Founded in 1997, TradingBlock was originally AOS, Inc., which was a brokerage firm started by TradingBlock’s current president, Jere Wickert. The company believes trading shouldn’t be nerve-wracking, which is why its goal is to provide traders with a simpler online investing experience. TradingBlock refers to itself and its clients as “blockheads.” While the term could be misconstrued as offensive, TradingBlock claims it’s an endearing term that refers to all of the times investors have made bad trades in the past. The term is meant to be therapeutic since it acknowledges that investors learn from their mistakes in order to realize how important planning and risk management is when placing trades. TradingBlock facilitates these preparations. The company’s mission is to see its investors use its intuitive investment tools to reap long-term trading successes.
TradingBlock’s commission rates are fairly average in the brokerage firm world. The company charges $0.001 per share for stocks and ETFs with $7.50 being the minimum per trade. However, the firm doesn’t charge fees for penny stocks, large-size trades, or extended hours’ trades. Other brokerage firms usually charge for one if not all of these trades making this particular brokerage firm slightly more affordable.
Every day, TradingBlock makes it a point to send its clients four strategies for investing in stocks and ETFs. These strategy ideas are based on targets set by specific market analytics. In addition to these tips, the brokerage firm sends its clients email updates to remind them of upcoming events, educational webinars, latest website improvements, new investor services, and other special offers. By sharing strategies and staying in constant contact with its users, TradingBlock is living up to its mission to make the investing process less nerve-wracking and more of an informed process.
In addition to these features, TradingBlock offers a helpful tool for its investors, called TradeBuilder. This tool rapidly aggregates and ranks up to 40 stock and options strategies based on the probability of these securities reaching their full profitability or breaking even. The company does so in an effort to appease wary investors who need the extra assistance to invest their hard earned money into securities. TradeBlock also offers Trade Analyzer, a graphing system, which can chart an investor’s probable profit and loss margins. Traders can customize the charts to see specific prices, dates, and volatility levels of each trade based on active market conditions. This tool is helpful for investors looking to understand and manage potential risks before placing trades.
TradingBlock also offers its traders a way to protect their earnings from market volatility. The company does so by providing what’s called a Portfolio Hedger. It’s a tool that allows traders to analyze their equity portfolio, create protection strategies, and rank these strategy ideas for safeguarding their stocks and ETFs in their portfolio. Investors perform this task by first choosing the stocks and ETFs they want to protect, either from their portfolio or watchlist. Then, they identify the type of protection strategies they want to implement based on the duration they wish to use the protection and the downside risks they are willing to incur. This is yet another way the brokerage firm helps its investors use planning and risk management tools while placing trades.
While TradingBlock doesn’t charge for after penny stocks, large-size trades, or extended hours’ trades, its regular flat rate fees are still pretty steep. The brokerage firm’s $7.50 minimum on stocks and ETFs is pretty high, especially compared to other brokerage firms who tend to charge much less for their securities. TradingBlock also has an inactivity fee, charging $30 per year if no trades are made within the 12 months. Additionally, the company tends to pale in comparison to its competitors as other brokerage firms offer better services, trading platforms, and customer service.
While TradingBlock does offer discounted trades from time to time, users claim they often have to call in to access these trades rather than being able to locate them online. This can be a serious inconvenience. Furthermore, investors who are interested in investing in bonds, Forex, or futures, will also need to call the brokerage firm in order to place trades. These trades cannot be done online, which severely limits how much users can do using the brokerage firm’s trading platform.
TradingBlock’s research and trading tools have also been criticized. Users say these tools are inadequate in guiding them through investments and in reducing the anxiety that comes with placing trades. The trading platform is inefficient when it comes to its features and its categories cannot be customized. This detail tends to frustrate users. It’s no wonder the brokerage firm has received bad ratings for these tools and its other services. For instance, TradingBlock ranked poorly in Barron magazine’s 2015 annual broker survey, coming in at 15th among 18 brokerage firms. It got poor results in several categories not to mention Research Amenities, Customer Service and Education, Costs, Trading and Technology, and Portfolio Analysis and Reports. Investors currently looking for a brokerage firm to trade with might be turned off by TradingBlock’s poor performances in these key categories.
For the 21st century investor with little time to trade, the brokerage firm’s lack of apps means investments have to be made on a computer or via a phone call. This lack of mobile trading can weaken the brokerage firm as it’s competing for clients in an industry where newer and faster approaches to investing are sought-after.
The Bottom Line
TradingBlock provides some useful tools to help investors navigate the investing world. These perks include constant email communication and strategy ideas, not to mention the firm’s two helpful tools, TradeBuilder and Trade Analyzer. The brokerage firm also doesn’t charge for after penny stocks, large-size trades, or extended hours’ trades. Not many brokerage firms can claim to waive these type of fees.
However, beyond these aforementioned key points, the brokerage firm falls short when compared to its competitors. For instance, OptionsHouse and TradeKing are two brokerage firms that come to mind who charge more affordable commission rates for their securities, provide better services, and are ranked higher by outside sources. These two brokerage firms, along with many others, tend to be more viable alternatives to using TradingBlock.
On the upside, TradingBlock does constantly improve upon itself, adding new features and provisions every so often. Thus, while it has a lot of areas for improvement, the brokerage firm does have some good potential.
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