHouse's website currently sports the E*Trade logo on it, so E*Trade's footprint in the brokerage world is clearly growing.

Today, E*Trade has over $1 billion in annual revenue and 3,400 employees. These company associates are available over the phone 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some of them are located at the firm's 30 brick-and-mortar locations in 17 states. The company's revenue is generated largely through $6.95 stock and ETF trades, although frequent traders receive a $2 discount. It is unclear at this time if E*Trade's acquisition of OptionsHouse will alter the latter's commission schedule. E*Trade also offers its clients a list of 105 exchange-traded funds that are free to trade.

E*Trade has grown since its IPO with successful and creative advertising campaigns and a wide range of financial services. Besides stocks and ETF's, the broker offers fixed-income products and more than 7,500 mutual funds. Of these, approximately 2,000 have neither load nor transaction fee.

Managed accounts, financial planning, and bank products are also available with the firm. Portfolio management begins at just 0.30% for a $10,000 balance and includes low-cost ETF's. Paying a higher asset-based fee and depositing more funds increases the type of securities available. E*Trade offers two different checking accounts, one of which has unlimited ATM fee reimbursement with a Visa debit card. With such a wide range of financial assistance, the company should continue to grow in the future.

Read Etrade review »

Promotion: Deposit $10,000+ and get up to $600 bonus and 60 days of free trades.


Schwab

Another brokerage firm showing strong potential is Charles Schwab. Founded in California in 1971, the company went public as The Charles Schwab Corporation in 1987. In 1997, the company had a million online accounts, and just one year later, it had double that amount. In 2003, the company launched an FDIC-insured bank, and by 2012, it had more than $2 trillion in client assets. Today, it has offices around the world and services around 10 million accounts.

What has fueled such consistent growth is attention to the customer. The broker offers 24/7 customer service in the United States, with 325 branch locations for clients who want in-person service. An on-line chat function is available on the broker's website, and Chinese speakers can reach an associate over the phone who speak Mandarin or Cantonese.

The company recently updated its website to have a more functional menu. This has made navigation easier and faster. Besides the website, Schwab has a user-friendly mobile app that offers live streaming of financial news free of charge, courtesy of CNBC. Other useful features are available, also at no cost, including bill pay and mobile check deposit. An excellent desktop platform, StreetSmart Edge, is available to clients who have a minimum balance of $1,000.

A good fund selection keeps investors coming back to the broker. It has the largest number of commission-free ETF's of any on-line discount broker at more than 200. Schwab also has more than 3,000 mutual funds that are no-load, no-transaction-fee products. An effective screener is able to sort through all these products by using criteria such as Morningstar rating, expense ratio, standard deviation, and performance history.

Charles Schwab Bank offers a good checking account that can be linked to a securities account. It comes with checks and a Visa debit card, both of which are free. The broker reimburses all ATM fees incurred worldwide when using its debit card.

Read Charles Schwab review »

Promotion: Make $100,000 deposit and get 500 commission-free online equity and options trades.


Ally Invest

A third brokerage firm that is showing signs of strong growth is Ally Invest (also known as TradeKing). Founded in 2005, the company has steadily grown in size. In 2012, the company merged with low-cost broker Zecco.com. This was followed in 2014 by the creation of TradeKing Advisors, an on-line portfolio management firm. It was announced that Ally Financial, a company with more than $150 billion in client assets, has agreed to acquire the TradeKing Group. In its eleven-year history, Ally Invest has grown from an unknown broker to one with 260,000 accounts. Remarkably, it has done this with little advertising. It currently has $4.5 billion in customer assets.

What has attracted so many investors to Ally Invest is the broker's emphasis on low fees and commissions. Charging just $4.95 for stock and ETF trades, the brokerage house is one of the lowest-cost firms in the business. Ally has said it has no plans to change the Ally Invest commission schedule. This includes option contracts at just 65¢ each. While the firm does not offer mutual funds that are both no load and no transaction fee, it does offer all loads funds free to trade, while no-load funds cost just $9.95 per transaction.

Despite the broker's nice pricing schedule, it has found the ability to provide some good trading tools free of charge. First is Ally Invest LIVE, which is a browser-based platform and is free for clients who avoid the firm's annual inactivity charge. This can be done simply by placing one trade or maintaining a balance of at least $2,500. A more advanced platform can be accessed by frequent traders.

Besides a wide range of securities offerings, Ally Invest also offers forex trading, a convenient feature for investors who are interested in different products. The company has competitive spreads on a large number of major currency pairs, such as GBP/USD and USD/JPY. A dedicated forex platform is available at no cost.

Read Ally Invest review »

Promotion: Up to $3,500 cash bonus + commission free trades for new accounts.


Scottrade

Scottrade recently has been acquired by TD Ameritrade - read about it in the next section.

Scottrade has also been expanding its footprint in the securities world in recent years. The company was founded in 1980 in Scottsdale, Arizona as Scottsdale Securities. One year later, the firm opened its second branch location in St. Louis, Missouri. Within ten years, the company had 15 locations across the country. In 1994, Inc. magazine named the firm one of the fastest growing private companies in the United States. In 2000, the company changed its name to Scottrade, and by 2007, it had reached over 300 brick-and-mortar locations. In 2008, Scottrade hired nearly 1,000 financial advisors and opened Scottrade Bank. Today, the company has more than 500 offices throughout the country, an investment advisory division, and over a $1 billion in annual revenue.

The broker has been able to accomplish this expansion by heavily advertising its low $7 commission for stock and ETF trades. Its network of local branches also has attracted investors who want personal service. Despite its emphasis on stock and ETF commissions, Scottrade is an excellent choice for mutual fund traders. The broker's screener generates more than 11,300 funds that are available for purchase. Of these, approximately 2,000 carry no load and no transaction fee.

The Scottrade website was updated last year, and the renovation has made the site easier to navigate. A trading ticket appears at the bottom of the browsing window. It can be used to place trades for stocks, options, and ETF's. By default, it is hidden in the lower-left corner. Traders who want something more sophisticated can use ScottradeELITE, an advanced desktop system. Nine trades per quarter or an account balance of $25,000 is required to gain access to the software.

J.D. Power and Associates conducted investor satisfaction study last year and Scottrade was rated #1 in customer satisfaction beating all other top financial investment companies.

Read Scottrade review »

Promotion: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600.


TD Ameritrade

Scottrade's growth did not go unnoticed, which is probably why TD Ameritrade purchased it last year. Without Scottrade, TD Ameritrade today has more than $600 billion in client assets, with customers placing around 400,000 trades per day. The company began in Omaha, Nebraska in 1975 with much smaller operations. Starting in the early 2000's, the firm began buying other companies, fueling its growth. In 2009, TD Ameritrade purchased thinkorswim, which at that time was the fastest growing broker.

The recent acquisition of Scottrade will give TD Ameritrade almost overnight a much larger presence in the brokerage world. Assuming regulators approve the sale, the new TD Ameritrade will have more than 600 brick-and-mortar locations across the United States. This network will be the largest of any on-line discount broker.

With the acquisition of thinkorswim, TD Ameritrade gained one of the best trading platforms in the industry. The thinkorswim software has some of the best charting tools of any program available. It has 400 technical studies and several drawing tools. Trade Architect is a simpler browser-based platform that might be a better choice for newer traders. Both are free to use and include live streaming of CNBC at no extra cost.

These excellent tech tools are what keeps investors coming back to the firm. In addition to these platforms, the broker also offers three mobile apps, one of which is a thinkorswim version that has the same powerful charting tools as the desktop software. Two of the three apps also offer live streaming of business news. A platform for Apple Watch is also available. Surprisingly, the broker doesn't charge anything to use any of its technical offerings.

TD Ameritrade hasn't stopped at just investment services. The broker offers its customers the ability to attach checks and a Visa debit card to a trading account. There is no cost for this useful service, and ATM fees are fully reimbursed with no maximum.

Read TD Ameritrade review »

Promotion: Trade free for 60 days + get up to $600.


Wrapping Up

While some top financial investment firms are shrinking in size, these five have expanded, sometimes from nothing. The fact that investors trust them with enormous sums of money is a good sign that these companies have excellent financial services.


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