trading costs

Free Lunch?

© Can Stock Photo / angelo

A few investment institutions, including those which maintain accounts for investment advisors, have gone to zero commissions on stock transactions. We are reminded of the old saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Of course, every ongoing business collects every dime of its costs from customers, one way or another.

We are reminded that the warmest apartment house on a cold day is the one where utilities are not separately metered. A resident might say “The rent is high, but the heat is free.” In truth, the landlord is getting the cost of the heat out of the tenants. And, more heat gets used because of the illusion that it is free.

Investors have benefited mightily from competition in financial services through the years. Lower costs and improved services and choice are good things. This latest step, however, looks to be a step backward. Some observers believe that zero-commission trading will lead to more trading, just like the apartment house that uses more heat.

We favor pricing mechanisms that have customers paying for the services they use. This is the fairest way to allocate the costs of anything. Nobody believes that maintaining the infrastructure and expertise to handle securities trading, account for it, and deliver services to the investor is free. Everybody knows those costs will be paid somehow.

As fundamental, long term value-oriented investors with relatively low turnover, we would hate to be subsidizing rapid-fire traders who benefit from zero commissions. Clients, we will be monitoring developments closely, seeking to maintain sound economics for your business and ours.

If you would like to talk about this or anything else, please email us or call.


Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.