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If you want to invest in the stock market, you will need a broker account. If you do not have the best broker account, you may have to change broker. Changing from one broker to another is not an easy decision but is sometimes necessary. In this article, we see two ways of switching to a new broker and how to transfer your portfolio to a new account.
In 2019, I opened a new broker account at Interactive Brokers. Since DEGIRO does not let me trade in U.S. funds, I decided to stop working with them and move my portfolio to a new broker.
I was disappointed with the way they handled the new regulations. I would only recommend it if you only want to invest in European funds. Currently, Interactive Brokers lets me trade in these U.S. funds. Moreover, I may save on some fees by using the Tiered pricing of Interactive Brokers.
However, I must transfer my portfolio from my previous broker to Interactive Brokers. I could have kept both. But I also prefer keeping it simple.
In this article, we will see the two main ways to change brokers and transfer your positions from one broker to another. And I discuss how to choose between the two.
If you have ever changed your broker account, I would like to hear about your experience!
The most obvious way to change brokers is to transfer your positions.
Every broker I know has a feature to import or export shares. In some cases, you can also transfer an entire portfolio. This method work by initiating the transfer from your new broker. Doing so may sound weird, but the transfer should generally be initiated by the new broker (the receiving broker).
The transfer, once initiated, and validated, will take anything from 2 to 10 business days. It may even take more if there are some issues with the transfer. During the transfer, the old account may be frozen to make sure the transfer is accurate.
One problem with this process is that it is not as simple as it should be. Indeed, the transfer system will depend on which broker you have. If you transfer from two brokers in the same country, it may be OK because they probably use the same underlying system for the transfer.
For instance, in the U.S., the system generally used is the Automated Customer Account Transfer Service (ACATS). If you have brokers in different countries, it may become much more complicated. I am pretty sure it can work out. But you may have to involve the support from both sides in the worst case.
Another problem is that you will pay more fees to change brokers. No broker will transfer positions for free. Some will accept incoming transfers for free. But I do not know of any broker who accepts outgoing transfers for free.
For instance, at DEGIRO, you pay 10 EUR per position, whether incoming or outgoing. For Interactive Brokers, it depends on which transfer system you use. If you use ACATS, you will not pay any fee. If you use Deposit/Withdrawal at Custodian (DWAC), you must pay 100 USD per position transferred in any direction.
The advantage of this way of changing broker is that you will still have the same shares in the new broker as in the previous one. You do not have to buy back again shares. It is especially good if the market is going up. In that case, you will not lose money on the stock price.
Sell and buyback strategy
The other technique to change broker is more straightforward. You sell all your positions from your current broker. Then, you transfer the money to your new broker. And you buy back all the positions in the new broker.
There is nothing complicated with this technique. You go to your current broker, and you sell all the positions you want to transfer. Then, once the operations have been performed, you initiate the transfer of the money you want to move. If you can, you can directly transfer the funds to your new broker. But this is not possible with every broker.
For instance, DEGIRO only allows me to use one bank account. If you cannot, you can transfer the money to your bank account and then initiate a second transfer from your bank account to the new broker. Once the money reaches the new broker, you can buy back the shares you want.
One advantage of this technique is that none of your accounts will be locked for any time. You will still be able to use both accounts during the transfers. Moreover, this will likely be significantly faster than the other technique. It will be as fast as two bank transfers!
Another advantage is that you are likely to pay fewer fees doing that than using a transfer system. If you decide to use this technique, you will pay the standard fees for selling your positions and the standard fees for repurchasing them in your new broker account. You may also pay some fees for the money transfers. But if you smartly do the transfers, this should not be a lot.
If your broker offers some free transactions, you should take advantage of that to move to a new broker! Sell the biggest of your position by using free transactions. This strategy could save you some money!
The significant disadvantage of this technique is that the price when you sell the securities and the price when you repurchase them may be different. In some cases, it may not make a big difference. If the market increases while your transfers are in the way, you may lose money. On the other hand, if the markets are going down, you may be a winner. But you will never know which direction it will take. You need to be prepared for this risk. If you have a large portfolio to transfer, this may be expensive.
How to choose a strategy
Now that you know both techniques and their advantages and disadvantages, you still have to choose between both to move your portfolio to a new broker effectively.
There is one thing that is very important to consider: the size of your portfolio. If you have an extensive portfolio, I would advise using a fully automated portfolio transfer by the two brokers. You will pay some fees, but since the fees are generally per position and not per share, it should be reasonable.
When you have an extensive portfolio, you do not want to stay out of the market for a few days. If the market goes up 2% or 3% when you are out of it, you will lose a substantial amount of money. Moreover, if you sell it all, you may have to pay fees. And you probably do not want to transfer several hundreds of thousands of dollars from account to account.
If you have a tiny portfolio like me, it is probably much simpler to simply sell everything, transfer money, and start again with the new broker. The fees will be small to sell and buy the positions. You will save time, as well. Now, there is a definite risk that the market will go up in the meantime. It is up to you to pay the fees or take the risk.
If you are a gambler and predict that the market will go down in the next few days, you could use the selling method for a profit. But you cannot predict it! Then, you can sell everything in your old broker and repurchase everything in your new broker a few days later. If your prediction comes true, you can make a few extra bucks on your portfolio. Once again, I do not recommend this.
So as you can see, there are two main ways to change broker and transfer your portfolio from the old account to the new one. You can use the automated transfer service that most brokers offer. Or you can sell your portfolio, transfer the money to your new broker, and buy back the shares.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both techniques. In my opinion, a large portfolio should use an automated transfer, and a small portfolio should sell the shares and repurchase them. However, remember that I never did any portfolio transfer, and there may be unexpected issues I did not see.
When I had to change brokers, I used the sell and buyback strategy. I also used some extra cash to transfer my portfolio to Interactive Brokers. I saved on fees this way. However, the cash transfer between the brokers was longer than I thought. So, it was quite stressful because of the market going up between the transfer.
If I ever have to do it again, I will use the automated transfer method!
If you want to know more about brokers, check out my search for the best broker for Swiss investors.
Have you ever changed your broker? How did it go?
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