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Sep 16 2012

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DBS Vickers Raises Trading Commissions





While many of the world’s discount investment brokerages are waging a commission war, Singapore’s DBS Vickers has decided to raise commission fees on stock purchases. 

If you think Singaporean landlords are irrational when they try doubling their tenants’ rent, well….you ain’t seen nothing yet.   In some cases, DBS Vickers is charging nearly 500% more in purchase commissions.  Here’s an example:

On May 7, 2012, I rebalanced my portfolio and purchased 3,820 shares of the short term Canadian Bond ETF (symbol XSB) through DBS Vickers. It was a big purchase, costing me $122 in commissions.

Today, if I were to make the same purchase, DBS Vickers would stick me for nearly $600.

Apparently, this is DBS Vickers’ bizarre answer to Standard Chartered’s commission slashing. 

Standard Chartered Bank no longer charges a minimum commission, so you could feasibly purchase $1000 of U.S. shares, and pay just $2.50. For Singaporean shares, it costs even less.

Try to do the same thing with DBS Vickers, and the bank will charge you roughly $30 for the same $1000 purchase. 

In the ten years that I’ve used DBS Vickers, this minimum $30 charge was standard.  The brokerage has never catered to people investing small sums. 

But their rate increases for larger purchases was poorly communicated.  When I recently made a purchase online, the confirmed commission for my purchase was $31.  Then I received my paper transaction, revealing a commission price of $110. 




I called the bank, pointed out the discrepancy, and they reimbursed me the difference.  The rep stated that DBS Vickers had announced their commission increase two months previous, on their website.  He also added that the next time I make such a trade it will cost me $110, and not the $30 I used to pay.

For a discount brokerage, such commissions are in the nosebleed bleachers of shame.

And I highly suggest that investors look elsewhere for a suitable brokerage; there are much cheaper alternatives.  E-Trade is the cheapest local brokerage for U.S. shares, charging just $9.99 per trade, regardless of the purchase size.  It’s available in Singapore to everyone without a Canadian passport.  But there’s the issue of American estate tax to pay upon death, because the brokerage is actually a U.S. one.

Standard Chartered has expensive commission rates by North American standards, but they’re playing Santa Claus next to the DBS Vickers Grinch.  Unfortunately, they do gouge their clients on exchange rates when purchasing stocks (or ETFs) off foreign markets.

Perhaps I’ll open a U.S. dollar account at another bank, open a brokerage account with Standard Chartered and when I’m ready to purchase, send the U.S. dollar cheque to Standard Chartered to limit the exchange rate gouging.

I offer my sincere apologies to everyone I have steered to DBS Vickers over the years. 

With brokerages slashing their commissions around the world, I had no idea that a bank would be daft enough to combat that by raising their own.

 





About the author

andrew hallam

I'm a freelance finance writer, lucky enough to have been nominated as a finalist for two Canadian National Publishing Awards. I'm also the author of Millionaire Teacher: The Nine Rules of Wealth You Should Have Learned in School, a book explaining how I became a millionaire on a teacher's salary, while still in my 30s. Working to empower people financially, I'm available to motivate and inspire people on basic retirement planning and index investing. I'm happy to comment on your questions, first, please read the Terms of Use.

Permanent link to this article: http://andrewhallam.com/2012/09/dbs-vickers-raises-trading-commissions/

52 comments

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  1. avatar
    Matthias Kauer

    I actually don't see any change Andrew.

    I have been wondering about what kind of supercheap fee schedule you've been on before though.

    About Standard Chartered: People keep mentioning that the shares their are not with CPF and that you don't hold voting rights under their custodian scheme. There may also be an issue if Standard Chartered tanks (I don't think so, b/c the shares are still in your name to my understanding – but do look this up!)

    I have looked into it and I don't think there is anything that overly concerns me, but I believe everyone should do their research on this.

    1. avatar
      Andrew Hallam

      The commission charges have changed Matthias. You can ask the bank to clarify, which is what I did. I have been helping people use this brokerage for ten years now. I've sat with dozens of people over the years, helping them do their trades as well. Hundreds of transactions. So no, I was not on a super-cheap commission schedule. DBS brokerage told me on the telephone about their recent increase, as mentioned. As you can imagine, I did my best to convince them to change it back!

      As for voting rights, I wasn't sent proxy statements or annual reports for any of the individual stocks I used to own with DBS Vickers. I had no voting rights there. Shares of the big U.S. or Canadian brokerages are never in the investor's name either (although you could participate in proxy votes and receive annual reports)

      If you own stock through a North American brokerage, you can pay roughly $25 and request that the bank puts the shares in your own name. You would then receive a really cool certificate (which I have done before) and then, often, you can buy new shares directly from an affiliate with the company through a shareowner plan, which doesn't charge a commission at all. These are pretty cool, but not always convenient. The bank is no longer a part of any transaction.

      As for regular brokerages, the bank holds shares on behalf of the shareholder. Having said that, the investors are still legally entitled to them. The bank can't liquidate those shares and decide to keep the sold proceeds from their investors because the shares are real. It's not cash the bank can access. And it's not money in a savings account. The bank is not able to sell those shares to cover any bank losses because they own those shares on behalf of others.

      As with banking and the world in general, however, I suppose that anything can happen.

    2. avatar
      Joshua

      Hi,

      After prowling through the internet on views of the Standard Chartered attractive commission rates, I decide to share some useful key findings and I believe the community here can benefit from it.

      The blog that had an intensive discussion on it can be found here:
      http://help-your-money.blogspot.sg/2011/06/standard-chartered-online-shares.html

      Extracting 2 key comments from the above blog:

      1) Kelvin provided a article on dangers of having nominee account (SCB model) is not a good idea:

      http://www.asiaone.com/Business/News/Story/A1Story20081007-92216.html

      2) A Anonymous person wrote:

      “hi, I would like to share my 1 year plus experience using SCB online trading platform. Now I am using another platform.

      Advantages:
      1) low commissions (main benefit)
      2) some news feed/analyst reports

      Disadvantages:
      1) online platform very lumbersome, hard to trade relative to other platforms
      2) hard to get real time quotes in one screen. have to go into each stock and click on ‘refresh’ to get real time quote.
      3) this is the very painful part – very slow in informing about rights issues. and don’t send the full rights prospectus, unlike when your stocks are in CDP. Only send one sms or letter and it’s usually later than the mails I receive from CDP on rights issue.
      4) Does not reflect my warrant value and info on my online account. e.g. for Olam warrants. Said online platfom does not support warrant trading. Said that I have to call trading desk if i want to ask about my values and trade. And I only know my trade results end of the trading day if it is done by trading desk.
      5) Sometimes trade execution is super slow. For eg., I submit a price that is at the current market price (as checked from another trading platform) and with sufficient volume, but the SCB trade just gets acknowledged but not executed for very long.

  2. avatar
    David Juteau

    Hi Andrew,

    I have your book and have been enjoying reading it… I am just getting prepared to set up an account with RBC Direct Investing in Canada…I am living in Tokyo long term, but want to have my investments in Canada… since I am already a Royal Bank customer it seems like the easiest way to go… any thoughts???

    David Juteau

    1. avatar
      Andrew Hallam

      Hi David,

      If you aren't worried about jeapordizing your residency status, and you already have an account with RBC, then you could open an account with RBC action direct and invest in exchange traded funds through them. I'm starting a regular column with the Globe and Mail which will also be available online. I think you'll find it useful, and hopefully, a bit entertaining.

      Cheers!

      Andrew

      1. avatar
        David Juteau

        Hi Andrew,

        You raise a point I hadn't been thinking about… residency status…

        Might you have a recommendation for a permanent resident of Japan to set up a cost effective online brokerage account?

        Thanks in advance for any suggestions,

        Best regards,

        David

        1. avatar
          Andrew Hallam

          Hey David,

          See if you can find a Japanese brokerage that will either give you access to the Toronto or U.S. stock market. If you can't find one, you may need to take a trip to Singapore, to keep your money free of residency risk. In Singapore, there are no capital gains taxes to pay, which is a plus. If you are concerned about residency, you may want to close your other RBC account. Most Canadian expats cut all residential ties.

  3. avatar
    Wouter Verheyen

    Thanks for the sharing Andrew. I didn't find the news easily on the website and certainly I didn't receive this by regular mail, which is what I would expect from a reputable banking organization such as DBS.

    I will call them up to ask for some clarifications and share with them my feelings about not being contacted by regular mail about this issue, and I believe everyone who reads this post should do the same.

    If we don't let DBS know about our opinion, I would consider that a wasted opportunity.

    Thanks again,

    Cheers,

    Wouter

    1. avatar
      Andrew Hallam

      I agree 100% with you Wouter. I felt rather blindsided myself and I told them so. If this affects you, please take Wouter's suggestion and call your bank. With their (now) non competitive rates, there is a chance it could cost DBS Vickers money, rather than earn them more money. And if they find that the higher commissions earn them less revenue (with fewer people wanting to invest with them) they may revert back to their previous commission schedule. Thank you for suggesting this Wouter.

  4. avatar
    Mike

    Hi Andrew,

    Just read your book and enjoyed it. Recenlty dumped my financial advisor and moved my 401k/PS plan and DB plan for my practice over to Schwab. Apparently, some to the Vanguard Funds have a $76 transaction fee when purchased via Scwab. Do you know of similar index funds to Vanguard at Schwab that do not have a $76 transaction fee?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. avatar
      Andrew Hallam

      Hi Mike,

      Were they Vanguard's index funds or Vanguard's ETFs? Schwab has its own indexed exchange traded funds (and they are about as cheap) so perhaps they are trying to discourage people from using the competition. Here's a link to them: http://www.schwab.com/public/schwab/investing/acc

      1. avatar
        Mike

        Looks like the fee is for the index funds, not the ETF if I am reading it correctly. Does it matter if one uses ETF's or index mutual funds?

        Forgot to mention I am a huge Dave Ramsey fan (seems like you had the living on "beans and rice" lifestyle down!) although I do not like his investing advice using loaded American Funds.

        Between his baby steps and your investing philosophy, I am quite optimistic about the future!

        Thanks for this informative website.

        Mike

        1. avatar
          Andrew Hallam

          Hi Mike,

          ETFs and low cost index funds are much the same thing. Just don't get tempted to trade the ETFs.

          Cheers,

          Andrew

  5. avatar
    Filmein

    Copy paste to: feedback@dbsvickers.com

    Hello,

    I read about your increase in rates for stock purchases on a financial blog. I am shocked by this drastic increase, especially due to the global and Singapore trend for these types of fees decreasing. I am also disappointed by the lack of transparency from such a reputable organization. I appreciate that a DBS Vickers representative will be getting back to me with an explanation, and if it is not satisfactory, I will begin the process of looking elsewhere to house my investments.

    Sincerely,

    Disappointed Customer

    Or @dbsbank on Twitter, because no big corporations like negative social media press!

    @dbsbank What's with the huge fee increases for stock purchases in Singapore through DBSVickers? Thought fees were going down! #time2switch?

    1. avatar
      Andrew Hallam

      Thanks so much Fil,

      If enough people voice their complaints, they may sit up and take notice.

  6. avatar
    kris

    Also got trounced for fees last month when I went to buy on the Canadian Market through DBS Vickers Andrew. I was also shocked to see a $60 charge tacked on to my last buy of $12000. They jacked up the price for those who want to make trades over $5800. It will cost $29 Canadian for anything up to that but for every investment dollar after the commission increases by 1%. I had been excited as a Canadian to be able to buy bonds on the TSE through Vickers but now am reconsidering using my old citi account to buy bonds on NYSE to to balance my indexes stocks. I know it is better to have the bond component of your portfolio in your home country but at this price is it still worth it?

  7. avatar
    Simon

    Hi Andrew,

    Still looking for your next book …. at least update version is also fine with me.

    I am earning RMB and I am think of converting them to Singapore $ to purchase (A35.SI and ES3.SI) but the rate is not too good. Any advice what can I do now with RMB ? The 3month FD is around 3%.pa…

    I do have spare cash in my CPF..how can I use this to combine with my cash to balanced my portfolio too ?

    Best Wishes

    Simon

  8. avatar
    David Juteau

    Hi Andrew,

    On our topic of residency risk… I've spoken with revenue Canada about having an investment account at the Royal Bank (or in Canada in general) and whether or not the would compromise my non-resident status… I'm confident that my ties in Japan are strong enough in the eyes of revenue Canada to maintain my status… However, other than non-resident withholding tax, can you see any disadvantage from an investing point of view for having such an account?

    By the way… I very much appreciate the time you take to respond to my questions.

    David Juteau

  9. avatar
    Allan

    Hello Andrew,

    Thanks for letting us know about the new DBS Vickers commission increases. For comparison, the Royal Bank Action Direct commissions for clients with less than 30 trades / quarter and less than $50,000 in household assets is $28.95 (up to 1,000 shares).

    Apologies for hi-jacking the thread, but I want to ask: do you have any experience using DRIPS – Dividend Re-investment Plans? Many blue chip companies in Canada and the U.S. offer DRIPS and seems to me this might be a good way to invest long term and take advantage of a sort of compounding effect. After an investor registers for their DRIP, quarterly dividends are then used to purchase new shares or re-invest in that stock automatically.

    Thanks again.

    Allan

  10. avatar
    Rob

    Hi Andrew,

    I am cashing out my investments with Franklin Templeton, which my school in Qatar set me up with, and was planning on opening an account with DBS when I head to Singapore in October. Do you think this is a bad choice now? Is Standard Chartered a better option? We're Canadians and would like to keep our non-residency status, so we don't want to open a TD or RBC investing account.

    Also, another question my wife had is, if you had an investment firm with someone like DBS Vickers and they got into financial trouble, is your money safe since you own the shares from the TSE or NYSE?

    Thanks,

    Rob

  11. avatar
    Urko

    I just emailed them.

    For those of us not regularly in Singapore, this is seriously "not cool".

    Please share any good trader that you find!

    It would be good to be able to fly to Singapore and get it all re-arranged in a short period of time (by which I mean: 1 day).

    If not, any suggestions to minimize commissions while staying with DBS Vickers are welcome!!

  12. avatar
    Filmein

    Hi Andrew,

    When they got back to me they said that they won't charge the new fees if you have 2 trades a month. Now, I didn't clarify if that meant an average of 2 trades a month for the year, or simply 2 in a calendar month. So, with (some very careful and reconfirmed!) checking, folks may be able to sidestep this by holding onto funds by always doing multiple trades. Maybe.

    FIl

    1. avatar
      Andrew Hallam

      Thanks for calling and finding this out Filmein.

      Unfortunately, multiple trades per month mean more commissions for them anyway. I wonder how many of us could simply threaten to leave for another brokerage if they didn't revert back to the original fee structure. I will certainly try that bargaining chip myself.

      Thanks!

      Andrew

      1. avatar
        Rob

        Thanks Andrew.

        Can you think of another investment brokerage that's completely online, with low fees? I was going to set up an account with DBS, but since I don't live in Singapore I am open to trying anywhere as long as it doesn't affect my non-residency status in Canada.

        Rob

        1. avatar
          Andrew Hallam

          As a non resident, DBS might be your only option Rob. But I suppose we should keep things in perspective. Many of my colleagues invest through Tie Care, and they pay 5.75% sales commissions on everything they buy. I'm complaining about DBS Vickers charging 0.35%. And no, I didn't misplace the decimal. I'm just cheap!

          1. avatar
            Jon

            Hi Andrew,

            As an expat Canadian teacher in Japan I just finished your book and had actually contacted DBS Vickers to open an account when I came across your post.

            From their website I understand that it will cost a minimum of CAD29 or 0.50% of trading principal (whichever is higher).

            What would be the best way to add funds? Originally I was thinking of investing $1,500/month every month. But would it make sense to invest $6,000 every 4 months instead?

            Also, is it worth paying $200 in commission to deposit $40,000 that is current in a Raymond James account?

  13. avatar
    Mathew

    This is really disappointing news. I cannot believe that in a time of increasing competitiveness, this is the approach. I have also sent in a mail of complaint, it's one small step but hopefully with enough customer dissatisfaction they'll reconsider (although I think not). Filmein – I used some of your text towards the end – you summarised it very accurately.

    If anyone has suggested new approaches (Andrew I have read yours above – so that could be an option); please post.

    ————————————————-

    Mail to: 'info-sg@dbsvonline.com'; 'feedback@dbsvickers.com'

    Hello,

    I regularly keep up with financial blogs online, and through one in particular, I have come to learn about a shocking change to your commission and fee charges for stock purchases via DBS Vickers. As you will undoubtedly be aware, many of the world’s investment brokerages are keen to offer services at a competitive rate, and in doing so (and in wanting to keep customers satisfied in a time of intense mistrust of the banking sector) continue to offer competitive rates. That is why I am so shocked, and very unhappy, that DBS Vickers has decided to go the other way and raise commission fees on stock purchases.

    What displeases me even more is the lack of communication and transparency in this change. You are more than happy to regularly send me promotions and ways for me to invest more in DBS and its suite of products. However, your bizarre increase in your rates in a time of decreasing rates elsewhere (e.g. Standard Chartered) was buried deep in your website and not communicated at all. As no rational person would expect this behavior – I never would have looked until I was pointed in this direction by a savvy on-line blogger.

    I am shocked by this drastic increase, especially due to the global and Singapore trend for these types of fees decreasing. I am also disappointed by the lack of transparency from such a reputable organization. As a retail customer of DBS, an investor and a prospective mortgage and insurance purchases (which is now certainly on hold); I expect a DBS Vickers representative to get back to me with an explanation. If none is forthcoming, I will begin the process of looking elsewhere to house my investments.

    Sincerely,

    Shocked and displeased

    —————

  14. avatar
    Claire

    Hi Andrew, how does standard chartered bank gouge their clients on exchange rates when purchasing stocks (or ETFs) off foreign markets? And how does creating an US dollar account prevents this problem associated with standard chartered brokerage services?

    Confused

  15. avatar
    Neil

    For those of you looking for an offshore brokerage, there is SaxoBank.

    http://www.saxobank.com

    Based in Denmark, they have access to many of the world's exchanges and many other options. I do not have an account with them yet but plan to go down to Hong Kong in December to open an account.

    I have not researched their fees so I don't know how competitive they are but since choices are limited for us living in China, they seem like a good bet.

  16. avatar
    Filmein

    Maybe it depends on who you ask. I'm finally ready to make a trade so called to re-re-confirm the new terms. The generous people at DBS Vickers will refund you the custodial fees if you make 2 or more trades in a month. That's nice, but the custodial fees are 2$ plus GST. This is NOT simply charging $29/trade if there are two or more. That's still 29$ OR 0.5%, whichever is higher.

    Ai Yo!

  17. avatar
    KF

    Hi Andrew,

    Thanks for your wonderful book. I love your writing style as it is filled with such honesty and yet, humour at the same time.

    I am trying to start up with an index fund portfolio and have opened a trading account with Standard Chartered.

    Given the unfavourable exchange rates by SCB, I am wondering whether to explore the E-trade option – may I know what it means when you mentioned about having to pay American estate tax upon death?

    Another option is to open a U.S. dollar account with another bank and then sending a U.S. dollar cheque to SCB when purchasing. In this case, what are some of the alternative banks that you may have in mind?

    Appreciate your kind advice : )

  18. avatar
    Wee Yen Ting

    Hi Andrew,

    Have you consider index investing via CFD?

    Do you think it's a good idea?

    An example would be CMC Markets.

    There is no commission, you only pay the spread.

    There will be no extra financing charges (borrowing interest) if you did not take advantage of the leverage.

    A typical spread is about $2 for every 1 unit. (0.065%! – Buy and Sell!)

    Buy: $3041.3 Sell: $3043.6

    I'm vested OCBC at the moment and was considering cheaper and safe alternative.

    For your comments. Thanks.

  19. avatar
    Noorman Mubarak

    Hi Andrew,

    I have just finished reading your book( which I bought in Los Angeles because I can't find it anywhere in Singapore!!). I was going to open up an account with DBS Vickers until I read this column.

    Instead I may just stick to POEMS(Phillips), as I already have an account with them since 2008. I would just like an opinion from you whether you think that POEMS is still considered a low cost alternative, as I can buy shares of less than one lot in POEMS.

    Thank you in advance.

    Best Regards, Noorman.

  20. avatar
    Paul

    Hi Andrew,

    I read your book a few months ago and it convinced me that I have to start investing via Dollar Cost Averaging. I was thinking that I'd start investing $500 a month, and now that I'm about to start I just read in your other blogpost that you recommend $3000 per transaction. I went on to further read that you would recommend a person saving up to $3000 and purchase every 6 months instead (or however long it takes to get to $3000).

    But now given this whole change in DBS Vickers rates, how does this change one's investment strategy? Should I go back to my original plan of investing $500 monthly but this time via Standard Chartered? You mentioned that Standard Chartered has high exchange rates when purchasing stocks off foreign markets – as such would you recommend just investing in Singapore indexes if purchasing through them?

    Looking forward to your advice – I was ready to open a DBS Vickers account following all your recommendations and as such am very thankful to have come across this post just in time, but now I am left without the guide that I would have relied so heavily on had DBS Vickers not increased their rates.

    Thanks for all the patient help and guidance Andrew!

    1. avatar
      Andrew Hallam

      Hi Paul,

      If you are just going to be investing small sums (like $500 per month) then Standard Chartered is certainly your best option.

  21. avatar
    twentyone

    hey Andrew,

    i realised that a group of investors and eager to find out more about brokerage fees before we are ready to put our money in it to invest. and when we are ready for it, the fees might be different from what one thought it was.

    as it is quite difficult to get a group of people from the same country together and come up with a up to date brokerage fees, i think it will be a good idea if we know what questions to ask the brokerage company when one is doing their due diligence.

    this way, the investor has a check-list of the important fees that matters and can do the comparison on his/her own after calling the brokers to get the information. hopefully, this will get everyone aware of the updates situation regarding the fees.

    is it possible for you to give us a few questions to ask our brokers, so we can do a good comparison?

    1. avatar
      Paul

      Hi Andrew,

      I think this is a fantastic query by twentyone, looking forward to your reply on this as well.

      Cheers,

      Paul

    2. avatar
      Andrew Hallam

      Hi twenty one,

      The trouble with Asian brokerages, it seems, is that they keep changing their operating structures–rarely lowering fees, but often increasing them. Around the world, most brokerages are doing the opposite. You could ask about exchange rate spreads and make comparisons. You could also ask about minimum commission rates and ask what you would be for a variety of lump purchases as well. Is there a fee associated with the dividend processing, and if so, how much?

  22. avatar
    caesar tanquingcen

    hi andrew, wanted to add something to the discussion that you and your readers may find useful as well, i just discovered, to my disappointment, that dbs vickers now is also charging a "custodian fee" for each non-singapore stock customers own, SGD 2 every month for each stock. of course, they say they'll happily waive it if the customer trades at least twice a month, or 6 times a quarter. this is a disservice to the customers, and it hurts small dividend investors. this type of rule punishes prudent, conservative, income investors who are trying to do the right thing, and encourages, risky, casino-type investing. like you, i recommended dbs vickers to friends based on them not charging this "custodian fee", like you, im red in the face. i wrote to them today, im not expecting that their board of governors would change corporate policies based on a feedback from a customer, even though i think they should, but maybe, with yourself, and a group of others, we can influence them to do the right thing. sincerely, caesar tanquingcen

  23. avatar
    Mayank Rao

    Hi Noorman,

    I was just comparing the POEMS & Vickers charges, and it seems identical. For SGX in SGD, they both have charges of 0.28% with a min fee of $25. So doesn't appear to be too beneficial to switch, though you do get the added security of DBS as a counterparty rather than POEMS.

    Cheers,

  24. avatar
    Tom

    hi David,

    I just want to find out whether you did successfully invest with RBC DI.

    I am a Canadian expat in the UK and was all set to go with DBS Singapore until I read about the recent higher fees .

    Since my taxation here and in Canada are about 40% marginal rate.even if I am deemed to have ties to Canada,I will not lose anything at a later date.But if I dont have any accounts other than investment accounts in Canada,maybe that would be ok.

  25. avatar
    stephen maine

    Hi,

    Does anyone have any experience with OCBC? Ffom their website it has accces to multiple exchanges and only needs a copy of the passport to open.

    Stephen

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