National Bank unit brings online trading to Altamira

Altamira Securities clients may soon see the first fruits of its acquisition by National Bank Discount Brokerage last year as it prepares to launch its first Web-based trading


Last week all Altamira Securities clients were mailed a personalized information kit informing them of its pending integration with National Bank Discount Brokerage (NBDB) and a revamped Web site that will offer trading, account access, economic forecasts and investment research. Altamira will be using the same trading engine based on technology from Sungard Trading and Risk Systems that forms the core platform at NBDB. The site will launch on Sept. 8.

The National Bank of Canada acquired fund manager and distributor Altamira, which includes Altamira Securities, in June 2002, including six branch offices and three call centres. Right now, all trading at Altamira is conducted through the call centres or with the firm’s brokers.

“”It took some time to make sure we got a hold of the Altamira clientele, trying to get the platform online, making sure the various securities and exchange commissions in Canada and regulators were on-side with us to make sure it was a clean transition,”” said Yves Breton, president of NBDB.

Breton estimates that 65 to 75 per cent of all brokerage transactions in the industry are now conducted online or through an interactive voice response platform.

“”The market in Canada has been such that in the last two years the volumes weren’t there, but things are picking up,”” he said. “”It’s going to be a plus, for those who are a bit more active.””

IDC Canada analyst Jamie Sharp said the research firm conducted a study in financial services CTOs and CIOs from brokerages and big banks where an executive from one of the most well-known institutions said he believed they were going to have to provide self-serve, Web-based trading.

“”You need to kind of provide every vehicle the customer wants,”” he said, “”Even if they only choose to trade online two or three times a year and they conduct 30 other transactions with their broker getting advice over the phone, this was something that their clients are asking for.””

Breton said Altamira has been conducting surveys of its customers through call centres four times a year, but the firm hopes that the introduction of online trading will allow it to gather more up-to-date information and trading patterns.

“”You could reach 85 per cent of all transactions on the Web, but you always need a call centre,”” he said. “”Should a client want to open a margin account, for example, they will need to deal with more senior representatives. That choice has to be there.””

Over the next few months Breton said NBDB would create an entirely new Web-based platform that would also serve Altamira, though he wouldn’t go into details about specific functions that will be added. That platform is expected to rollout by next April, he said.

“”It’s a stickiness factor,”” said Sharp. “”If he doesn’t provide it, then it’s possible that his client will go someplace else just for that one service and then get cross-sold everything else. It’s not necessarily the place you want to be, but you need to have the offer just so that you can compete on the level playing field.””

NBDB will use its own IT team to create its next online trading platform and may also turn to longtime partner IBM Canada for assistance, Breton said.


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