2012 U.S. Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study Results
Overall customer satisfaction with self-directed investment services firms rose by about one-half of one percent in 2012, according to the J.D. Power and Associates 2012 U.S. Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study. However, the study suggests that consumers are increasingly displeased with these services firms' fees.
Satisfaction with these investment firms rose from an index score of 764 (on a 1,000-point scale) in 2011 to 768 in 2012. The study measures performance in six areas: account information; account offerings; information resources; interaction; problem resolution; and trading charges and fees. In general, the slight rise in consumer satisfaction is due to improvements in interaction, information resources, and account offerings. Fees not associated directly with a trade, as in the past, are the primary cause of dissatisfaction.
This is particularly noteworthy to the investment services industry at a time when many firms are charging extra fees to make up for a decrease in transaction volume. The study shows that overall consumer satisfaction is lowered by between 15 and 20% if fees are charged for account maintenance or inactivity.
On the other hand, customer satisfaction appears to increase when the individual is aware of informational services such as real-time quotes and alerts. Frequent traders are especially receptive to these features, which could indicate that offering them in ways that can be readily applied to mobile devices might be an effective way to attract new customers.
The study indicates that the 11 investment services companies included can be broken down into three pretty distinct tiers, in terms of customer satisfaction. Three companies finish in a virtual tie for the highest ranking. Charles Schwab & Co. ranks highest in self-directed investor satisfaction with a score of 801, and receives the highest marks for account information, account offerings, and information resources. Vanguard follows in the rankings with a score of 799, followed closely by Scottrade at 798. TD Ameritrade also ranks above the industry average with a score of 794. The industry average is 768.
The 2012 U.S. Self-Directed Investor Satisfaction Study is based on responses from 3,733 investors who make all of their investment decisions without the counsel of an investment advisor. The study was fielded in February 2012.