Lightspeed and Interactive Brokers offer services that focus on sophisticated, active traders. Both brokers provide investors with competitive pricing and hedge-fund-style, low latency trading platforms. While both companies seek to serve similar niche markets, features offered by each company are quite different. We will take an in-depth look at each company to help you decide which may be the right choice for your investing needs.
- Account Minimum: $10,000 (web and mobile), $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 Lightspeed and Interactive Brokers (IBKR) offer clients low latency platforms, suitable for active traders. Lightspeed’s straight-forward desktop trading platform, Lightspeed Trader, is designed for active traders, hedge funds, and institutions with direct market access. Lightspeed has multiple platforms, including a website and a mobile app, in addition to Sterling VolTrader, an advanced options evaluation and trading interface, and Eze EMS or efutures to trade futures. Lightspeed is designed for professionals and sophisticated traders and offers a great deal of customization, contingent orders, news, and research. While all the customization is nice, Lightspeed is not an all-in-one platform, so you have to use multiple platforms if you want to access certain features or assets.
Interactive Brokers has both a desktop platform, Trader Workstation, and two mobile apps. The company offers investors the opportunity to invest globally across 150 markets in 33 countries in stocks, ETFs, options, futures, currencies, bonds, mutual funds, and cryptocurrency from an impressive all-in-one platform, 24 hours a day, six days a week. Accounts can be funded in 24 currencies and users can trade assets denominated in multiple currencies. Traders are also able to scan world markets for undervalued stocks with the IBKR GlobalAnalyst tool. Additionally, IBKR offers access to real-time streaming data, charting, tools, research, and news on all the platforms.
While both companies offer a plethora of options for active traders, we give the edge in usability to Interactive Brokers. IBKR has consolidated all options and functionality into a singular platform, rather than having to utilize different platforms for different features as Lightspeed does.
Desktop Trade Experience
Lightspeed’s desktop platform, Lightspeed Trader, offers direct market access for active traders, hedge funds, and institutions. There are many options for customization including charts, watchlists, time and sales data and more. Switching back and forth between equities and options is easy with the click of a button at the top of the screen. All platforms offer streaming real-time data; however, you can only stream on one platform at a time. Investors can enter multiple orders simultaneously on Lightspeed Trader, Sterling VolTrader, and Eze EMS. Eze EMS even has the ability to allow you to stage orders for later entry.
Trader Workstation (TWS) is the desktop platform for Interactive brokers. TWS offers an abundance of functionality and features. TWS is designed for active traders who are looking for versatility and access to multiple products. TWS is customizable and provides trading, order management, portfolio management tools, and charting. Traders have access to a myriad of order types including, algorithmic trading, defining hotkeys to place orders quickly, and options to stage orders for later execution—either one at a time or in a batch. Investors can set a date and time for an order to be executed, or submit a conditional order that becomes active after specific parameters have been met. Orders can be placed, modified, and managed directly from the chart. Streaming real-time quotes, charting, and news are available across platforms, even if you're using multiple devices simultaneously.
Lightspeed and Interactive Brokers both offer superior levels of customization. That said, IBKR has a slight edge in this category because they are able to offer the streaming, real-time quotes across multiple devices simultaneously, while Lightspeed does not offer that functionality at this time.
Lightspeed’s mobile trading platform offers similar features and functionality as the desktop experience. Users still have access to real-time streaming data and account details, but it doesn't have the powerful analytics that are built into the desktop platform. While investors can trade equities and options on mobile, trading futures is not possible on the mobile app currently.
Interactive Brokers’ mobile app is commensurate with the computer-based trading platforms, with the built-in capacity to trade all the same asset types and execute the same orders. The mobile platform offers the same research capabilities and tools as the desktop client portal. IBKR also offers a streamlined version of its mobile app, IBKR Global Trader, but we are focused on the more robust IBKR mobile for the purposes of this comparison.
Because of its superior functionality and full array of asset types, we give the edge to IBKR when it comes to the mobile trading experience.
Range of Offerings
Lightspeed offers low fee transactions at high speeds for active and professional traders. While the company offers over 100 routing destinations and margin rates of 5%, it does not offer fractional share trading at this time. Trading for futures and cryptocurrencies also must be done on separate platforms. Investors at Lightspeed can trade:
- Futures Options
Interactive Brokers allows investors to fund their accounts with one of 24 currencies and trade any product in a different currency. IBKR also supports trading in fractional shares. This flexibility is offered through an all-in-one integrated account where investors can trade:
- Spot Currencies
- US Spot Gold
- Mutual Funds
- Hedge Funds
Because of the vast range of offerings, the one-stop trading platform, and the additional flexibility of fractional share trading, IBKR easily has the edge in this category.
Lightspeed offers a basic suite of order types, including market orders, limit orders, stop orders, and trailing stop orders. While they do offer a few more advanced options, the platform is relatively limited. The software trading setups, Eze EMS and Sterling Trader Pro, bring a different range of order options, but they also require a larger account minimum.
Interactive Brokers offers access to over 100 order types and algos, also offering third party algos to provide additional order type selections for clients. Good Til Canceled (GTC) orders are not supported by Interactive Brokers algos at this time.
For the sophisticated investor looking for the most options when it comes to placing an order, IBKR towers over the competition. For the average investor though, Lightspeed’s array of order types would be suitable.
Lightspeed’s platforms were developed for active stock and options traders, with a focus on speed, execution quality, and flexibility. Investors can also increase trade efficiency with Hot Keys, quickly locate hard-to-borrow stocks, develop advanced strategy routes, and automate order entry via API functionality. Lightspeed focuses on technology with:
- State-of-the-art precision in order routing and management and real time profit/loss capabilities
- Fast trade execution speed
- Highly customized Level II order entry system, programmable keys, and order entry features for immediate action
- Runs on Microsoft Windows and Intel technology for simple assimilation with in-house networks
- Advanced customization features
- Real-time analytical data with trading reporting and research capabilities
Interactive Brokers utilizes technology to provide clients with a way to instantly transmit orders from the chart using Hot Buttons, set alerts based on time, price, margin, and other criteria, choose from over 120 technical indicators and overlays to add to your charts, scan world markets for undervalued stocks, and fund your account in 24 currencies and trade assets denominated in multiple currencies. IBKR features some unique technology attributes:
- Accumulate/Distribute algo
- Bracket orders
- Exit strategy
- Customizable Trader Workstation (TWS) layout library
- Optimized trading in currency markets
- Split the spread orders
- TWS API supports automated trading
While the technological capabilities of both companies are superb, Interactive Brokers is able to prevail in this category because they offer it on an all-in-one platform.
- Lightspeed offers a sophisticated, low latency trading platform to active traders. More active traders, who meet monthly trading volume thresholds, can qualify for discounted trading fees. Per-share rates range from $0.0010 to $0.0045, depending on monthly volume, and per-trade rates fall below $4.50, to as low as $2.50. Investors who don't qualify for the active trader discounts can trade stocks and ETFs for $0.0045 per share, with a $1.00 minimum. Options are $0.60 per contract, with a $1.00 minimum), and futures cost $1.29 per side (plus exchange fees).
Interactive Brokers commissions and fee schedule can be a bit convoluted to figure out. Actual costs vary depending on whether the investor has an IBKR lite account or IBKR pro account, and depending on the country from which the client is trading. The company does offer low commissions on products across 150 global markets, with no added spreads, ticket charges, platform fees, or account minimums.
While Interactive Brokers does offer $0 commissions to IBKR lite users, not all features are available at that level, and pricing can be a bit difficult to navigate. For that reason, Lightspeed has the edge in this category with their straight-forward, low pricing, making it easy for clients to know what to expect.
Lightspeed customers have access to a streaming, professional news feed that is included in the basic market data package. The headlines come from a variety of news sources. Investors also have access to TipsRanks, which provides powerful investing tools that serve professional traders. This information is used by major institutions, such as banks, online brokers, and hedge funds. The analyst recommendations are based upon actual stock-picking performance, rank out of all analysts, success rate, and average return.
Interactive Brokers offers several free sources of real-time research, news, and analysis to clients. There are also several additional paid services that investors can subscribe to, many offering a free trial period. Research services are also available to investors with demo accounts and do not require an account application to be approved or funded.
With the abundance of free research and news that is easily accessible on their website, IBKR easily edges out the competition in this category.
Lightspeed offers investors Lightspeed Risk, an application that is designed to help trade managers and risk supervisors manage risk across multiple accounts. Users can monitor profit, loss, halted trading symbols, real-time trading activity, and access an automated, real-time short-locate system, which allows for electronic requests and ensures compliance regulation. Investors can utilize Lightspeed Risk to:
- Rapidly identify exposure to a particular symbol of interest
- See which traders are holding a halted trading symbol and how many shares
- Watch real-time trade executions for a trading group
- Display real-time profit or loss as a percentage of total account value
- Locate real-time electronic short sale requests and responses that ensure compliance with regulations
- Set trading limits, such as profit and loss, position size, and other trading limits
- Access portfolio margin and advanced options risk
- Custom design window layouts and all columns
Interactive Brokers provides both individual and institutional investors with PortfolioAnalyst, an innovative portfolio management software and account aggregation system. PortfolioAnalyst allows investors to consolidate, track, and analyze their portfolios. The system provides real-time monitoring, analysis and trading, advanced reporting, global support, benchmarks, risk metrics, and powerful on-the-go analytics.
Individual investors can add the following accounts to get an overall aggregate picture of their financial situation:
- Bank accounts, including checking and savings
- Credit cards
- Incentive plans
- Student loans and more
The PortfolioAnalyst tool also helps investors stay on track with asset allocation goals for easy portfolio rebalancing. Portfolio Checkup, the dashboard, provides key analytics including portfolio returns, risk measures, distribution by geography, asset class, sector, and even environmental, social and governance (ESG) ratings.
Because IBKR has the ability to link external accounts and get an overall financial picture, the company definitely has an advantage in portfolio analysis.
Lightspeed offers several resources for investor education, including:
- Options Trading Academy
- Active Trader Blog
- Live, interactive webinars
- Trading tutorial videos
Interactive Brokers has multiple free resources for investor education. Investors can start out at the IBKR Campus and find exactly the resource they need:
- Traders’ Academy
- Traders’ Insights
- IBKR Webinars
- IBKR Podcasts
- IBKR Quant Blog
- Student Trading Lab
- Traders’ Glossary
- Traders’ Calendar (International trading calendar)
- Library of short videos
Both companies offer a great deal of educational resources, but the expanse of educational resources is a bit more encompassing at IBKR. Interactive Brokers’ tutorials go beyond investing and also cover account dashboard utilization. Lightspeed’s educational resources are somewhat limited to providing mostly options investing education.
Customer service is available at Lightspeed via phone during domestic and international market hours, via email, or investors can use the online message to submit a question or concern.
IBKR provides 24-hour customer service each business day via regional Client Services Centers located through-out America, Europe, and Asia. While the company does have agents available to field calls, investors are encouraged to utilize the list of Quick Tips to answer questions without the need to call. Inbound communications sent via commercial email are not supported due to security and spam concerns. Existing clients as well as clients in the application phase are encouraged to submit formal inquiries via the Message Center located within Account Management or via the email link on the support page. IBKR offers live, online chat services to current and prospective clients 24 hours a day Monday through Friday, and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. EST on Sundays.
IBKR wins out in customer service due to the 24-hour customer service via phone and live chat during business days, while Lightspeed is only available during market hours.
Two-step verification is offered by Lightspeed for client accounts fund transfers by sending one-time-use passcodes to your mobile device. Wedbush provides excess Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) coverage for each client account carried by Wedbush on behalf of Lightspeed. Each account is covered up to $25,500,000 at no charge. SIPC provides coverage up to $500,000, of which a maximum of $250,000 applies to cash credit balances.
IBKR requires all users to be two-factor authenticated and does not allow users to partially or fully opt out. Mobile app users can log in with face or fingerprint recognition, or a passcode. Methods for completing this authentication are:
- IBKR Mobile Authentication
- Digital Security Card+
Client accounts at Interactive Brokers LLC are protected by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) for up to $500,000, with a cash sublimit of $250,000. Excess SIPC coverage provides up to an additional $30 million, with a cash sublimit of $900,000, subject to an aggregate limit of $150 million.
Both companies meet and exceed industry standards when it comes to security.
Both Lightspeed and Interactive Brokers offer low latency trading platforms, catering to active traders. Overall, however, we see that Interactive Brokers has been able to offer more value and stand out from the competition in almost every comparison category. From the all-in-one platform, the ability to aggregate portfolio analysis, the over 100 order types, the massive range of markets and tradable assets, and availability of fractional shares, Interactive Brokers is able to dominate several niches when it comes to serving sophisticated traders. Lightspeed will still have a niche with the highest volume traders looking for low-latency, but everyone else will find IBKR’s market breadth and trading capabilities more than enough for their needs.
Investopedia is dedicated to providing investors with unbiased, comprehensive reviews and ratings of online brokers. This year, we revamped the review process by conducting an extensive survey of customers that are actively looking to start trading and investing with an online broker. We then combined this invaluable information with our subject matter expertise to develop the framework for a quantitative ratings model that is at the core of how we compiled our list of the best online broker and trading platform companies.
This model weighs key factors like trading technology, range of offerings, mobile app usability, research amenities, educational content, portfolio analysis features, customer support, costs, account amenities, and overall trading experience according to their importance. Our team of researchers gathered 2425 data points and weighted 66 criteria based on data collected during extensive research for each of the 25 companies we reviewed.
Many of the brokers we reviewed also gave us live demonstrations of their platforms and services, either at their New York City offices or via video conferencing methods. Live brokerage accounts were also obtained for most of the platforms we reviewed, which our team of expert writers and editors used to perform hands-on testing in order to lend their qualitative point of view.
Read our full Methodology for reviewing online brokers.