Choosing a broker is an important step when investing. Yet there are many different options available in Belgium, so picking the right one for you can be challenging. We compare investing in ETFs through Bolero and Keytrade, two brokers available to Belgians. We also look at the difficulties of investing through a broker, and see how Curvo solves them. By the end, you'll be able to determine which option suits you best to invest your savings.
Why a broker
For many making their first steps into the world of investing, their bank is the one-stop shop for anything related to finance. Unfortunately, they are likely not your best partner when it comes to investing.
First, they try to sell their expensive actively managed funds to you. In an active fund, the fund managers try to outsmart other investors in search for a higher return. But the European finance regulators found out that the majority of them don't succeed in beating the average. On top of that, the bank charges hefty fees to invest in the fund. Good for the bank, bad for you. You're better off investing through another means.
Through a broker, you gain access to the financial markets, where you can buy stocks, ETFs, bonds and even some more complex products like derivatives. It's more cost-effective than investing in an active fund offered by a bank.
Most banks offer brokerage services. Yet again, it's the most expensive option. Specialised brokers offer a better experience at a cheaper cost.
So let's compare two popular specialised brokers for Belgians: Bolero and Keytrade. Specifically, we are going to see how they differ on cost, trust, and ease of use.
Launched in 1999, Bolero was one of the first specialised brokers in Belgium. They have a wide range of ETFs and stocks to choose from.
We managed to open up an account with Bolero in less than ten minutes. The first step is to head to bolero.be, choose your language (French or Dutch, there’s no English) and then click on the button to open an account.
Handles all the taxes for you
As Bolero is Belgian, they automatically withhold and declare all relevant taxes for you: the transaction tax (TOB), the dividend tax as well as the Reynders tax. This is a big advantage to many other foreign brokers.
Owned by KBC
Bolero is owned by Belgium's largest bank, KBC. And as far as we know, they've never been in trouble with the FSMA, the Belgian regulator. This provides us with a sense of safety for our assets, especially if we're investing a large chunk of our life savings.
Unfortunately Bolero is one of the most expensive brokers in Belgium. Buying €1,000 worth of VWCE costs €5.00 in fees, and increases as you invest higher amounts. Especially when you invest on a monthly basis through a euro-cost averaging strategy, the costs will have a significant negative impact on your return.
Bolero charges a higher TOB for certain ETFs
Bolero surprised everyone when in July 2021 they increased the Belgian transaction tax of VWCE, a popular ETF among Belgians, to 1.32%. This is much higher than the 0.12% rate that other brokers in Belgium are still charging. They subsequently also raised the TOB tax rate for other ETFs to 1.32%.
It is strange that brokers charge a different tax rate for the same ETF. The reason seems that the law around the Belgian transaction tax is unclear, so brokers interpret it slightly differently. If you want to know the details, feel free to read our resource on the topic.
You can only buy whole shares
Bolero does not offer fractional shares. You're forced to buy whole units of shares. Combined with the high fees, it becomes very impractical to invest on a monthly basis when using Bolero. You almost have to resort to consolidating your monthly investments into large and infrequent contributions.
Bolero shows a lot of information on their interface. But it appears very cramped, especially on smaller screens like on mobile. This can be intimidating for new investors, because you may not know what all of this additional information means. You may also not be able to distinguish between important information and less relevant details:
👍 of Bolero
- Handles all Belgian taxes for you: including the dividend tax and the Reynders tax.
- Belgian 🇧🇪: Since it's Belgian, no need to declare your account to the Belgian National Bank.
- Owned by KBC: as it’s one of the largest banks in Belgium, we know that our assets will most likely be safe.
👎 of Bolero
- Price: Bolero is among the most expensive brokers in Belgium. The transaction costs will eat up our returns especially if we’re investing small amounts of money every month or quarter.
- No fractional shares: you have to buy whole shares which means you need to accumulate sufficient savings in order to make it worthwhile for you as an investor.
- Transfer fees: if you wish to transfer your assets away from Bolero to another brokerage, it’s very expensive at €50 per position.
- Ill-suited for monthly investing: investing a part of your income every month is the best system to adopt good savings habits. But this is impractical with Bolero because of the high fee per transaction. You'll lose out too much return on the broker fee.
Keytrade has been around since 1998 and was one of the first online brokers in Belgium. Their offer has grown a lot since then as they have full banking services now, including lending. In 2005, Keytrade Bank was acquired by Groupe Crelan (formerly Crédit Agricole) and is now part of the Crédit Mutuel Arkéa Group.
You can’t set up an account through the app, you need to go through their website instead. The registration process takes a few minutes and starts by heading to their website. Then choose your language of preference (French, Dutch or English) and click on the button to become a client.
You can use itsme to pre-fill your information, else you need your identity card and an e-ID card reader. The eID card reader setup can be painful and time consuming, especially if you need to add a connective plugin to make your card reader work!
Once you filled in all the required information, you need to wait until your account gets approved. Unfortunately this can take a while.
Very long approval times
We registered for an account on October 31st 2022. But as of January 24th 2023, or 85 days later, our account was still pending approval! Similar slow waiting times have been shared by other Keytrade customers online. So if you're wanting to get started investing quickly, Keytrade may not be the best option.
Very high fees
If you thought Bolero was expensive, I have bad news for you. Keytrade is even pricier. Buying €1,000 of the VWCE ETF will cost €24.95. This is €9.95 more than Bolero. As you pay this fee for every purchase, it will compound to a lot of money (and missed returns) on the long term.
Handle all taxes for you
You can only buy whole shares
Similar to Bolero, Keytrade does not offer fractional shares. You're forced to purchase whole units of shares. Combined with the high fees, it becomes very impractical to invest on a monthly basis when using Keytrade. You almost have to resort to consolidating your monthly investments into large and infrequent contributions, like every six months.
Similar to Bolero, the app is full of unnecessary details. This makes the mobile experience quite poor and fairly difficult to find the information you need to make an investment decision.
Automated investments through Keyplan
Keytrade offers an automated investment option called Keyplan. They claim it's "free" and you can start investing from only €25. However, there are a couple of downsides to Keyplan:
- The real costs are hidden in the funds. Fund managers charge a fee for managing their funds. The total cost of a fund is indicated by the total expense ratio (TER). Index-based ETFs such as VWCE usually have a TER around 0.20%. But Keyplan's funds are a lot more expensive. For example, the TER of the funds in their Balanced portfolio vary between 1.46% and 1.87%. So even though Keyplan itself is "free", the fees are hidden in the running costs of the funds you invest in.
- You'll pay dividend tax on some funds. In Belgium, any dividend you perceive is taxed at 30%. Accumulating funds, which directly reinvest dividends, are a way around this tax. On the other hand, distributing funds distribute their dividends, which means they're taxable. Unfortunately, some of Keyplan's funds are distributing. So be careful in your choice of funds if you want to avoid paying the dividend tax!
👍 of Keytrade
- Taxes: they handle everything for you.
- Belgian 🇧🇪: this means you don't need to declare your account to the Belgian authorities like you have to do for foreign accounts.
- They reimburse incoming transfers: they will reimburse up to €2,500 in cash if you have transfer costs for moving over your shares from another broker to Keytrade. This is one of the most generous packages we've seen brokers offer!
👎 of Keytrade
- Extremely slow account opening: it took us close to three months.
- Expensive: Keytrade is one of the most expensive brokers in Belgium.
- Ill-suited for monthly investing: just like Bolero, Keytrade's fees are too high to justify investing on a monthly basis.
- No fractional shares: you'll have to buy whole units of shares. This means you may have to have savings for six months before buying your shares.
- High outgoing transfer fees: at €42.35 per line, Keytrade charges high fees for moving your positions to another broker.
The easier way: Curvo
When you choose a broker, you then have to figure out what to buy, when to buy, understand the tax implications of your decisions, rebalance your investments and make sure they stay in line with your goals and risk tolerance.
We realised the difficulties of investing through brokers like Bolero and Keytrade. So our approach is different and that's why we created Curvo: the right investment decisions are made for you so you don't have to worry. We work together with NNEK, a Dutch investment firm licensed by the Dutch regulator (AFM), who manages the investments.
The challenges of investing through a broker
There are quite a few challenges when it comes to investing yourself through a broker:
- The allocation of your portfolio is in your hands: figure out how to build the right allocation that meets your long-term goals.
- You need to do your own homework: figuring out how to start and understanding the intricacies of investing in ETFs takes an effort. Yet it's important, because in investing the devil is often in the details.
- It takes time: send money to your broker monthly and then make the purchases.
- Costly for monthly contributions: if you wish to invest on a monthly basis, you’ll have to pay a lot in broker fees. Also, as you buy units and can’t buy fractions, you’ll always be left with cash on your account.
- Learn how to rebalance: if you have multiple funds in your portfolio, how will you rebalance? Quarterly or yearly? How do you decide?
- Keep track of your portfolio: you may have to set up a spreadsheet to stay on top of things!
- Understand taxes: this can be complicated and they also often change.
- Discipline: it requires self-confidence and discipline to stay the course.
- Brokers want you to trade: the majority of brokers make money on you trading so a “passive” approach isn’t in their best interest.
Curvo solves all the complexities of good investing
Brokers push you to trade and to pick individual companies to invest in. Rather than picking individual stocks such as Amazon or Tesla, index funds are a way to buy the whole market, across all sectors and regions of the world. Essentially, you own a small portion of thousands of companies throughout the world. Instead of betting on a particular company, you are placing a bet on the global economy.
Rather than having to pick the right stocks or ETFs among the thousands available through these brokers, you invest in a portfolio that is tailored to you and your goals. These portfolios are composed of globally diversified index funds, meaning you earn a piece of the growth of the global economy, and they're best suited to make the most of your savings long term. And they're secure, as they're managed by NNEK, a Dutch investment firm under supervision of the regulator in the Netherlands (AFM).
We believe that investing is an important tool for our generation to improve our financial well-being and to prepare for our future. We are building Curvo to fulfil that vision, by making good investing easy and accessible to all.
👍 of Curvo
- Diversified portfolio set up for you: The best portfolio for you is built by NNEK based on your time horizon and financial goals. Simply answer a short questionnaire and you’ll get everything set up for you.
- Automated savings plans: Through Curvo’s app you can set up a monthly contribution from €50. That means that money is automatically invested for you in your portfolio. Put everything on autopilot.
- Fractional shares: All the money you send towards your portfolio is fully invested by NNEK. No cash is left on the side.
- No TOB: Significant savings as the portfolios aren’t liable for the Belgian transaction tax (or "TOB"). This saves you between 0.12% and 1.32% for every time you buy or sell!
- Sustainable investments: Your investments focus on one guiding principle: don’t invest in companies that are considered destructive to the planet. This means that sectors like non-renewable energy, vice products, weapons and controversial companies are all excluded.
- Withdraw at any time: There’s no long-term contract or exit fees if you wish to stop investing.
- Project yourself into the future: Through Curvo you can see how much your portfolio is expected to be worth in the future. You can answer questions like “how will increasing my monthly contribution by €50, €100 or €200 affect my long-term savings?” to give a concrete idea for the “future you”.
- Business model aligned with your goals: Brokers want you to trade, yet buy-and-hold works best for most people.
- Partnership with itsme: Your data is safe and secure through our partnership with itsme.
👎 of Curvo
- Price: it’s more expensive than investing yourself through a broker. As you pay a yearly fee on your assets, it’s more expensive in the long run than managing the investments yourself.
- You can’t choose what to invest in: You invest in a portfolio of index funds that's tailored to you and composed of over 7,500 companies. But you can’t select the stocks or particular ETFs that you want to invest in.
- You have to declare your account: As your account is held in the Netherlands, you’ll have to declare your account to the National Bank of Belgium. We provide clear step-by-step instructions to do so. And don’t worry, there’s no extra tax to pay or anything like that.
Comparison of Bolero vs Keytrade vs Curvo
In this article we highlighted the key differences between Bolero and Keytrade, two brokers accessible to Belgians. Bolero is slightly more cost-effective way to invest your savings as their fees are a bit lower than Keytrade. But cost is not the only factor to take in consideration when you’re putting your savings to work. For instance, should also take into account the app experience.
We also highlighted the challenges of investing yourself through a broker. We built Curvo to make good investing easy and accessible to all Belgians, and we explained its benefits. Feel free to explore Curvo's app if you wish to learn more.
Questions you may have
What's the best broker?
The answer is: it depends on what's important to you! Brokers vary in terms of convenience, safety and price. We suggest you go through our list of best brokers in Belgium for a complete comparison.
What is best to invest in as a beginner?
There are many ways to invest your money in Belgium. We think index investing, or investing in index funds or ETFs, is the best way for most people to grow their wealth. But if you're looking for other options, look at our list of investment apps in Belgium.
What you should do now
- Determine if you're more of an active or passive investor. Our comparison can help you decide.
- Consider if a broker is the right way for you to invest.
- If you want to manage your investments through a broker, assess if Bolero or Keytrade suits you better based on the pros and cons we highlighted. Or explore one of the many other brokers available to Belgians.
- But if you want to spend the least amount of time managing your investments, Curvo may be a fit!