Review of Fidelity’s Active Trader Pro


Updated: Apr 11th, 2016 | Vance Harwood

My observations on Fidelity’s web based Active Trader Pro® (10.5)

Google threw a pipe wrench into Fidelity’s browser based multiple OS strategy for Active Trader Pro by no longer supporting Microsoft’s Silverlake development environment on Chrome.  I think Google’s reasoning was sound, the underlying NPAPI needed to go, but if you are a MAC Active Trader Pro users you are in a tough spot.   Alternative browsers still support Silverlake, but I suspect the other browser providers will eventually follow Google’s lead.   Fidelity recommends switching to the client based, downloaded version of Active Trader Pro, which seems to work fine on my Windows machine, but puts MAC users out in the cold.   Not having an Apple suitable version long term seems like a untenable situation for Fidelity, so I would look for a HTML5 based solution in the future.  Alternatively they might copy Schwab’s StreetSmart Edge in the Cloud and go to a lightweight client approach.  This is an elegant solution for multi platform support, but requires a heavy investment in central servers to handle the customer load.

The comments below related to the downloaded version of Active Trader Pro.

Highlighted Functionality
  • Active Trader Pro’s ability to export charts (including intraday data) for both regular securities and options is very helpful for doing analysis
  • Quotes/Tracking for various volatility indexes (e.g., .VXST, .VXV, .VVIX, .VIF, etc.) has been added
  • Greeks on VIX options are much better.  Fidelity is now using the front month VIX future as the underlying for all VIX option series.  This is certainly better than using VIX as the underlying, but this gives incorrect, although less wrong months for the later expiring futures.   The appropriate month future should be used as the underlying for each series of of VIX options (e.g., October futures for options expiring in October).  Many major brokers (e.g., Schwab, optionsXpress E*trade) continue to do this wrong by using the VIX as the underlying for all VIX options.
  • Ability to generate options charts.   These charts can be accessed by right clicking the option you are interested in on the option chains and selecting the “Chart” action.   The charts can be maximized to full size and the data can be exported to a spreadsheet.   Unfortunately expired options cannot be charted.
  • Greek support on option chains including bid and asked implied option volatility, not just the average of the two.
  • Charts now support daily frequency for up to 10 years, this is a major improvement from the previous one year limitation on daily frequency data
  • See Fidelity’s release notes for a full listing of new capabilities.

Things I like:

  • On the order screen you can right click and get the option of duplicating an order, or creating the close out for the order.  This is a very nice and convenient feature for option trading.
  • The option chain functionality allows setup of three and four legged option strategies like butterflies and condors so that they can be priced and put in place with a single order.
  • Conditional orders have a lot of flexibility, including specifying bid vs ask prices—important for lightly traded securities.
  • Displaying both the ask , bid, and midpoint prices for option combination orders.    Since options tend to have have wide spreads, and typically you can usually transact options trades near their mid prices this is a very important capability.
  • Exporting of chart data, along with time stamps (right click on the chart and choose “export”).   Very useful for doing your own spreadsheet analysis offline.  Intraday charts are supported for up to a month in duration.
  • Support for option spreads in IRA accounts for equities and indexes—including cash settled indexes.
  • Storage of things like watch lists is account centric not computer centric.  Once you create/modify a watch list it syncs with all of your  computers  when you use Active Trader Pro.
  • Maximum frequency for monthly charts increased from daily to 30 minutes—much more reasonable
  • Ability to show intraday notional values for ETFs—add a /IV to the symbol  (e.g., VXX/IV)
  • Greeks now look correct for weekly / quarterly options.   Before the durations were set wrong, now they appear to be using higher than daily resolution—very good!

Not so good:

  • No mid-point prices for single security or single option quotes or watch lists.  This is a significant usability issue for options and ETF traders where wide spreads are common.  This deficiency is surprising since they do such a good job with more complex orders.
  • Charts don’t allow setting the length of  pre/post market trading displayed.  Right now it’s an on/off choice and the “on” choice uses up a lot of chart real estate.
  • Execution of combination orders like buy-writes can be very sluggish.  It is not an automated process and your order may not fill even if the limit criteria is satisfied.
  • On combination option orders Fidelity requires the “buy” side to be entered at the top, this may be a convenience for their programmers, but it is an inconvenience for their users

Defects (in my opinion)

  • VIX options series, other than front month using the front month future as the underlying security.
  • SPX options expiring on Friday morning are not treated as expired until Monday!  This can create a serious issue if you’re short those options in a options calendar spread.  A workaround is to roll the longer term options to a much higher strike price.
  • On at least some of the combination option orders not all of the bid-ask prices for the various options are displayed.
  • Fidelity puts restrictions on how many shares you can buy or sell in a single trade on low volume securities.  This is intended to protect users from getting bad fills on illiquid securities.  However, it also prevents traders that know what they are doing from trading efficiently.  Fidelity’s override process is currently very cumbersome.  They need a simple override that removes the restriction at least for the day if the user demonstrates they understand the potential impact of orders on low volume securities.
  • Some limit orders are rejected because they are too far from the currently traded values (e.g., 50%).  This is probably reasonable for equities, but is ridiculous for options.
  • SPX options expiring on Friday afternoons on the weeks when there is a monthly Friday morning expiration have the .SPXPM symbol.  For spread purposes you cannot currently pair these SPXPM option with SPX or SPXW options for spreads, etc.  These are essentially identical options series, they should be spreadable.

Wish List:

  • Multiple platform support for Active Trader Pro.
  • Some easy way to close out all the windows that accumulated with use.  Right now you have to open each one individually and then close them.
  • Charts on expired options.
  • Ability to chart midprice quotes at the specified frequency (split the difference between bid and ask) instead of trades.  This would improve the chart quality of lightly traded securities and options dramatically.  A frequency of 5 minutes would be a good compromise between graph readability and data storage requirements.
  • Stop loss orders with a time delay, see this post for details

 

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Monday, April 11th, 2016 | Vance Harwood
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  • Wildcat

    I use the currently released version of Active TraderPro every day and find it very useful. They have taken away the ability to insert and delete items on the Watch Lists in the Beta version 9.7.116.0 and some other basic feature seem more clumsy.

  • Dundo

    In my opinion, since I do NO options trading, the new Active TraderPro sucks! I had to install it on my laptop while on vacation because the older program would not work. The old program has everything I need for my type of trading, just buying and selling stock. It’s uncomplicated, straightforward and easy to use. The new program is NOT user friendly for the unsophisticated traders, it requires more steps for basic functions, it’s very “busy” looking compared to the old program, and whenever I call customer service with questions about it, it takes a half hour or more because no one knows the answers and has to got hunt for the correct response. I’m still using the old program on my desktop and dread the day that too must be updated (before 2014, I was told). I may just throw in the towel and look for a new company or trade much, much less often.

  • MC

    interactive brokers is the best option; no one comes close to their commissions/margin rates.

  • leop

    new version of ATP stinks……..it smells of lack of concern for customers
    just a few examples
    in a watch list they have eliminated the totals for BASIS which I use to verify totals in a spread sheet. The graphs have highlited the comparables and not the stock. when the values are close us cannot see the stock of interest as in the old version. The colors are horrible……….all the graphs and watch lists run together and are hard to separate do to no color change option…………poor poor and worse……..will have to get much better just to be bad……and these are only a few of the many problems…….if they stop the old version , I will change brokers after 35 years…………….

  • Hi Leop,
    Which version of ATP are you using (look under help)? Are you using the downloaded version or the .com version?

    Best Regards,

    Vance

  • leop

    10.0.1212.0 downloaded ver

  • Umberto Indicci

    Fidelity has “improved” Active Trader Pro …. to a disaster “10” …

    A very simple yet useful multiple chart layout has now been made impossible by a likely dumbed down IT crew, with there dot-head green carders doing the coding … sheesh …

    On the hunt again for sanity!

  • anon imus

    Agreed. Been with Fidelity for 15 years. This platform is awful. I am stunned at the lack of color choices (my eyes are old and need contrast), the clumsiness of the platform, and how SLOW everything is. I had v9.7 on a 10 year old PC but was forced to “upgrade” to the new one when I finally got a new computer. Everything else I do on the PC is much, much faster. Fidelity is slow, clunky, terrible! I haven’t been trading because I feel like I should wait for the quotes in tomorrow’s newspaper before I make a decision. THIS IS NO LONGER A TRADING PLATFORM, imho. Sad, but I will have to move my accounts.

  • anon imus

    Both. They are equally awful.

  • sb

    sb

    my concerns are sadly the same as above this new version is a bad product. compare with what I like about the earlier versions. I hate to leave after 30 years also. Charts don’t allow setting the length of pre/post market trading displayed which is important for day trading this is not good.
    Execution of combination orders can be very sluggish. for day trading this is not good and your order may not fill even if the limit criteria is satisfied. it like fidelity don’t care.

  • Praful R Shah

    The columns showing portfolio are missing few things, such as volatility, support and resistance. These data can help user to set stop limit. Fidelity have these items in charts. User have to get these information in a laborious way, calculating each individually. Why not make life easy for investor/user who can set conditional trade using this data?

  • wdh

    I agree – both 10.x versions are awful, and not usable in many ways. Fidelity apparently does not care. They use to make regular improvements to their software that made sense. Lately they are making things worse and harder to use. I wonder if it is they lost the good software developers. As it is I am looking to move my accounts elsewhere after around 20 years with Fidelity. They simply don’t seem to care.

  • Richard

    On Mac’s, the application is a system resource hog. Using any browser, Firefox, Safari, or Chrome, the app. behaves slow and won’t allow the user to easily move window frames, or select a window on its corner and resize. Some of the app’s menu options on a Mac are not visible. Fidelity needs to release a client app. for Mac’s. I’ve ran Fidelity’s app. on 2 current systems using SSD drives and 8gb of ram and it’s still runs like crap and has latency issues.

  • It’s like I wrote many of the other reviews!

    1. Most Important.. It’s UGLY and harder to see.

    aka ‘Geeks with nothing to do’.
    A Reverse of what makes ‘Apple’ successful, a good look.
    10 is like a backlit piece of cheap graph paper.

    UNacceptable look and Unacceptable to have management who think it IS acceptable. All those who approved the design Must be gotten rid of. NO Taste.
    One doesn’t expect taste fro Geeks but someone in charge should have it.
    They don’t.
    Nor does ANY manager/owner of the company who approved it.

    2. There is No improving’ the 10. versions the format must be dropped as a major error.
    Fidelity’s “Windows 8” or “Vista”

    3. The company should have at least let users stay/choose 9.6. side-by-side. Jerks who can’t admit error.

    4. The alternating blues were the best visual on 9.6 but even making that further improvement won’t help the crappy 10.

  • RS

    I agree that 10+ ATP is terrible. Looks like it is built by a group of amateurs playing at programming. System is way too busy and many functions do not work. Plus unbelievably SLOW. I called support because I am out of the country and The newest 10.2 has no end of problems. They lightly give me the excuse that the system might not work correctly because I am not within the US. They forced me off 9.6 which at least functioned to this disaster they call a system and then tell me it might not work properly because I am not in the US, I suspect it work not work well even if I was in the US. What a joke. Can any of you suggest a company to replace F?

  • Hi RS, I’m not a particularly demanding on my trading package (e.g., not looking for lightning fast day trading). I have found Schwab’s StreetSmart Edge in the cloud to be a good package with reasonable performance. See my review: http://sixfigureinvesting.com/2011/04/review-of-streetsmart-edge/

    — Vance

  • Casey3339

    I agree. They act like I’m nuts when I have complained about the 10.x versions are basically unusable compared to the previous 9.x versions. In addition, it seems like they are willing to lose my account over this too (and I have a very large account with them). It is mind boggling to me that they would produce such backward product with some much competition out there. I too will be looking for a different platform to use for my trading after almost 20 years with Fidelity.

  • Mike T

    I use the downloaded version. There is a serious problem with their streaming quotes. They will get “stuck” and will not advance for long periods of time. I noticed this one day when I accidentally had the same stock streaming twice at the same time and saw that they were very different. I called Fidelity and they gave me tier 2 support with someone that could smooth the issue over better than the original support person that answered the phone.
    This problem needs to be corrected. They have not responded since.
    This is a severe problem for someone wanting to see where a stock stands.

  • danwat1234

    For people complaining about Fidelity ATP 10x .. I have made a portable version of ATP 10.6.716.0 (latest version as of now) , I mean it may write some registry values and files to the hard drive, but it runs from a folder on a USB stick just fine.

    This is beneficial to have and to compress away new versions of ATP this way as well, in case Fidelity makes a version of ATP in the future that is another bad step, such as if/when they make a version 11. .. i don’t know how the software self-updates and if the servers allow older versions to log in. I guess time will tell!
    Here is the download it’s 33.xMB , 130MB uncompressed.
    mega dot nz slash #!V5UjlbrC!QOkHQ5OgR6BbZ9PpWUqH9re82jTHZFvYzBo6w9PF4g4

  • danwat1234

    Yeah, 10.x takes a lot of CPU power. Needs a 4GHZ core 2 duo or better equivalent to run really smooth. Otherwise there is a delay, about 2/3 of a second with a 3GHZ Core 2 Duo with getting quotes, opening up quote windows, chart windows, watch lists, etc.
    And the software does not take advantage of more than 1 core as far as I can see.
    Haswell/Skylake 2.5GHZ+ runs it well.