Review of Lynx and Bolero, KBC’s online trading platform
Collab post with by Fight to FIRE
We have talked many times on the Podcast about investing in the stock markets and there are a few blog posts on the topic. And after so many years of being reluctant to enter the stock markets, you decided it was time to finally make that step to buy your first stock!
And here you are, ready to become the next Warren Buffett but then an unexpected obstacle stands in the way: Which bank or online broker shall I use?
Well after discussing with my buddy Fight to FIRE we decided to co-write this post on investing in the stock markets in Belgium to guide you and give our impressions on our respective online brokers. Fight to FIRE who lives in Belgium has been using Lynx and I have been using Bolero, this online broker is part of the KBC group. I have used that very platform for 3 years now but somehow I realize I have never even reviewed it!
So let’s see what’s out there and which platforms could be interesting for you!
PS: This article is not sponsored and the views expressed are our own views based on our experience.
Online Brokers in Belgium
Choosing a broker is an important decision you have to make when getting started with investing.
As an investor, you benefit from trading securities as cheaply as possible. But to choose the right broker, you also need to ask the right questions. It’s a choice that can cost or save you multiple percentages of profit per year.
While costs are the main determining factor, other elements matter as well. For example, the stock exchanges on which you can invest, the price of a transaction and the market-sensitive information you are offered. You must ask yourself the right questions in your selection process. Choosing a broker that doesn’t fit your profile will cost you more in the long run.
On which stock exchanges do I want to invest?
All brokers have quite a wide range. In addition to the main European markets, they offer the stock exchanges of New York (Wall Street, Nasdaq) and Toronto. But there are differences in emphasis.
At KBC subsidiary Bolero, you can also invest on the stock exchanges of Prague, Budapest and Warsaw, at the same rates as the Euronext exchanges.
Bolero is also available for Tokyo, Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia, as well as the Dutch DeGiro.
Lynx is expanding its ‘exotic’ offering to include China and Mexico, among many others.
How much does a stock exchange order cost?
Opening an account with an online broker is always free of charge and you do not have to pay a custody fee. If you want to compare the costs, you should, therefore, look at the transaction fees in particular.
The prices range from 6 to 7,5 euro per order up to 2500 EUR on the Euronext and DeGiro is the winner in this category as it will charge 2 EUR + 0,03% (for an order of 2500 EUR, the fee is hence 2,75 EUR).
For investing on the US stock markets, there you will need to pay closer attention : Bolero charges 15 USD per transaction, Keytrade 29,95 USD and DeGiro charges a mere 0,50 EUR + 0,004 USD per share. Here is a post from De Tijd, that gives an idea of the fees.
How much does exchange data cost?
Information on stock market prices, real-time or deferred, can be obtained from all brokers. But the prices vary a lot.
At Lynx, you pay 3 euros per month for a basic package with real-time prices for Euronext and 39 euros for a full package. The first package is aimed at retail investors (you and me) and gives access to 5 lines in the order book with frequent updates. The second package is for professional investors such as asset managers and fund managers. It gives access to the full order book and more data updates per second.
For other markets, rates at Lynx are very different, with £5 for the London Stock Exchange and $14 for the Toronto Stock Exchange. And up to 14 CHF for the Swiss stock exchange.
At DeGiro, prices for Euronext are free. For other markets the rates vary and there is usually a 15-minute delay. However, as soon as a client makes a transaction in U.S. shares, he can have free real-time quotes until the end of the following month.
What range of news, research and tools do I get?
News sources and analysis tools are also very important for retail investors in order to make informed investment decisions. But one of them does that a bit more extensively than the other.
MeDirect and DeGiro collect information about the various markets, but you miss the finger on the pulse because you don’t have a live feed. They partly make up for that with newsletters and offline seminars and webinars.
Keytrade Bank gives messages from the news agency Dow Jones Newswires and sends every day a morning and afternoon newsletter with figures and comments on the European and American markets. A monthly newsletter with background articles and analyses is added.
BinckBank has expanded its news offering in recent years. The important news items on which the share price is moving should be covered. They offer an academy where you can learn tips and analysis of various products. A large document centre provides you with all the necessary documents to start with different financial products.
At Lynx, you as a customer are entitled to the Reuters newsfeed. In addition to a monthly newsletter, you can receive weekly technical analysis of five shares. The broker also organizes online seminars though this varies in time. If you do not necessarily want to rely on your own judgment, you can simply ‘copy’ the transactions of three model portfolios at Lynx.
The most complete offer can arguably be found at Bolero. The KBC daughter has a wide range of articles by De Tijd and Reuters. In addition, the broker also provides a wide range of its own stock market information, with a daily newsletter, a blog, and a weekly sector and share analyses. Bolero also focuses on an educational offer and organizes training sessions and webinars through their Bolero Academy, and investor events. It is clear that Bolero focuses on educating its client as much as possible, but this is reflected in the costs.
How much does it cost when I leave?
The day you want to switch brokers, you will have to pay a fee to transfer your securities to your new broker. The amount depends on the number of positions you have. The total cost is calculated based on the number of lines in your securities portfolio.
MeDirect recently decided to increase the transfer costs from 35 to 150 euros per position for equities, and from 75 to 150 euros for funds. This puts the online broker at the level of a major bank such as BNP Paribas Fortis, which previously doubled the transfer costs to 150 euros.
MeDirect’s response to the increase will be the ‘broker hoppers’. We want to prevent some investors from coming to us when we take a commercial action and then leaving when another bank takes an action,” says Philippe Delva, CEO of MeDirect.
The higher transfer costs will make MeDirect customers think twice before they leave for another broker. But they can also deter new customers. MeDirect is new customers for the sake of coming from a different online broker. It reimburses their transfer costs up to a maximum of 500 euros per client.
With 100 euros transfer costs per position, DeGiro is also one of the more expensive players. But a customer who is looking for the lowest possible transaction costs will probably take that for granted.
If you want to turn your back on Bolero, it will cost you 50 euros per position, 42.35 euros at Keytrade Bank and 25 euros at BinckBank. BinckBank also reimburses the transfer costs – up to 1,000 euros – for investors who switch to them in the form of free transaction credit.
Lynx is the only online broker from our selection that does not charge any costs when you leave. We consider transfer costs to be a discriminating element in a broker’s fee structure’, says spokesman Brecht Huys. Every investor should be free in their choice of broker. This is not the case with transfer fees.
Top brokers in Belgium
Based on the above questions we can make an overview of the top brokers in Belgium. Each has different strength and weaknesses.
The forgotten ones: banks
As you can see, there are quite a few options to choose from. There is one group I didn’t mention yet. What we call ‘traditional’ brokers, or banks. Think BNP Paribas Fortis, KBC, ING, Belfius but also smaller ones like DeGroof & Petercam, Bank Van Breda, etc.
There is a simple reason for that. They are overpriced. Their high costs are due to the large overhead they must support the large network brick and mortar branches they still have. This also requires a lot of personnel.
Bolero: My personal experience and “Joney score”
User-friendliness – 5/5
The platform can be consulted and used on a tablet/smartphone of choice or a regular desktop computer. The interface is pretty intuitive and user-friendly. I personally use it mostly through the iPad and I cannot remember having troubles or system errors.
The information is up to date and the stock charts show real-time prices. Something which it seems I was taking for granted as other platforms show delayed chart information and offer real-time prices for an additional charge.
Available Information – 5/5
If you want to lose yourself in the analysis of a stock/ETF before making an investment decision there is plenty to choose from. You get access to a ton of information: You get a detailed overview, and in the menu below you can choose to view fundamental analysis as well as technical analysis, you get recommendations from the asset managers of the bank and fun fact, you even get access to an “insiders and shorters” section which shows how many shares of stock the managers of the company have bought or sold in the last 6 months. This section can even get a 6/5 from me
Customer support – 4/5
I have contacted them several times and the quality of the service and speed of response is acceptable. When emailing I usually get an answer within 24 hours and the personnel is quite helpful and friendly. No major issues here.
Rates – 4/5
The rates can be found here. They are not the cheapest in the market but are still in the lower bound of the Belgian brokers and you get a lot for what you pay for namely with the extensive analyses, webinars and the Bolero Academy. With regards to rates, DeGiro is the cheapest option in Belgium and you can read here why I am not a customer at DeGiro’s.
Registration – 4/5
The registration process was smooth for me as I already had a bank account with KBC and I went to the local KBC branch to open the account. In theory, you can open the account online without going to the local branch, you need to register with your itsme account/Belgian eID but when you are living abroad like me you will need to visit them. A nice bonus when the registration is complete: You will receive your digipass and an introduction book to investing in the stock markets based on principles from Benjamin Graham, The Intelligent Investor.
What I would like to see in the future is the option to buy fractional shares and reduced broker fees (Right now I save up before purchasing more shares to make sure my purchasing cost remains low) but all in all, I am pretty satisfied with Bolero and give the platform a “Joney score” of 4,4/5. I have even already recommended it to some friends and family in Belgium.
Lynx: My personal experience and “FTF score”
User-friendliness – 3.5/5
The platform is a mixed bag. On one hand, you have the IB platform that Lynx uses which is very extensive but archaic in design and usability. I would even rate it a 2/5 if it weren’t for Lynx’s own platform called Lynx-basic.
This platform on the other hand is very user-friendly and straightforward. It does have less functionality but if you are mainly doing buy and hold, it’s more than enough. It’s also the platform I use the most. A major downside to this custom Lynx platform is the lack of a mobile application. This is covered by the IB one, which funny enough, is very usable.
In short, it’s decent but it could be better, especially the IB platform. The charts are 15 minutes delayed though personally for stock trading I don’t really mind. The best way to circumvent this is by setting a limit order and wait till it gets triggered.
Available Information – 4/5
Stock charts are delayed by 15 minutes while they have a news feed per stock in their Lynx-basic trader and a more advanced feed in their IB-platform.
It’s a bit basic but Lynx tries to make up for this by offering a variety of services and education. The master class where you can fine-tune your knowledge is good but not ground-breaking. More interesting are the newsletters they have where two professionals provide trading tips. ‘Breakout Trader’ is completely based on technical analysis. The newsletter consists of concrete stock tips and the ETF of the week, with clarification. The ‘BeursProf’ newsletter is based on fundamental analysis. Every month, ‘Beursprof’ gives its vision on the market and discusses certain short- or long-term trends in the market. An alternative to the newsletters is the seminars that they organize although that is cancelled due to covid.
Finally, you of course have their excellent helpdesk that is available to help you with any question possible related to the market and their platform.
Customer support – 5/5
Lynx has excellent customer support. Their chat and phone line is available from 8:30 tot 20:00. The few times I had to contact them they were quick to offer guidance or in case they didn’t know the answer were proactive in trying to find the answer. They have a good knowledge of the taxes in Belgium as well and offer help in making the Dividend report for your tax return.
Rates – 4/5
When it comes to rates it’s one of the better offerings. DeGiro is the well-known cheaper one that has a proven track record. There are newer offerings available like TastyWorks, trading212, etc. Though their relatively young age makes me reluctant to recommend them just yet.
Lynx offers a comparison of their rates online but this is to put themselves in a positive spotlight. Like usual it really depends how and what you trade that determines your monthly and yearly expenses but at least their stock and ETF rates are a percentage of the transaction with a set minimum rate. Usually this is around 6 EUR.
Important to note is that their interest rates are low as well. Currently Lynx charges 2,783%. Which is, compared to for example TastyWorks, cheap.
Registration – 5/5
The registration process went smooth. There was no waiting period and my account was made in a day or two. Everything can be done online and if you have all the info at hand it really is a breeze.
The only thing that Lynx is missing is the option to buy fractional shares and the IB platform really needs a complete overhaul. This is very unlikely given the functionality that it offers, and it would costs millions to do that. In conclusion, I can honestly say I am a happy customer of Lynx. I give them an “FTF score” of 4,3/5. I’m always happy to offer it as an alternative to DeGiro, especially if you are interested in other trading options (such as options) though newer brokers are offering more compelling prices for that. Lynx really does it for me because of the excellent customer service at reasonable rates.
P.S.: Did you know you can negotiate your rates yearly if you trade enough (through options for example)?
About my co-author
Fight to FIRE is the owner and the main writer of FightToFIRE, a personal finance blog focusing on Financial Independence and Retiring Early in Europe and specifically Belgium. During the regular working hours, he is a developer for a major financial institution in Belgium. On his off-hours, he writes on this blog, does some weight lifting and other stuff to keep him healthy and fit.
Bringing it all together
We hope this introduction to choosing the best online platform for you and the short review of Lynx and Bolero was useful to you. Let us know if we have forgotten something crucial and tell us about your experience with any of these platforms!
I would like to thank Fight to Fire once again for helping me with this article, a French and a Dutch version will be posted as well in the coming weeks including a review of MeDirect!
If like Fight to FIRE you wish to collaborate for guest posting or sponsored posts please do not hesitate to reach out by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and of course, for everyone, do follow us on social media as well for more great content, check our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and join our e-mail list. I would love to connect with you!