How TD Ameritrade upgraded its research experience with crowdsourced earnings data

Individual investors are being treated to an investment platform upgrade cycle that closes the gap between the tools available to them and professional investors. TD Ameritrade has rolled out a series of changes to its thinkorswim trading platform that significantly improve its earnings analysis.

One big change is via its year-long partnership with Estimize, a fintech upstart that crowdsources earnings estimates from 3000 professional and amateur investors. Estimize’s consensus estimates have been proven to be more accurate than comparable sell-side data sets over 74 percent of the time. thinkorswim users can now view a stock’s projected range of earnings and revenues provided by the upstart.

“There’s been a lot of interest in crowdsourcing among our users,” said Chesley Spencer, product manager in the active trader group at TD Ameritrade. “For a number of years, we’ve seen investor interest and discussion in our social network, myTrade. The logical next step was to start crowdsourcing.”

Adding more earnings analysis gives investors a single visual of historical expectations versus actual results. TD Ameritrade has also added options market metrics like historical implied volatility to give clients a view of how the options market has responded to earnings cycles. Earlier in 2016, thinkorswim incorporated LikeFolio’s data that tracks social media conversations around specific products, so users can visualize trends in the frequency of social posts.

This upgrade comes amid a general commitment to increase innovation at the largest online broker by trading volume. New CEO Tim Hockey committed to boosting tech spending at TD Ameritrade by 25 percent. “We were the original fintechs,” he said in an interview. “Part of my task will be to literally get the organization back on our front foot when it comes to investment in cutting-edge technology.”

Like many other financial service firms, TD Ameritrade continues to see its users shifting their usage patterns to mobile.

As customers spend more time on smaller devices, their expectations of what the mobile experience should provide has also changed. Users don’t use mobile just to check stock prices anymore. They want to use mobile investing apps as full-fledged platforms — from account openings to doing research to making trades. “It’s been a rock-steady, year over year climb over the past decade,” said Spencer.

That’s provided an interesting challenge at the product level. Historically, mobile apps were just stripped down versions of online brokers’ desktop platforms that could fit on a small screen. But now, as investors want more from their mobile apps, that thinking has reversed itself to making the on-the-go experience as full-featured as possible.

“All of what we’ve done on desktop is now available on mobile,” explained Spencer. “It’s not so much having two platforms, but one experience that our users access through their mobile devices and computers.”