Well, it sounded like a good deal.
Fidelity Investments and BlackRock yesterday announced a long-term strategic alliance whereby millions of Fidelity customers will get “increased and improved access to a broad selection of passive ETF solutions provided by iShares” and iShares access to Fidelity’s distribution capabilities.
As part of the deal, Fidelity increased the number of iShares ETFs that can be traded commission-free online from 30 to 65. The new list includes all 10 iShares Core ETFs as well as a selection of international, domestic, and specialized equity; fixed income; and commodities ETFs.
Still sounds like a good deal? Let’s take a closer look.
According to Fidelity’s website, 10 iShares ETFs from the original 30 are no longer commission-free “in order to avoid overlap and to offer less expensive choices.” The firm reasoned that, instead of offering both the Russell Index and S&P ETFs, it now only offers the S&P ETFs commission-free. But if investors want, they can still trade these 10 iShares ETFs and any other ETFs, for that matter, for a fee of $7.95.
Wait. There’s more.
Fidelity is providing a grace period lasting until the end of April to give its customers and advisors time to buy and sell any of these ETFs commission-free. A second grace period lasting from May 1 through July 31 will allow said customers and advisors to sell these 10 formerly commission-free ETFs without incurring a trading commission. But during this second grace period, buy orders are still subject to a $7.95 commission fee.
Why the grace period? According to the firm, it wants to give customers who are accustomed to trading the ETFs that will no longer be offered commission-free time to “wind down” their holdings or find another fund that is now on the commission-free ETF list.
And yes, if you sell a commission-free ETF within 30 days of purchase, you will also be charged a short-term trading fee equal to a regular trade ($7.95). But even if you are charged this short-term trading fee, because you paid no commission on the buy, you end up being charged less than a regular round-trip trade ($15.90), according to the firm.
Again, Fidelity is offering a promotional period, between March 13 and July 31 where no short-term trading fees will be charged.
So what’s $7.95 to a high-net worth investor with a $1 million account? A drop in the bucket. How about an investor with an account less than $5,000? A lot of (tear) drops in the bucket.
But industry observers say that the deal is still a good one for long-term investors. “Frequent trading is just one of their features, but it is an important one,” said Tom Roseen, Head of Research Services, Lipper.
“Investors would just have to pay the commission for the trade. So, for long, buy-and-hold investors the deal still looks pretty good. Those who prefer to trade will use other sources, or again, just pay the commission.”
Avi Nachmany, Director of Research, Strategic Insight, echoes his sentiments. “Seems logical and fundamentally fair that the costs are born by those who trade the most,” said Nachmany. “The narrative of getting more and paying less at some points must meet the rule of economic equilibrium.”