This column was originally published on RealMoney on March 1 at 2:49 p.m. EST. It's being republished as a bonus for TheStreet.com readers. For more information about subscribing to RealMoney, please click here.
As the markets take a breather around the unchanged line, it's a good time to do a system check.
There's been a lot of talk about the technical glitch at the
New York Stock Exchange
, which I still think was basically a delayed quote and meant little in real terms; trading was much more orderly than if it were all being done by live humans. However, I haven't heard any complaints that any brokerage firms had overloads, glitches or failures.
Before I tout this as a testament to the capability and efficiency of the electronic platforms now widely in place, especially given that extra bandwidth needed now that many options are trading in penny increments, I should ask: Has anyone had any problems out there?
In case people are answering yes, I will jump ahead on an article I'm working on (call it a sneak preview) and suggest that it always makes sense to have a backup system in the form of a second account. This is true even for non-professional or less-than-active traders.
With that in mind, there are two relatively new and private firms that cater to more sophisticated traders. One is
, which is about a year old. It has some of the lowest rates and great tools, but minimal auxiliary services.
The newest player in the house is
, which was
launched early this year and is run by option market-making and proprietary trading firm Peak6. OptionsHouse has some advanced risk-management tools, which might have come in handy the past few days, and offers an innovative flat-fee commission structure of$10 per transaction, regardless of the number of contracts. So for people who trade "size," this can be a great deal.
Also, some of the better-known names that specialize in options trading are also among the best ranked in terms of all-around online brokerage firms. These include
, the ThinkorSwim division of
, which just last week changed its ticker to the more memorable SWIM from IEDU, and the CyberTrader platform from
, which has one of the most well-rounded offerings among the mainstream names.
Regardless of your investment style or even the size of your pocketbook, it's wise to have two trading accounts, even if the second is with a $2,000 minimum, just to have a backup system in place. You never know when one might have a "glitch." But if and when one does occur, you can bet it will be at very inopportune time.
Steven Smith writes regularly for TheStreet.com. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, he doesn't own or short individual stocks. He also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. He was a seatholding member of the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) and the Chicago Board Options Exchange (CBOE) from May 1989 to August 1995. During that six-year period, he traded multiple markets for his own personal account and acted as an executing broker for third-party accounts. He appreciates your feedback;
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