Which is the best Stock Broker for Singapore Investors? (2020 Guide)

Which is the best Stock Broker for Singapore Investors? (2020 Guide)

Ive been getting a lot of queries recently on the best stock brokers that I recommend for Singapore investors. Its been more than a year since my previous article on theBest Stock Broker for Singapore Investors, so I figured this would be a perfect time to update the guide to best stock brokers for Singapore investors.

Basics: Best Stock Broker for Singapore Investors

Now the way I like to see Stock Brokers is as tools. And remember the saying: A bad workman blames his tools?

Having a good tool doesnt necessary make you a good workman. But if youre a good workman already, a good tool goes a long way to making life a lot easier.

In this article, Ive evaluated the stock brokers based on the following factors:

There are 3 main types of fees to take into account:

Stock Commission is basically the amount you pay on each trade. These are really important when youre investing smaller amounts, but less important as the amount per trade goes up. The difference between paying 25USD per trade on a US stock (DBS Vickers) and 4USD per trade (Saxo) is the difference between a 2.5% fee and a 0.4% fee. So focus on this when youre investing smaller amounts.

This one only matters for foreign shares, and only really comes into play if youre investing big sums. To illustrate the difference between a 50 bps spread and a 100 bps spread on a USD/SGD pair when youre investing $1,000,000 is about $5000. Thats big. But when youre investing $10,000, thats only $50. So the bigger the sums youre investing, the more youll prioritise good forex spreads over stock commissions.

Custodian fees are when the broker charges you a certain fee each year to hold the shares. Theyre either a fixed amount (eg. $2 per month per counter), or percentage based (0.1% per annum).

Ownership Structure (Custodian vs CDP/Legal Title)

This is the ownership structure of your shares. Its either going to be cutodian (where the shares are held in the stock broker / banks name on trust for you) and CDP/legal title (where the shares are held in your name).

Practically speaking, for most retail investors, this is only relevant for Singapore shares. Which one you pick depends on the kind of investor you are, and well touch on this in a bit.

For foreign shares, there isnt a huge difference between the two. So I usually just go with the one with lower fees, which is custodian.

This is a really underrated point. Everyone is obsessed over fees until they open an account and simply cant figure out how to make their stock trade or when something goes wrong and they need to place a call to Hong Kong to speak to the customer service officer (not naming names, but you guys know who Im referring to ;).

So in this review, I took ease of use, and customer service into account as well when evaluating stock brokers.

The thing about stock brokers is that you want them to work, reliably, forever. What you dont want, is a stock broker that saves you a ton of money on fees, only to close operations the next day and force you to move all your shares out. Not only does that cost money, its also annoying as hell to deal with. Case in point Charles Schwab recently closed its Singapore operations for good, forcing all existing customers to figure out what to do with their shares.

Theres no way of knowing for certain if a broker is here for good, but the bigger their existing base of customers (and the more theyre spending on customer acquisition), the more comfortable I would be.

Hey, call me a cheapo, but were Singaporeans, and theres nothing we love more than a freebie on account opening right?

When you broker puts money in your hand to open an account (SaxoIm looking at you, see details below), thats cash in your hands immediately. And cash in my hands is far superior to any rebates on stock trades down the road which may or may not materialise.

Money earned from an account opening bonus or referral program is no different from money earned from a stock trade, so its important not to neglect this factor too.

As a couple of readers have pointed out, some other factors to consider include:

Quality of the human stock broker (including research reports that can be provided by the broker)

Data Real Time price streaming, market depth, price trigger & long validity, pre/close market trading, time/sale data etc

Not all investors will need these tools, so do also decide for yourself if these are important to you.

For me personally, as a millennial, I prefer my broker to simply do 1 task buy shares, and buy them cheap, so these are less important to me. Not everyone is like me though, so if these services have value to you, then absolutely do try to maintain some money at a brokerage that can provide these services.

When you use a stock broker linked to your Central Depository (CDP) Account, all Singapore shares / REITs you buy go directly into your CDP account, and you are registered as the legal owner of the shares. The advantage is that because youre the legal owner of the shares, the company knows who you are, and you get easy access to AGMs/EGMs, annual reports or circulars delivered to your home, timely receipt of other company notices etc.

With a custodian account, the stock broker owns the shares. So if youre using a custodian service, the shares will be legally owned by the broker, and they hold the shares on trust for you. Advantages are usually lower fees.

Now the way I see it is this. If youre a trader who takes short term positions in stocks (less than a year each time, typically a few months max), go with a custodian style broker. The lower fees will pay off in the longer run. If youre a long term buy and hold investor like me, just do yourself a huge favour and pick a broker with a CDP service.

Ive been at many AGMs where shareholders from a custodian service have huge trouble trying to get in, simply because the company didnt have records of them being a legal shareholder. Its also tricky when youre trying to receive company notices (eg. Notice of EGM, Distribution Reinvestment Plans, general offers etc), because sometimes theres a delay in your custodian broker sending these notices to you (sometimes you just dont even get them). So yeah.. go with CDP, and youll thank me later.

Dollars and Sense did up a nice table below that compiles all the brokerage fees in Singapore.

Buy and Hold Investor DBS Vickers Cash Upfront

For CDP Accounts (buy and hold investors), use DBS Vickers Cash Upfront because the $10 minimum commission is the cheapest on the market.

The only drawback with DBS Vickers Cash Upfront is that you need to fund the money upfront before a trade rather than the usual T+2 settlement, but this doesnt really bother me since I already have the money set asie anyway. Do also note that you cant use DBS Vickers Cash Upfront on sell trades though, so the commission to sell is $25.

If youre really concerned about fees, you can use DBS Vickers Cash Upfront to buy, and then use FSMOne to sell the shares from your CDP. Some readers have wrote in to share this trick, but I havent tried it myself personally, so I cant comment on how much of an effort it is (Update: More readers have written in to comment, and it seems this is fairly straightforward to execute).

If youre a buy and hold investor though, selling usually doesnt happen too frequently, so I think this is worth the trade off to have CDP shares.

For Custodian Accounts (day traders), both Saxo Markets and FSMOne have 0.08% commissions and $10 minimum commission, which is the cheapest in the market.

Between the two, I would say go with Saxo Markets.

The advantage with Saxo is that they have an account opening bonus (check out the bottom of this article for full details of the Financial Horse affiliate/referral bonus), and they are far more established as a global player. Their platform is much easier to use than FSMOne (at least to me).

Do note also that Saxos custodian fee is waived for SGX stocks if youre a Singapore Citizen/PR, so no need to worry about that!

By contrast, FSMOne doesnt have a good referral bonus, the platform is less intuitive than Saxo, and they are not as established a global player as Saxo.

Saxo is a big Danish bank with a global presence, and theyve been investing very heavily to expand and build their presence in Singapore recently. This sort of gives me the confidence theyre here to stay. FSMOne is a bit more of a niche, local player, but with their own core group of fans. So Im not so sure where they will be in 10 years.

So yeah, I would say Saxo is a clear winner here.

US shares is where it gets complicated. There are 4 brokers that I would consider for US shares, and each has their own pros and cons. Which one works for you depends on the type of investor you are.

If you are Priority Banking ($200,000 or more AUM), there is no minimum commission.

Good (I dont use it myself, but I hear the spreads are close to interbank rates).

Based on 100,000 USD, this will be 120 USD a year. So 100,000 USD is the tipping point where it will make sense to move to Interactive Brokers.

10 USD a month (US$120 a year) unless your AUM is more than $100,000 or commission is more than 10 USD a month

The way I see it, is to pick your broker based on the amount youre investing in US Shares (dont count your Singapore shares here because those are held in CDP).

When investing less than US$100,000 in US, I see Saxo as the best choice. With Saxo you getUSD4 commissionper trade (which is truly great), an account opening bonus, and decent forex spreads. The trading platform is nice and customer service is prompt (they have a Singapore office).

Thats about all you want from a broker really. There is the 0.12% AUM Fee to contend with, but to put it in perspective, on a US$10,000 investment its US$12 a year. You make that back many times over on the low commissions and account opening bonus.

A lot of readers have written in with good things to say about Saxo, and I genuinely think this is the best broker for new to intermediate investors looking to dip into US Markets.

I do get a lot of queries asking why I dont recommend Interactive Brokers at this tier, and my answer is this. With Interactive Brokers you pay an annual fee of10 USD a month($120 a year) unless your AUM is more than US$100,000. As a new to intermediate investor, most of your funds will be split between the Singapore and US market, with a heavy tilt towards Singapore. Theres no way the amount of foreign shares you hold will be anywhere near US$100,000 for it make sense to go with Interactive Brokers. Not only that, but Interactive Brokers platform is far more complex than Saxo, which makes it less conducive for beginner investors.

At this tier, I think that Interactive Brokers becomes a viable option.

When your account value crosses US$100,000, the minimum US$10 a month is waived, which makes it great for buy and hold investors. At this sums, the forex spreads and fees also come into play to make Interactive Brokers a good alternative.

What I hear from readers that write in though, is that the Interactive Brokers platform can be pretty tough to navigate, and customer service can be tricky because you need to contact the Hong Kong office (they dont have a Singapore branch). But if you can bear through all of that, the fees are great. If you dont want to deal with all the hassle though, check out Standard Chartered instead.

US$150,000 or more Standard Chartered Online Trading

At this tier, I really like Standard Chartered Online Trading. You get Priority Banking Status once your total account value with the bank crosses $200,000 (US$150,000) which means no minimum commissions. I also hear that theyve significantly reduced the forex spreads such that its now competitive with the other banks. Theres also a Singapore office if anything really goes wrong.

I still have some shares with them, and the platform annoys me though. But for no minimum commissions, I can probably bear with it.

For comparison though, just to illustrate how ludicrous some of the fees charged by the local brokers are, this is what is being charged by DBS Vickers for US shares.

Trading Fee:Minimum USD 25 or 0.18% of trading principal (whichever is higher)

Custodian Fee: SGD 2 per counter per month, capped at SGD 150.00 per quarter.

So yes, if youre still using a DBS, OCBC, UOB or POEMs account to buy US shares, it really is time to switch to one of the above.

0.25% Minimum $100 in HKD currency (HKD 107 with 7% GST)

0.18% on trading principal (min. HKD 100 for shares trading in HKD

Custody Fee SGD 2 per counter per month, capped at SGD 150.00 per quarter.

SGD 2 per stock up to a max. of SGD 150 per quarter (7% GST applies) Monthly charges are automatically waived if there are at least (a) two trades in your trading account in the same calendar month, regardless of trade size in local or foreign shares OR (b) six trades in your trading account in the same calendar quarter, regardless of trade size in local or foreign shares OR (c) SGD 132 of paid brokerages in the same calendar quarter

For Hong Kong Markets it really comes down to Saxo vs FSMOne for me. You can refer to the discussion above for picking between the two.

Minimum GBP 25; or 0.35% of trading principal (whichever is higher)

SGD 2 per counter per month, capped at SGD 150.00 per quarter.

SGD 2 per stock up to a max. of SGD 150 per quarter (7% GST applies) Monthly charges are automatically waived if there are at least (a) two trades in your trading account in the same calendar month, regardless of trade size in local or foreign shares OR (b) six trades in your trading account in the same calendar quarter, regardless of trade size in local or foreign shares OR (c) SGD 132 of paid brokerages in the same calendar quarter

For UK Markets it comes down to Standard Chartered Online Trading vs Saxo for me. Between the two, I think Standard Chartered wins out marginally because of no custodian fees, but it really is very close because Saxo has a lower stock commission (percentage wise and minimum fee wise).

I would say just go with the one that is easier for you. So if you already have a Saxo account, just use Saxo here. If you already have a Standard Chartered or Interactive Brokers account, just use that. And if you have an IB account or are able to hit the US$100,000 requirement, IB is probably the cheapest in terms of fees.

If youre a new investor, I know all this is a lot to take in. But if I had to do it all again, I would just open 2 brokerage accounts: DBS Vickers Cash Upfront for Singapore stocks, and Saxo Markets for foreign stocks.

Hand over my heart, I truly think that this combination is the most suitable for most retail investors out there.

The DBS Vickers Cash Upfront works for all Singapore investments you can possibly make, and is likely to remain so for the next 10 years unless DBS makes any big changes.

Saxo works for all foreign investments at least until you start hitting US$100,000 in foreign shares. Once you start hitting such numbers, you may want to start checking out Interactive Brokers (more than US$100,000), or Standard Chartered if youre able to get priority banking status easily (more than S$200,000 or US$150,000).

And just to show that Im putting my money where my mouth is, here is how I do it:

I use DBS Vickers Cash Upfront for all my Singapore shares and REITs. Im a buy and hold investor, and I really like having shares go into my CDP for the long haul.

For foreign investments (US and Hong Kong), I useSaxo Markets. I really like USD4 minimum commissions, the Saxo platform platform, and the account opening bonus.

I have some US Shares held via Standard Chartered Online Trading back from the good old days when they didnt charge minimum commissions. Those stay there because its too much hassle / fees to move them over to Saxo Markets.

I currently dont hold UK shares, but if I did, it would probably be either Standard Chartered Online Trading or Saxo Markets.

If youre keen on opening a Saxo account, Financial Horse has partnered with Saxo for a special account opening bonus if you fund $3000 and make 1 stock trade. The link is below, drop me an email at[emailprotected]for the next steps!

Picking the best stock broker for you is always important because every dollar of transaction cost saved, is effectively a dollar worth of investment returns.

But which brokerage you ultimately pick depends greatly on what kind of investor you are, and your existing situation. For example, if you have a Saxo Markets account and want to buy UK shares, it may not really be worth the hassle to open a Standard Chartered account just to save a little on fees. Or if youre a priority banking customer with Standard Chartered, it makes a lot of sense to just use them for all of your shares. Or if you can maintain USD 100,000 with Interactive Brokers, theyre probably the best fit for you.

But for the average investor who has his net worth spread over real estate, cash, bonds, and other alternative investments, I think the above recommendations work decently well. Of course, dont take my word for it, think through what works for you, what you plan to invest in in the coming years, and do some independent research, before picking a broker.

But at the end of the day, dont overthink. Remember, its just a broker, not a wife. If you pick wrongly, you can always switch later ;).

Looking for a comprehensive guide to investing? Check out theFH Complete Guide to Investingfor Singapore investors.

Support the site as aPatronand get market and stock watch updates. Big shoutout to all Patrons for their support!

Like the Financial HorseFacebook Pageand join theFacebook Group(Singapore Stocks)orFacebook Group (China/HK Stocks)to continue the discussion!

Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)

Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)

Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)

Waiting for IBKR to set up shop in sg and hope there can be a all in 1 platform for both sg and foreign stocks/ETFs. Currently theres only SCB which has poorer fx spread

Nice article. Not a major error, but you may want to correct it that SGX has been on T+2 for some time. Thanks.

I do have a question regarding moving equities from SAXO to IBKR/ SCB. Having purchased US equities For over 3 years, I am approaching the $100k mark and is looking to move the funds to IBKR to save on the custodian fees which SAXO charges. Do you recommend selling the equities in SAXO and buying them in IBKR or transfer the equities from brokerage to brokerage.

Based on my understanding now, transferring of each equity from SAXO to IBKR would cost 50 EUR which I am hesitant to pay for.

Great question! It really depends on the number of shares you have I think.

I would say if its just one or two counters in Saxo, it may be worth just paying the fee to transfer. But if you have say 10 or more counters, then it may not make sense to incur that charge. In such a scenario I would say just leave all the existing shares in Saxo, and use IBKR/SCB for your new purchases.

Do try out IBKRs platform before transferring all your shares over though. Its quite a complex platform, and not for everyone. There are some people I know who just cant accept IBKRs platform.

Could I find out where you found the information for interactive brokers custodian fees for HK markets? wasnt aware that they charged a custodian fee.

The most important that you might have left out is not the fees but the broker who might / might not give the most valuable insight and analyst base on their countless years of differentiating between a blumont and a ST engineering when both stocks rise in tandem.

Ooh interesting perspective. Who do you think these great brokers are? Which banks are they mostly with?

That would be hard to justify where these individuals are and they are spread all over every house here in SG. But I have known some of these people over my course of work and I must say, some old / or young, they have pretty interesting insights and good punts over the years.

End of the day, how much you save over a few dollars is not going to do justice over your entire portfolio if or when your broker gives substiantial advice, looks after your portfolio and even calculate dividends / rights issuance and placements over the years which you as an investor might have missed out. Thats what you are eventually paying for as they say. Nothing good comes free.

Thats a really good point, thanks for bringing this up. I will update the article to incorporate this point.

Your recommended setup for a Buy and Hold investor for Singapore stocks is using DBS Vickers Cash Upfront only. Then how are you going to sell your shares after T+2? Remember that DBS Vickers Cash Upfront is using only CDP settlement and you cant sell using that platform after T+2 as your shares will be credited into CDP. Unless, you are using the normal DBS Vickers brokerage account to sell which will incur minimum $25 commission.

My suggestion is to open another account with FSMOne to sell.

Agreed! DBS Vickers Cash Upfront to buy and FSMOne to sell is technically the cheapest option. There is a reference to this in the article but perhaps it could be set out more clearly. Ill make the amendments.

Saxo has no custodian fee for SGX stocks if youre a Singaporean citizen or PR.

I think youre overstating the effect of Interactive Brokers USD 10 inactivity fee. Whatever commissions you accrue offset the USD 10 fee. For example, if you execute trades that cost USD 4 in commission per month, you have to pay an extra USD 6 in inactivity fee at the end of the month. The upshot is that you have USD 10 of free trades per month. This is good if youre a day trader Interactive Brokers commissions are by far the lowest, plus the forex spread is quite good.

Also, you might want to check your figures for Interactive Brokers UK fees youre quoting the fixed pricing. The tiered pricing is 0.05%, minimum commission GBP 1 (

Thanks for pointing these out, appreciated! I will update the article accordingly. 🙂

Great article. I have a question regarding investing in Ireland domiciled ETFs tracking the US market listed on the LSE would these fall under the UK heading of your article or the US heading? Thanks for the clarification!

Absolutely right, those fall under the UK (LSE Listing) category. 🙂

Itd be good to understand and an interesting article FH the features these brokers offer. For example, Im looking to leave POEMS because they dont offer me a stop loss on my shares. Id love to know who does, at any cost.

Ooh really good point. Might look into this as a future point to update the article. Thanks!

Just wanted to thank you :). I dont do any of these but I enjoy the content.

Haha no problem, glad youre enjoying them! Any content in particular you want to see on this site?

Good advice as usual. The big challenge with Saxo for large accounts is really the custodial fee. At 0.12%, a buy and hold investor with $1M is paying $1200 a year for nothing and a $10M investor is paying $12K a year This makes is unviable. The lack of FAST for funding also makes it inconvenience for local trading.

Agreed! I think that once the amount invested in foreign shares crosses US$100,000, the other brokers start becoming more attractive. For beginner investors who are splitting their money between Singapore and US, Saxo is still a very viable option.

But yeah for more advanced investors throwing around a few million in AUM, there are better options here.

Can I check if SAXO has dividend handling fee for USA market?

Hi FH, I am a priority banking customer with Standard Chartered Bank and am wondering if it actually makes sense to switch my local investing activity to DBS Vickers? What are the other advantages of having a CDP account other than the ability to attend EGMs and receiving notices?

I would say it really depends on what you value. Do you go to AGMs/EGMs often? How prompt is Saxo in the forwarding of corporate documents to you? For me personally, I find it to be important so if I were in such a situation, Id probably put my new money into DBS Vickers (CDP).

But you do really need to decide for yourself which is more important. With SCB you get cheaper sell rates, so thats a factor to consider as well.

So wanted to update you but IB has released their IBKR Lite pricing plan whereby USA stocks and ETF trades are commission free and there are not more monthly account fees. There are still fees for trades for other products/markets but it is still cheaper than most brokers.

Really interesting, thanks for raising this! Have replied you via the email you sent! 🙂

Last time when I checked with IB customer service, they said IBKR Lite is unavailable to non-American clients. Have they opened it up to Singaporeans?

Yeah great question. Ill need to check with IB on this as well.

Thanks for your response. Ive managed to open my CDP account and transferred my shares from SCB to CDP.

Is it essential to enable Broker Linked Balance (BLB) as well? Not sure if its a norm to open BLB as well, as I dont directly see my holdings from DBS vickers after linking it with CDP.

The creation of the BLB gives brokers visibility and joint control over specific holdings, thus

allowing brokers to offer more personalised services to investors.

Top 5 Investment Courses in Singapore Reviewed (2020 Guide)

Elite Commercial REIT IPO Review: 3 quick thoughts on this hot new IPO

Is it time to sell stocks/REITs? Is a market crash coming for Singapore investors?

Financial Horse was started to demystify financial investments. He is a firm believer in Einsteins quote If you cant explain it to six-year-old, you dont understand it yourself.

Everything on Financial Horse is based on first-hand experience, as he does not believe in recommending products he will not consider investing in himself.

Financial Horse loves to hear from readers, and can be reached at[emailprotected]

The content here is for informational purposes only and should NOT be taken as legal, business, tax, or investment advice. It does NOT constitute an offer or solicitation to purchase any investment or a recommendation to buy or sell a security. In fact, the content is not directed to any investor or potential investor and may not be used to evaluate or make any investment. Please also seePrivacy PolicyandTerms of Use.