Interactive Brokers (IBKR) and Lightspeed both cater to sophisticated investors and traders. These brokers have a lot to offer, especially for investors who put a premium on order execution and might want more flexibility on order routing than they can get at zero commission brokers. Although Lightspeed and Interactive Brokers both focus on more active traders, they are far from identical offerings. We’ll look at some of the key differences between them to help you decide which one is best for your investment and trading needs.
- Account Minimum: $10,000 (web), $25,000 (software)
- Fees: Max $4.50/stock trade, $0.60/options contract ($1 minimum).
- Account Minimum: $0
- Fees: Maximum $0.005 per share for Pro platform or 1% of trade value, $0 for IBKR Lite
Both Interactive Brokers and Lightspeed offer multiple platforms. Interactive Brokers has a website, their Trader Workstation desktop platform, and a mobile app. Interactive Brokers’ impressive, all-in-one platform offers trading in equities, ETFs, options, mutual funds, fixed income, futures, foreign exchange, cryptocurrency, and access to multiple international markets for traders all over the world. Trader Workstation is the broker’s most robust and customizable platform, and is built to meet the demands of professional, institutional, and very active high volume traders. This desktop platform offers investors the ability to enter all multiple contingent orders, manage all their positions, and also has strong offerings for charting, news, fundamentals, and technical analysis. The website is pretty standard fare for web-based platforms, but is fully functional and sufficient for less active traders. The mobile app is largely intuitive, making it easy to follow orders, levels, and positions.
Lightspeed has five platforms, including a website, a robust desktop platform called Lightspeed Trader, and a mobile app. The other two platforms are for futures trading and Sterling VolTrader, a sophisticated options analysis and trading interface. Lightspeed’s web and mobile interfaces are not as robust as other offerings, but they are perfectly suitable for less active traders. With a client base consisting of institutional clients, hedge funds, and active traders, Lightspeed likely focuses much more on their desktop platform, Lightspeed Trader. The website, desktop, and mobile apps allow trading in equities, ETFs, and options—futures trading is done on a separate platform. LightSpeed Trader is built for professionals and high end users and offers a great deal of customization, contingent orders, and news and research.
While both brokers offer a wide range of ways for traders to access their system, we feel that Interactive Brokers is better because they allow for many more markets and assets to be traded under a single platform, while trading futures on Lightspeed requires a separate system. Further, Interactive Brokers has a superior mobile app that is very easy to use and, unlike Lightspeed’s mobile app, supports conditional orders, charting with drawing, and the ability to view orders and trade directly from charts in addition to news and research.
Desktop Trade Experience
The Lightspeed Trader desktop platform is their most robust offering, and the platform most of its active trader customer base requires. The program is intuitive to use and can be customized, with two large tabs that allow traders to quickly switch from equities trading to options trading page configurations. It is also easy to open windows for watchlists, scanners, Level II data, and the short list with Lightspeed. There are multiple order entry choices traders can customize for order entry and other trade details. The desktop experience at Lightspeed also includes Eze EMS, a separate program for futures trading, and Sterling VolTrader, which provides options traders with special risk monitoring tools. Multiple orders can be entered at the same time on the desktop platforms, but Lightspeed only provides streaming real-time data on one device at a time and their mobile and web offerings do not allow for Level II quotes.
Interactive Brokers has a website and client portal that allows for real time account views, the ability to place basic trades, and access operational functions such as funding, transfers, and account statements. Most Interactive Brokers customers, however, will be using Trader Workstation, a very strong brokerage platform that supports all of the many tradable markets available at Interactive brokers. Trader Workstation provides all the customization and functionality hedge funds, active traders, and investors demand, including conditional orders, options trades up to eight legs, order routing, order staging, and connections to third-party automated signaling providers. Charting supports drawing, order entry, monitoring, and modification directly from the chart. Streaming quotes, news, and research are also available, and you can use multiple devices simultaneously.
While Lightspeed offers good functionality, customization, and other trading tools, Interactive Brokers has a better overall desktop experience because their charting application is stronger, it supports all its products on a single platform, and Trader Workstation offers the ability to customize conditional orders based on very specific market criteria.
Mobile Trade Experience
Lightspeed’s mobile offering is limited to the functionality of their website. The app offers streaming quotes but it does not offer news, research, drawing in charts, advanced analytics, or futures trading.
Interactive Brokers has a comprehensive mobile platform that includes trading in all the vast markets available and supports conditional orders, trading from charts, and provides news and research. Overall, Interactive Brokers has a much stronger mobile offering than Lightspeed.
IBKR has added a new mobile platform known as IBKR GlobalTrader. This is a streamlined version of IBKR mobile, making it simpler to trade globally in your domestic currency. The new app also offers access to cryptocurrency, which IBKR also added in 2022.
Range of Offerings
Interactive Brokers offers a wider range of assets compared to Lightspeed.
Both brokers support multi-leg options strategies. Lightspeed offers limit orders and trailing stops on all its platforms, and one-cancels-the-other (OCO), bracket orders, and order staging on the Eze EMS app. All Lightspeed desktop offerings support multiple orders simultaneously. Interactive Brokers supports all the orders available at Lightspeed, including conditional orders on all of its platforms. Trader Workstation also supports conditional orders based on price, time, margin, cushion, daily P&L, and other criteria.
Interactive Brokers’ Trader Workstation has more options for order types than Lightspeed’s offerings, and goes even further beyond with additional features such as conditional orders based on multiple criteria.
While both brokers support smart order routing and customer directed order routing, Interactive Brokers has a clear edge in technology. Unlike Lightspeed, Interactive Brokers also supports fractional shares, dividend reinvestment, selection of tax lot on sales, and automated trading strategies.
For stocks and ETF trades, Lightspeed charges $4.50 per trade or $0.0045 per share with a $1.00 minimum, but rates are tiered for higher volume accounts. Interactive Brokers has tiered pricing for stock trades of $0.0005 to $0.0035 per share with a $0.35 per order minimum and a maximum of 1% of trade value per order, and has no charge for no-transaction fee ETFs and $0.005 per share with a $1 minimum per order for transaction fee ETFs. Interactive Brokers also offers an option for a no commission account where Interactive Brokers receives payment for order flow (PFOF) similar to other brokers offering commission free stock trading. For over the counter (OTCBB) trades, Interactive Brokers charges the same commissions and Lightspeed charges $10 per trade.
Margin rates are considerably lower at Interactive Brokers, which charges just 1.59% for accounts with balances from $10,000 to $100,000, and 1.09% after that. Lightspeed’s margin rates are 8% for balances up to $50,000 and 7% to $100,000. Futures are also less expensive at Interactive Brokers, which tiers their charges based on volume traded from $0.25 to $0.85 per contract, and Lightspeed charges $1.29 per contract. Fees for other services are mostly less expensive at Interactive Brokers. Domestic wire transfers are $20 at Lightspeed, while Interactive Brokers provides one free transfer per calendar month and $10 after that for domestic and international transfers. Lightspeed charges $50 for an international wire transfer. Lightspeed, however, does not charge for sending a check, where Interactive Brokers charges $1 for paper checks. Lightspeed charges $20 for voluntary reorganizations (corporate actions) which Interactive Brokers does not charge for. Finally, unlike Interactive Brokers not charging a platform access fee, Lightspeed charges for its Lightspeed Trader desktop platform if there is insufficient trading activity.
Overall, Interactive Brokers has lower trading fees to trade, much lower margin rates, and generally lower costs for their trading and non-trading services.
Account and Research Amenities
We found Interactive Brokers to be much stronger than Lightspeed when it comes to account and research amenities. Both Lightspeed and Interactive Brokers have portfolio margining, stock lending programs, and paper trading. Interactive brokers also has an options probability and strategy lab, while Lightspeed has a dedicated program for options analysis and risk.
Both brokers offer stock screeners, but unlike Lightspeed, Interactive Brokers has multiple predefined scans, 13 predefined watchlists, and the ability to screen on technical indicators. Interactive Brokers also has an ETF screener, a screener to identify optionable ETFs, and goal tracking. Interactive Brokers provides additional tools to screen for companies based on environment, sustainability, and governance (ESG) and socially responsible investing (SRI) criteria. Lightspeed does not offer any of these additional tools. Finally, Interactive Brokers offers customers a debit card and some banking and other brokerage services unavailable at Lightspeed.
Interactive Brokers is the clear winner for account and research amenities.
Interactive Brokers provides portfolio analysis that is customizable and offers the ability to consolidate assets from outside accounts for reporting and analytics. Lightspeed has very few portfolio analysis tools, but does offer helpful tools for identifying opportunities in the options markets. Interactive Brokers is the superior broker for portfolio analysis.
While the customer base for Lightspeed and Interactive Brokers tend to be professional, high volume, or active traders that do not require educational content for beginners or passive investors, both brokers have some quality educational content and activities. They both offer a glossary, daily content, and online training with live webinars. Interactive Brokers will typically have an additional live conference each year, but this has not happened since the start of the Covid pandemic. While Lightspeed also has recorded tutorials and trading videos, Interactive Brokers provides the IBKR Campus free to the public and a Traders Academy that is an online, on-demand resource for account owners with a structured curriculum of 50 classes divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced.
While both Interactive Brokers and Lightspeed provide helpful educational content, Interactive Brokers has a more comprehensive offering thanks to Traders Academy and its online educational webinars offered 250 times per year compared to 20 for Lightspeed.
Lightspeed and Interactive Brokers have phone support, with Lightspeed providing trade support from 4 am to 8 pm, and general support from 7 am to 6 pm EST. Interactive Brokers support is available 24 hours six days a week. Lightspeed answers calls immediately under normal circumstances, and Interactive Brokers was under 1 minute but a 50% increase in accounts and increase in trading activity during the pandemic has resulted in a delay in answering calls. It is unclear whether the overall increase in trading falls outside of “normal circumstances.” Chat support with a live representative is available at Interactive Brokers, but not Lightspeed.
Neither Lightspeed nor Interactive Brokers provide customers with advice, but Interactive Brokers provides unlimited guidance from licensed reps for their robo advisor accounts. Finally, Interactive Brokers also has a secure message center and a searchable knowledge base with user guides and tutorials. We give Interactive Brokers the edge for customer service because of the multiple ways customers can get in contact with the company, its 24 hour availability six days a week.
Interactive Brokers has been providing its customers with two factor authentication since 2003, and they can use their mobile phone or a security card for the authorization. Lightspeed has a seamless multi-layer login process that creates a secure 128-bit encryption. Lightspeed does not offer biometric logins on its mobile app, while Interactive Brokers does. Both brokers have insurance coverage beyond Securities Investors Protection Corporation (SIPC) insurance through policies with Lloyd’s of London.
Interactive Brokers did not experience any serious platform outages and had no data breaches in 2020. Interactive Brokers customers did experience a logon problem on its European platform that lasted less than 90 minutes when many other brokerage companies were experiencing outages, but this was limited to some of their customers experiencing a slowdown and needed to switch to the Trader Workstation platform. Lightspeed did not provide us with any information about their platform outages or data breaches.
We give Interactive Brokers the edge in security for limiting outages and their transparency on their security record without a comparison because Lightspeed did not provide information on the reliability of its platforms or outages.
While both Lightspeed and Interactive Brokers offer their active trading customers good trading platforms, Interactive Brokers had a clean sweep of all the comparison categories we looked at. Interactive Brokers provides a better platform that supports all their products, and better platforms for web, desktop, and mobile. Further, Interactive Brokers provides its customers with many more markets to trade at a lower cost, as well as more analytics and account reporting. Interactive Brokers is a powerhouse in the trading space for good reason. It simply has more to offer and better tools than the competition, including Lightspeed.
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