Broker profile


Temporary note: As of November 2011, Finasta’s parent company Snoras has been nationalised by the Lithuanian authorities amid allegations of fraud and seems likely to be wound up. Finasta says it is operationally and legally separate from Snoras, will continue to operate as usual and is expecting to be sold as a going concern to a new investor. This entry will be updated with more information when the outcome becomes clearer.

Finasta is the investment and brokerage arm of Lithuanian banking group Snoras. Among other services, it offers online stock trading for a large number of markets in Eastern Europe and beyond at relatively low rates in many cases.

We don’t have any experience of using this firm or comments from other feedback yet. It’s included in the directory because it may be of interest to investors looking to invest in this region, alongside firms such as Brokerjet, Orion Securities and Swissquote. If you have any feedback, you can send us an email using the contact form.

In terms of likely investor security, while Lithuania is not a top-tier financial centre, it is a regulated market and Finasta is overseen by Securities Commission. Lithuania is a member of the European Union and has implemented the EU directive on minimum investor compensation standards, which means that the Deposit and Investment Insurance Fund provides protection of up to €20,000.

Broker profile


Switzerland’s leading discount brokerage offers a reasonable range of North American and European markets for online trading and a far larger number for broker-assisted trades. As far as I know, it’s the only retail-orientated brokerage in Europe that offers markets such as Brazil or Japan’s Osaka Stock Exchange (as opposed to the more widely traded Tokyo exchange) – although Daniel Stewart, a UK institutional firm that accepts private clients, can also access these and more, while the Hong Kong-based Boom Securities and Phillip Securities are other cheaper alternatives for Japan.

The main drawback is the fees. Minimum commissions on the broker-assisted markets are so high that they are unrealistic for most retail investors. This may be understandable, since they will be traded via intermediaries. However, even the online markets are not cheap – you will do better through many other discount brokers.

However, there is no minimum account size and admin fees don’t look unbearable. So if you’re aiming to make a handful of long-term investments of at least US$5,000-10,000 each in some of the more inaccessible markets it offers, Swissquote could be worth a look. Feedback on everything except fees has generally been good.

The Hong Kong and Singapore stock brokers may be alternatives for Asia, while Brokerjet, Finasta and Orion Securities may be worth considering for Eastern Europe.

Broker profile

Charles Schwab One Account

This US online brokerage giant now has two international brokerage services: The Schwab Global Account, open to US citizens and residents only, and the international trading part of its long-standing Schwab One Account. The firm has never really advertised the latter much, but it can deal in a very wide range of overseas markets, albeit by telephone during US hours only.

Schwab One Accounts are available to clients outside the US, although the minimum account size will be larger – US$25,000 for most markets, US$10,000 through the Hong Kong and UK arms. Overseas dealing is likely to have a minimum of around US$5,000 per trade for some markets.

The main snag with the service is cost. International dealing rates are 0.75% with a minimum of US$100. While this is lower than rates at the wirehouses, you can do better than that for many of the markets it offers – within the US, try Interactive Brokers, Fidelity or Schwab’s own US resident-only Schwab Global Account. On top of this, its correspondent stock brokers in the overseas markets will add their own charges, include FX conversion (since you can only hold US dollars within the account). That will vary by market, but it’s likely to add 0.15-1.5% depending on region (Europe will be cheaper, emerging Asia more expensive).

That said, while nobody I know well has used Charles Schwab for buying international shares, second-hand feedback says the customer service is very good. Certainly, I was impressed with the knowledge of its representatives when I enquired about opening an account. At this price, I’d still say look for a cheaper broker for the easy markets. But perhaps consider this firm for the more exotic ones if you trade in reasonable size and the US$100 minimum is bearable.