Thinkorswim isn't exactly a run-of-the mill
. The firm launched in 1999 in Chicago and targets self-directed
traders, particularly those specializing in buying and selling
options and derivatives.
TD Ameritrade (
) acquired it in 2009 for $606 million.
Rather than make major changes, it retained Thinkorswim's
headquarters in the Windy City and kept its trading platform,
client support and technology team.
Thinkorswim -- one of the site cited in the
Best Online Brokers
survey -- says its distinctive capabilities offer research,
charts and historical data that yield traders a competitive
The site targets "sophisticated investors who trade equities
and derivatives," said Steven Quirk, Thinkorswim senior vice
It also offers trading platforms in mutual funds, exchange
traded funds, fixed income, futures and foreign exchanges.
What appeals most to savvy investors is its integrated trading
platform, said Quirk: "It's all integrated -- equity, options,
stocks, futures and foreign exchanges."
Clients can trade all asset classes in one place for one-stop
buying and selling.
While many investors focus on equities, Thinkorswim has seen a
spike in options trading, which involves buying or selling an
instrument at a price on or before a specific date. Options used
to compose 9% of its trading. By 2012, such trading had rocketed
to 40% of all transactions. More than 80,000 clients placed their
first options trade in the past 12 months.
Overall, Thinkorswim traders are on the go; 8% of its daily
trading arises from mobile phones, says Kim Hillyer, a TD
Ameritrade spokeswoman. Mobile devices help traders
as they golf or dine. "They can't get back to their laptop, and
mobile is one way to close a trade," Quirk said.
Thinkorswim's OnDemand feature provides a historical overview
of the market and replays any trading day since January 2009. If
traders want to checkApple (
), they can see what it was trading at a year ago and view
economic and historical forces that affected the market.
"You're seeing the whole movie, including news on technology
and historical trading," Quirk said.
To help investors conduct research, Thinkorswim includes news
feeds and videos from CNBC in America, Europe and Asia.
It also offers chat rooms where investors discuss trading and
elicit feedback from fellow traders. "People are watching the
news, formulating an idea and want to validate with like-minded
people. They don't want to make an investment as an island,"
Adam Warner, author of "Options Volatility Trading: Strategies
for Profiting From Market Swings," traded on Thinkorswim and got
into top charting and analytics. "It's easy to read a stock's
volatility history, how the stock price has gone up and down," he
Warner also adapted quickly to its trading platform.
"It's very intuitive," he said. "It's not that expensive, and
its technology is as good as anyone's."
What's the symbolism of its name, Thinkorswim?
Quirk said it doesn't really mean anything: "No hidden
meaning. What's a Google or a Yahoo?"