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Online Brokerages have been sprouting, not only in Singapore, but in the US and rest of the world too.
In the US, we saw finance apps like Robinhood, WeBull and SoFi gaining massive traction to level the playing field to allow retail traders to trade with low capital and allow buying a fraction of a share.
Additionally, these online platforms are getting more creative in their incentives to attract users by dangling free shares upon signing up and little to zero commission fees.
Are online brokerages Shariah-Compliant (Halal)?
First things first, we have to understand that Online Brokerages are platforms in which transactions happen.
What you perform on the platform is the one that matters.
What you buy or sell determines whether it is Shariah-compliant (halal) or not.
So for example if you buy a Shariah-compliant stock through an online brokerage, that transaction is halal.
But if you buy an interest-based product through the same online brokerage, that transaction is haram.
So do not get too caught up whether an online brokerage is Shariah-compliant or not, instead, you should be focused on what kind of investment you’re making.
It’s not the tool, but how you use it.
With that out of the way, here’s the list of online brokerages that are available in the SG market today (in no particular order):
When choosing a brokerage platform, here are 8 key factors to consider.
- Commission Fees
- Maintenance Fees
- Clearing & Trading Fees
- Account Type
- User Friendliness of the platform
- Ease of Opening Account
- Type of Products You can Trade (Key for Muslims investors)
- Minimum Funding
- Research Material and Insights
1. Fees: How much costs do I incur?
Understandably, the first few questions for any aspiring investor will be this.
There are a few types of fees that you have to take note of:
1a. Commission Fees
You would want to make sure that the commission fees are reasonably low.
The last thing you want to do is to buy a stock and a sizeable part of your investment goes towards the commission fees instead.
There are a few types of commission fee structure that you’ll see in these platforms:
- Fixed fee per transaction
- Percentage fee per transaction
- Combination of (1) and (2)
1b. Maintenance Fees
Some platforms may offer little to zero commission fees but in fact, every month, you will have to make a minimum amount of trade in order to enjoy lower maintenance fees.
Hence, if you’re not making an active trading every month, you will incur these fees.
This fee structure is usually less ideal for long-term investors who tend to buy and hold and may not invest every month.
Spread is essentially the difference in between the buy and sell price.
This is common among trading platforms to charge their fees.
Just remember – The bigger the spread (i.e. the difference), the higher the fees the platform charges.
1d. Clearing and Trading Fees
If you are using the CDP (Central Depository) account, you will be subjected to clearing fees each time you complete a transaction with the Central Depository.
If you’re using a custodian account, your custodian will manage this on your behalf.
All these fees I’ve stated above are simply service fees (i.e. non-interest based fees), hence there is no big red flags of its halal permissibility.
2. Account Type:
Should I go for a CDP or Custodian account?
There are pros and cons to opening a CDP or custodian account, and this depends on your preference.
Go for a CDP account if you prefer:
- Own the stocks that you buy (i.e. purchased in your name)
- Entitled to voting rights in the companies you’re invested in
- Access to attend their Annual General Meetings (AGM)
- Don’t mind paying slightly more to have a peace of mind that you owned these shares, and not someone else holding it for you on your behalf
Go for a Custodian account if you prefer:
- Lower fees
- Privacy as your purchases are held in a trust, instead under your name
- Easier access to invest in overseas markets (instead of opening up different depository accounts in different markets)
- Don’t mind not being a shareholder and access to the company as a shareholder (attend AGMs, assess to voting rights, receive annual reports etc)
Personally, I would recommend going for the CDP account as nothing beats the assurance of having more control on the stocks you own.
Furthermore, there is a risk that the custodian might go bankrupt.
Technically your stock will remain safe even if that happens as it is held under a trust, but it might be some time before the stocks go back under your ownership.
3. User-friendliness of Trading Platform:
How comfortable am I navigating through it?
Just like how this Polar Bear comfortably sliding down
This is pretty subjective, and also depends on your preference.
You would want to ensure that you’re comfortable enough with the user interface of the platform that helps with your investing experience.
If you’re technically-inclined, you might want to see how the charts are being displayed and the tools are robust enough to do your charting.
On the other hand, if you’re a fundamental investor, you might want the platform to provide you with easy access to latest news, reports, financial summaries which can aid in your investing decision.
4. Ease of Opening Account
These days, the process of opening an account is pretty fast and straightforward.
In Singapore, if you’re Singaporean and PRs (Permanent Residents), many brokerages are already using SingPass MyInfo to pull your personal details to get yourself registered within minutes.
5. Types of Products You Should Invest In
(*Important note to Muslim Investors)
This is crucial for Muslim investors to understand – which products are Halal and which are not.
There are many products offered by an online brokerage such as:
- ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds)
- Mutual Funds
Focus on the ones you know are halal, and avoid the ones which are clear-cut haram such as bonds, CFDs and Futures.
And if the broker allows borrowing and leveraging, you can politely turn it down.
6. Minimum Funding:
How much should I minimally invest in the account?
Depending on the online brokerage, some may have minimum funding requirements.
For instance, TD Ameritrade may require a minimum funding of at least US$3,500 and Saxo Markets is S$2,000.
Hence it is always to have a good idea to have a ready budget before you open it up.
However, with more entrants of new players into the Singapore market, online brokerages are getting more competitive with their offerings such as low to zero minimum funding.
Tiger Brokers is offering $1 minimum funding and Moomoo is zero. Yes zero.
If you’re someone who is looking to take baby steps in investing, these platforms would be a good start.
7. Research Materials and Support
I would consider this as a bonus.
You would want to make sure that you’re getting as much support as possible.
Research materials provided by their in-house professionals can provide good insights to the company you’ve been watching or invested in.
Some brokerages may organise events and webinars to share investing ideas, opinions on certain market behaviour or simply provide a platform to get investors and traders alike to share their views.
Saving this for the last – but this could arguably be the most important key factor that you should take note of.
No use taking into considerations from point (1) to (7) when the online brokerage is a fraud.
Some key details that you have to take note of is whether the online brokerage is licenced by our local regulators, in our context, will be the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS).
The length of existence of the company in which the online brokerage is under also plays an important factor.
It will be an added assurance if the company is a public-listed company as their financials are subject to subject scrutiny.
You can even do your due diligence directly whether the company is financially sound and well-managed.
Not all online brokerages are created equal, hence it is always a good idea to do your research before creating one.
Having said that, it is totally fine if you have opened up an account and decided to port over to another online brokerage platform at a later time.
The important thing is to start.
Pick one and get your toes wet as quickly as possible, and you will learn and discover your own investing preference along the way.
One last thing before we go…
There is ongoing promotion for SmartMamat readers who are keen to sign up Moomoo.
Why should you consider:
- Attractive Sign Up promotion (with deposit of US$2,000, SGD 2,700 or HK$16,000)
- Free Apple shares (Ticker: AAPL)
- $30 Cash coupon
- 90 days of commission-free trading
- Free level 2 market data for US market
- Low minimum commission fee
- US$0.99 for US Stocks
- HK$3 for HK stocks
- $0.99 for SG stocks
- It is under Futu Holdings Ltd, Nasdaq listed (Ticker: FUTU), backed by notable investors (Tencent & Sequoia)
- Broker-dealer regulated by the SEC and FINRA
- Regulated by MAS as Futu Singapore Pte Ltd
- Capital markets services licence holder (Licence No. CMS101000)
- U.S. securities in your account are protected up to $500,000 by Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC)
Your support (by signing through our affiliate link here) goes a long way to make SmartMamat a sustainable endeavour, insya’Allah.