Review of StreetSmart Edge


Updated: Jan 14th, 2018 | Vance Harwood | @6_Figure_Invest

Review

Streetsmart Edge (SSE) can be launched/downloaded from the  Schwab website.  Schwab has made StreetSmart Edge available to all account holders.  A call to their helpline (800-435-9050) is required to set it up.   If you want to run SSE on an underpowered computer, are having performance problems, or want to run on a Mac check out the cloud version of SSE, see this post for more information.

Before I get to my complaints here are some things that I like:

  • Accessing/trading options is very nicely done.  Option chains come up collapsed down to expiration dates, which you can then open up.  Copying options to a watch list is conveniently accomplished with copy and paste commands.  Current positions are shown in the option chains—a nice feature.
  • Option chains allow an adjustable number of strikes from 1 to 100 or all.  It’s very nice to not have to deal with huge lists of options when my interests are relatively close to the money.
  • General availability of midprice quotes, halfway between the ask/bid price.  This is an essential capability for any serious option trading and very useful for lower volume securities.
  • The “Trade-All in One” tool significantly improves Schwab’s capability for multi-sided option trades (e.g, spreads, calendars, buy-writes, butterflies, condors)
    • Once you select your trade the options appear at the top (see snapshot below).  You can then further customize the options you want (e.g., strikes, expirations)—this avoids significant frustration if you have a different opinion than the tool on what the strikes for say a strangle should be…
    • You can add additional tabs to the tool.   I use this for displaying alternate option strategies, or the plain options chains with all the Greeks
    • The midpoint price, the max gain/loss, current underlying price are all right there

SSE-AAPL-strangle

  • The scrolling/time windowing capabilities located at the bottom of charts are excellent
  • SSE’s ability to export data, including option Greeks from a watch list to a spreadsheet is useful
  • Very good coverage of option strategies, including calendars and ratio spreads.  All the Greeks available for the options in the strategy
  • ETF/ETN intra-day indicative values are available (effectively NAV).   To obtain these add a “$” and the beginning, and “.IV” at the end of the symbol (e.g., $SPY.IV).   These are helpful in getting good price execution on orders.
  • Charts include the ability to add option IVs as a study.  This is a big help in looking at typical IV run-ups before earnings reports.
  • Options chains for VIX options use the VIX future price for the same expiration as the effective underlying.  This is necessary for the computed Greeks to be correct.
  • A recent improvement (December 2107) is that option spreads are now allowed for cash-settled index options (e.g., SPX, VIX) in IRAs.

Some complaints:

  • In the age of Google it is embarrassing how Schwab requires you to enter a ticker symbol exactly right before it will recognize it.  You must have symbology, ticker, capitalization, date, and strike price exactly right before it is recognized.  You’d think they could figure out that “VIX” was “$VIX”, “spy” was SPY, “c” was “C”, and that 61 was 61.00.
  • Email not supported for alerts—really?!
  • SSE wants everything in upper case.   If you type in symbols in lower case it capitalizes them.  OK so far.   However, if you try to enter in capital letters, matching what is on your displays it very unhelpfully lower cases those letters so that the symbol is not recognized.   My favorites are indexes like $VIX or intra-day indicative values (e.g., $VXX.IV) where you have to hold down the shift key for the “$” and then use lowercase for the rest. This is so wrong.  Just capitalize everything, OK?
  • The charts have a lot of nice features, but they have a “frequency centric” approach.  You must pick the frequency (e.g., 1 minute or daily) and then the chart then picks the duration (e.g., 5 days or 254 days).   This is bass ackwards—I want to pick the duration and then have the package provide the maximum frequency it will deign to provide—the higher the better.
  • Slow initial startup time.   Even with a fast computer, the package takes a long time to startup.   Switching layouts, or loading the layout from the central Schwab server extracts additional time.  They have added a “quick launch” option on the settings, but it doesn’t seem to make much difference.
  • The default on the colored “link” symbol in the upper right of many tools ties all the windows to the same ticker.   Generally, if I open multiple tools I”m comparing things so having them all sync’d to the same symbol is counterproductive.  To work around this I have to manually change the link to the “unlinked”, broken chain symbol—I think unlinked should be the default.    The link feature is nice if you want to click through your watch list and have a chart displayed for the highlighted symbol.

Some tips:

  • To activate the bracket capabilities go to account details, positions tab, select a symbol, push the actions button and then look for the “add brackets” choice
  • Default share/contract quantities can be set on a per symbol basis by going to general settings, trading tab, and then look for order quantity button
  • Typically I’m using multiple computers in the course of a day so I use the save as / load from Schwab server capability located under “file” on the main window.  This keeps my layout consistent between computers.   This should be a default choice for the user—local or server-based layout at startup.  Schwab now allows up to 5 different setups to be saved on their server.
  • If you find yourself frequently flipping between different tools (e.g., watch lists and charts), consider putting them on different tabs.  This avoids a lot of tool finding and you can flip contexts with a single mouse click. These tabs can be put on different displays if you have them.
  • If you are running an older version  I recommend you upgrade.  You don’t have to remove your current version of StreetSmart Edge, you can download the new version from the Schwab site and install the newer version.  I haven’t lost any settings.  Your current version shows up in the upper right-hand corner of the application.

Wish List

  • Ability to save multiple leg option orders for later reuse.  For example, if you want to monitor the mid-price of a call spread.
  • Greek calculations for options are using time to expiration in coarse 1-day increments.  This leads to significant errors when the time to expiration gets down to less than a week.  Using more precise time until expiration (e.g, 30 minutes) would give more accurate Greeks during the day.
  • Option charts using mid price (halfway between bid and ask) at some reasonable frequency, like 15 minutes, instead of relying on trade data which is infrequent for most options that are offered
  • Charts for options that have expired
  • Stop loss orders (both market and limit) that have a time delay parameter option that delays any action for a specified number of minutes.  This would reduce the chances that a position is blown out by a flash crash.

Performance notes

Summary of Defects (in my opinion)

  • SPX options that expire on Friday morning are not recognized as such until Monday morning!  If you have a calendar call spread that’s short the just expired option this is ugly.  If you have enough margin you can work around this by rolling up to a much higher strike.
  • Charts setups don’t remember that mode has been set to bar format.  They always go back to candlesticks on new charts
  • Uncapitalizing letters that are typed in as capital
  • If you enter a duplicate symbol in a watchlist your input is ignored—without explanation
  • Stock splits are not adjusted in  .IV charts

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Sunday, January 14th, 2018 | Vance Harwood