A couple of weeks ago I did a review of Betterment, a cool new super-simple investing platform that I had discovered. I have since signed up for an account, and am now investing a portion of my money with them. What I like about them is that they keep everything extremely simple for newer investors or average Joes, giving just a few options to choose from when investing. You just choose your stock/bond allocation, link your account, and start investing. You can even make it automatic every month – and they'll re-balance your portfolio on a regular basis. Simple, and very accessible to new investors.
It seems like a lot of companies are realizing that new investors want to be able to invest, but sometimes they're just intimidated by the number of options available to them when they sign up for a brokerage account, and they want things simplified. Because of that there has been a trend towards simplifying the process for people through sites like Betterment, and now through one of my favorite banks and brokers – ING Direct.
This week ING Direct announced that they would be renamed from ING Sharebuilder to ING Direct Investing. While the name change isn't that big of a deal, there are also some significant changes in the works for their site as well that aim to make the site even simpler and less time consuming for self directed investors.
So first things first – ING Direct ShareBuilder is being re-branded as ING Direct Investing, Inc. Why the change? I reached out to Jeff at Sharebuilder:
Over the past ten years, ING DIRECT has become synonymous with simplifying savings. The thought behind ShareBuilder’s new site was to make investing as simple as possible, without all the unnecessary information that you’ll find elsewhere. The name change (ShareBuilder will always be ShareBuilder, now it’s just located under the ING DIRECT Investing umbrella) is just one aspect of trying to bring our customers a simplified investing platform.
So basically they wanted everything to start out fresh with their new website and platform that they're launching this month. Start everything off with a clean slate. The new name is certainly direct and to the point. ING Direct Investing. Who they are and what they do right in the title. Simple.
ShareBuilder Corporation, is a United States based online stock brokerage firm founded in 1996 (as NetStock Direct). It encourages recurring, automatic purchases of shares of stock, ING Mutual Funds (Class O) and exchange-traded funds. All transactions occur online and are entirely at the discretion of the account holder, thus it is an execution-only service. The company does not have brokerage sales representatives or advisors.
Account holders can use ShareBuilder's online research tools to investigate stocks, similar to other online brokerages such as Scottrade, TD Ameritrade and Fidelity. In 2005, ShareBuilder began offering 401(k) plans to small businesses. On November 19, 2007, ShareBuilder Corporation was purchased by ING Direct, a subsidiary of ING Group for USD 220 million. In June of 2009, ShareBuilder moved its headquarters from Bellevue, Washington to 83 King Street, in the Pioneer Square district of Seattle, Washington.
ING Direct New Website And Tools
So why did they decide to simplify the website, and hopefully make it more accessible? Their press release says it loud and clear – they've been doing market research and found that people found doing research and investing was too complicated and confusing.
A new online survey among 1,009 investors conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of ING DIRECT Investing shows that information overload is not helping investors make better financial decisions. More than four in ten investors (44 percent) say the amount of research available to consult — graphs, charts, financial news, social media — is “complicated,” “confusing” or “overwhelming,” according to the survey. Just 18 percent of investors say the available information is easy to understand.
“Brokerages have created a perception that investing in the stock market is complicated and incredibly onerous,” said Arkadi Kuhlmann, President and CEO of ING DIRECT. “We're challenging these notions and offering an alternative approach that won't force investors to be a slave to their portfolio. ING DIRECT Investing solves the issue of complexity and confusion by eliminating unnecessary bells and whistles and investing jargon.”
So 44 percent of investors find the amount of research available overwhelming and hard to understand. It's no wonder they decided to take some steps towards simplifying.
So What Has Changed At ING Direct Investing?
So there's a lot of talk of simplifying and making it easier to investors to invest – and not get bogged down in un-necessary details. So what specifically is changing?
- Simpler, wider design: They've taken the site's design and made it wider, removed un-necessary components and cut out un-needed and technical investing jargon.
- More focused research: Less of the information you probably don't need, and more focused research from Standard & Poor's, TheStreet.com and Sabrient.
- Important information where you need it: A new floating quote toolbar lets investors see important information from their account at a glance. Searches are also tailored towards users historic interests.
- Portfolio management tools improvements: Their new tools will allow investors to see investments by sector, region, assets and market cap as well as by performance ratios, returns, historical pricing and more.
- Better integration with ING Direct Bank accounts: You can now automatically connect your ING Direct Savings or ING Direct Checking account directly to ING Direct Investing – and set up automatic investing.
For the most part ING Direct's fees, commissions and minimums remain the same.
Stock Trades Cost
- $9.95 stock trades
- Automatic investment trades for only $4
Options Trades Cost
- $9.95 per online trade, + $1.25 per contract
- $7.95 per online trade, + $0.75 per contract if you're on the advantage plan
Fees And Minimums For An Account
ING Direct Investing currently has no account maintenance fees, monthly minimums or inactivity fees. All prices are charged on a flat rate, and what you see is what you pay.
Personally I think that the trend towards simplified investing is a good thing as it makes investing accessible to a whole lot more people than it has been in the past – simply because they were scared off by the complexity of things. Whether ING's changes will actually result in making it easier remains to be seen. To check it out for yourself, sign up for a free account through the link below.
Tell us what you think of the new ING Direct Investing name, along with their redesigned site in the comments!