Fee the People: Retail Investor Behavior and Trading Commission Fees
78 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2022 Last revised: 21 Jan 2023
Date Written: October 1, 2022
We show retail investors are highly responsive to changes in trading commission fees. Using a triple-difference research design around the removal of fees for retail investors on the international retail broker platform, eToro, we show investors responded by trading approximately 30% more frequently, in smaller order sizes, and increasing portfolio turnover. Removing fees also spurred retail investors to reallocate their portfolios and diversify. Retail investors’ gross return performance did not significantly change around the fee removal despite trading more often, but retail investors earned significantly higher returns on a net basis after accounting for fees incurred in the pre-period. Finally, using demographic information, we show removing fees disproportionately affected inexperienced investors with lower deposit amounts and lesser technological sophistication both by expanding the extensive margin of investors and changing trading activity for the intensive margin of investors. Together, our results suggest commission fees play an influential role as a speed bump for retail investor participation, trading activity, and diversification.
Keywords: Retail investors, trading activity, behavioral finance
JEL Classification: G10, G11, G18, G24, G32
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