Thursday, 19 July 2012

Trading shares on your phone, ipad or tablet: Benefits and pitfalls

When I started using interactive brokers I was quite interested to see a trading app that allowed you to carry out exactly the same trading functions as their web-trader on your phone or ipad / tablet.  The app was well designed, easy to use and seemed to have everything you needed to trade 'on the go'. 

After doing a little more investigation I found out that almost all brokers offer this service and although the quality of some apps are better than others the service is essentially the same.

I confess that I have never traded on my smart phone but I was thinking about the ability to do so was good or bad from an investors perspective.  Below I have outlined pros and cons of trading on your phone as I see them.  If anyone does this regularly I'd love to hear your feedback on your experiences

Benefits of trading on your phone / ipad / tablet
  • Ability to react faster to news: 
  • If you have been waiting for a piece of news to make a decision or a piece of news radically alters your investment theory / case then the ability to react fast is a definite benefit.  You do not wait until you're back at your desktop.
  • No additional costs: 
  • Generally trading on your phone / ipad / tablet does not cost you anything in addition to your regular trading costs (i.e. you are in exactly the same financial position as if you were to trade using your computer). 
  • Convenience: 
  • If you have forgotten to register a trade, or if the share price hits a value and you want to put a trade on it is much more convenient to enter it into an app on your smart phone / ipad / tablet then to go back to your desktop
Cons of trading on your phone / ipad / tablet
  • The potential to react rashly to news: 
  • The ability to react faster to news is not always a good thing.  In the era of the 24 hour news cycle there is always positive and negative news coming out of financial markets.  Some of it is relevant and should form part of your investment decision and some isn't.  The ability to 'instantly trade' comes with the possibility of making bad trades on the spur of the moment.  While it is true that you can do this from your desktop as well generally there is an opportunity for you to weigh news more carefully
  • Encourages you to trades more 
  • This is great for the broker in that they earn that much more commission (which is probably why they don't charge more).  I am a strong believer in moving slowly in markets and only investing when the odds are stacked heavily in your favour.  As this doesn't happen every day of the week you really shouldn't need to trade that often.  If you don't need to trade that often you can wait until you are back at your computer to enter your trades
  • Overall while there are benefits if you are disciplined the ability to constantly check your portfolio and trade is not necessarily a benefit. 
  • It can encourage you to trade when ordinarily you wouldn't which increases the chances of making bad decisions
  • If however you can be disciplined and only use it on those rare occasions where timing is everything in a trade (this is so rarely the case) then it is probably worth having the app as a back up just in case
  • I personally have the app for both my brokers (Interactive Brokers and Commsec) both installed on my phone though have yet to trade through them.

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