Months after much of its competition eliminated commissions on trades, Vanguard has finally joined the party and announced a similar move Thursday.
The fund manager, which oversees a whopping $5.7 trillion in global assets, announced it is doing away with commissions on all online stock and options trades, but there will still be a $1 fee attached to options transactions. Vanguard has already done away with commissions on exchange-traded funds.
Barron’s reported that only a couple months ago Vanguard CEO Tim Buckley wasn’t too excited about the prospect of eliminating fees. Buckley said he was worried investors would “churn and burn” their accounts.
But he may have had nothing to worry about because even during the bear market of the Great Recession, only 4% of Vanguard’s customers liquidated their assets.
“We’re proud of that,” Buckley said. “Most of them sat tight. When people come here, they believe in a buy-and-hold strategy.”
Charles Schwab was the first major broker to eliminate trading fees back in October with TD Ameritrade announcing a similar move soon after. E-Trade and Fidelity soon followed Schwab’s move. Robinhood, a trading app that is popular among smaller traders, particularly millenials, has been offering free trades for years.
Vanguard insists its move was not in response to other firms cutting fees, but it is facing growing pressure from its competition. Fidelity now offers several zero-fee index mutual funds and Vanguard’s ETFs have similar costs compared to Schwab’s listings or BlackRock’s iShares.
Schwab’s marketing efforts are paying off, too (you may have noticed some of their new commercials advertising commission-free trading). Since early October, 143,000 new brokerage accounts have been opened by Schwab. On top of that, the number of accounts opened from October to November jumped 11%, and the firm now manages 12.2 million accounts.
But Vanguard is still king in many aspects. It still controls 76% of the index mutual-fund market while also holding almost 40% of assets in target-date funds like 401(k) retirement accounts. And its $1.2 trillion in active mutual funds is still good enough for third behind American Funds and Fidelity.