Choosing a broker is an important step when investing. There are many different options available, so picking the right one for you is challenging. We compare investing in ETFs through Bolero and MEXEM, two brokers available to Belgian investors. The goal of this article is to help you find out which broker is best for you for investing in ETFs. We’ll compare the brokers based on their fees, convenience, the ease of setting up an account and importantly the safety of your assets.

The overview

The table shows an overview of how Bolero compares to MEXEM for different criteria. Read on to get the full details!

Bolero

✅ Pros of Bolero ❌ Cons of Bolero
Handles all taxes for you High fees
Integration with itsme No fractional shares
Cheaper fees for the ETF playlist Confusing interface
Not suited for monthly investing
No savings plans

Story of Bolero 🇧🇪

Bolero's website is fairly traditional for a bank!

Bolero is one of the first online brokers in Belgium and launched in 1999. The name Bolero stands for Belgian OnLine Exchange Realtime Operated. It's owned and run by KBC Bank and allows Belgians to invest in many different types of assets. Note that you don't have to be a KBC customer to use Bolero. Bolero has a wide range of ETFs to choose from and continues to be one of the most popular brokers in Belgium although it also charges some of the highest fees.

Fees for ETFs

Although Bolero recently reduced their pricing, unfortunately it's still one of the most expensive brokers in Belgium. As part of their new pricing, they launched the Bolero ETF playlist. Essentially, it reduces the price for a specific list of ETFs. They inspired themselves from DEGIRO's core selection in order to be competitive for more Belgians. For example, buying €1,000 of the IWDA ETF will cost you €5.00 in transaction fees.

Convenience

Savings plan ❌ No
Fractional shares ❌ No
Customer Support ✅ FAQ, phone, email
❌ No chat
TOB ✅ Bolero handles it
Dividend tax ✅ Bolero handles it
Reynders tax ✅ Bolero handles it
Declare account to the NBB ✅ No need

Bolero handles the transaction tax (TOB). They also automatically withhold and declare the 30% dividend tax on shares and distributing funds, as well as the Reynders tax on ETF profits. However, Bolero does not offer automated savings plans or fractional shares, which, combined with high fees, makes regular investing less practical, potentially necessitating larger, less frequent investments.

Setting up an account

🕰️ Time to open an account ❌ Process can take a few days
🙋 itsme ✅ Yes
📱 Mobile app ✅ Yes
💻 Web app ✅ Yes
🙂 Ease of use ⭐ 3/5
🧒 Children accounts ❌ No
💑 Joint accounts ✅ Yes

Creating a new account with Bolero is easy with itsme, but requires a Belgian phone number, and offers both individual and joint account options, with joint accounts only creatable via computer. Account approval can take a few days, but for KBC customers, this process is faster and allows easy linking of KBC current accounts for transactions. Bolero does not provide accounts for children.

Safety

Regulator FSMA
Past issues with the regulator ✅ None
Protection of financial assets €20,000
Cash safeguarded by deposit guarantee €100,000
Securities lending ✅ No
Payment for order flow ✅ No

Bolero, owned by Belgium's largest bank KBC, is regulated by the FSMA and has not had any known regulatory issues, providing a sense of safety for investors' assets. Bolero does not engage in securities lending or payment for order flow (PFOF).

The full review

Learn more about the pros and cons of Bolero in our review.

MEXEM

✅ Pros of MEXEM ❌ Cons of MEXEM
Cheap Not beginner-friendly
Large selection of ETFs Confusing interface of the app
Minimum deposit of €100 Doesn't help with all Belgian taxes
Fractional shares Based in Cyprus

Story of MEXEM 🇨🇾

MEXEM has a strong focus on traders.

MEXEM was launched in 2018 and grew across Europe quite rapidly as a fast growing broker. They formed an initial and crucial partnership with Interactive Brokers which allows them to offer a variety of investment choices. The broker LYNX also benefits from a partnership like this.

Fees for ETFs

MEXEM is one of the cheapest options for European investors. For instance, buying €1,000 of the popular ETF IWDA by iShares, that tracks the MSCI World index, would cost only €2.40. This makes it an attractive proposition for putting your savings to work.

Convenience

Savings plan ✅ Yes
Fractional shares ✅ Yes
Customer support ✅ FAQ, chat, email, Whatsapp
🇧🇪 TOB ✅ MEXEM handles it
🇧🇪 Dividend tax ❌ MEXEM doesn't handle it
🇧🇪 Reynders tax ❌ MEXEM doesn't handle it
🇧🇪 Declare your account to the NBB ❌ You have to do it yourself

MEXEM targets experienced traders, offers a range of complex order types but allows for fractional shares for euro-cost averaging strategies. While it excels in customer support, including WhatsApp, it requires investors to manually handle tax reports and declarations. MEXEM manages the stock transaction tax (TOB) but does not assist with dividend or Reynders taxes on ETF profits, and requires investors to declare their accounts to the National Bank of Belgium annually.

Setting up an account

🕰️ Time to open an account ✅ Within a day
🙋 itsme ❌ No
📱 Mobile app ✅ Yes
💻 Web app ✅ Yes
🙂 Ease of use ⭐ 3/5
🧒 Children accounts ❌ No
💑 Joint accounts ✅ Yes

MEXEM offer fast account openings and you should have your account set up within a day. A major drawback is that MEXEM doesn't use itsme. This means you'll have to get your ID card or passport out for identification. They don't support children accounts but you can create a joint account with your partner.

Safety

Regulator CySEC (Cyprus)
Past issues with the regulator ✅ No
Protection of financial assets €20,000
Cash safeguarded by deposit guarantee €100,000
Securities lending ❌ Yes (opt-in)
Payment for order flow ✅ No

Although MEXEM does participate in securities lending, it's entirely up to you whether you opt-in for the service. We found that MEXEM is quite transparent as a broker when it comes to this. Note that MEXEM is under the supervision of the CySEC which is the Cypriot regulator.

The full review

Discover all the pros and cons in our review of MEXEM.

Curvo: easier than a broker

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 Bolero or MEXEM, 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).

How Curvo works
Investing through Curvo is an easy way to invest well in Belgium. All portfolios are managed by NNEK, a Dutch investment firm licensed with the 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:

  • 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 your savings 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.
  • 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”.

Learn more on how it compares to investing through a broker.

Summary

In this article we highlighted the key differences between Bolero and MEXEM, two brokers accessible to Belgians. MEXEM is more cost-effective than Bolero if you invest in ETFs (even with Bolero's "playlist" discounts). But cost is not the only factor to take in consideration when you’re putting your savings to work. For instance, you should also take into account the ease of use of the app, or the difficulty of investing your savings on a monthly basis. We hope this comparison has helped you make a decision in choosing the best broker that suits you and your goals.