Reviews

Tornado Review: Here’s How it Compares to Robinhood and Webull

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Tornado (formerly called NVSTR), can be thought of as a combination of an online brokerage and a social network where users can connect with friends and learn from successful traders while managing their own portfolio. 

Tornado offers some compelling features, like automated portfolio optimization and research tools that also help differentiate it from Robinhood, Webull and other popular online brokerages.

This Tornado review will take a deep dive into these features and explain who stands to gain the most from signing up and using the service.

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Tornado is an online brokerage and stock trading platform that features social networking features designed to help you refine your investing strategy and discover new investment ideas.

Pros:
  • Has a best-in-class stock screener with more company insights than you'll find in Robinhood and Webull.
  • Provides automatic portfolio optimization based on your own custom settings at no additional cost.
  • The "Ideas" dashboard serves as a feature-rich watch list that can help you organize and track potential investments.
Cons:
  • Does not offer commission-free trades without a monthly subscription.
  • The social aspect of the platform can negatively influence your decision-making.
  • Lacks the technical research and analysis features that are essential for very active traders.
  • A relatively small number of asset types are available on the platform.

5 Things to Know About Tornado.com

  1. Tornado combines investing and networking, offering several features that allow you to connect with and learn from other investors. It claims to be “the only investing platform that makes you smarter every day.”
  2. It does not compare directly to any other investment app or online brokerage. Its features and functionality are unique, offering many things that competitors do not while lagging behind in a few areas. We’ll cover all the details in this review to help you decide if Tornado is the right fit for your needs.
  3. It offers one-click portfolio optimization. With the help of Nobel Prize winning technology, Tornado creates a recommended allocation based on your settings and preferences.
  4. It does not offer unlimited commission-free trades. Users have the option of paying $4.50 per trade or $4.99 per month for up to 25 commission-free trades.
  5. Users can earn a potentially sizable sign-up bonus, ranging in value from $9 to $1,000.

Tornado.com Basics

While there are many apps and platforms that make it easy to place online stock trades, Tornado is a brokerage that takes a different approach than Robinhood and many others in the industry by focusing on leveraging insights, connecting users with other investors and providing educational opportunities. Their goal is to help users become better investors, rather than simply providing access to as many users as possible.

Tornado allows users to connect with friends, other investors and industry experts with functionality that resembles a social network. You can see what stocks other users are buying and selling, discuss pros and cons, and get your questions answered directly by experienced professionals. These social features are among the primary ways that Tornado differentiates itself from competitors.

Another unique feature is Tornado’s ability to automatically optimize your portfolio. This functionality might appeal to investors who use robo-advisors like Betterment or automated investing platforms like M1 Finance.

When you open your account, Tornado asks a few questions about your financial goals, your tolerance for risk and your investment strategies. It uses that data, as well as the settings in your account and your investing “ideas” (more on that shortly), to create a recommended portfolio optimization. You can optimize your portfolio with a single click to take advantage of this time-saving feature.

Investment Options

Here are a few key facts about the different ways to invest on Tornado.

Investment OptionAvailable?
StocksYes
ETFsYes
Fractional SharesNo
OptionsNo
Short SellingYes
MarginYes (minimum balance of $3,000).

There are no minimum deposit requirements, but you need a balance of at least $3,000 to use the portfolio optimization feature.

Account Options

Taxable accounts are available for U.S. residents 18 years of age and older. Currently, joint accounts and retirement accounts (IRAs) are not available. 

Company Basics

Tornado was formerly known as NVSTR. The platform was founded by Bernard George and Patrick Aber in 2015. Both of the founders had experience in the hedge fund industry and wanted to make investing accessible to more people. The company was rebranded as Tornado in July 2021.

At the time of the rebrand, a relationship with new investors was announced. E-commerce veteran Mark Lore, former New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez and Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy invested a total of $10 million into Tornado

George currently serves as the CEO. Tornado’s parent company Nvstr Financial LLC is registered with FINRA and the SEC, and is a member of SIPC. 

Sign-Up Bonus

Tornado offers new users a sign-up bonus with value determined at random that ranges from $9 to $1,000, making it one of the best ways to get free stock as well as one of the top sites that pay you to sign up.

The bonus cannot be withdrawn for one year and you must place a trade within three months to keep it. You can also earn additional bonuses by referring other users.

Who Is Torando.com For?

Tornado is ideal for two different types of users:

  1. Beginning investors. Anyone who wants to learn more about investing will appreciate the insights and education that are available on the platform. The social features, trading simulator, and other learning opportunities are ideal for investors who want to improve. 
  2. Passive Investors. Thanks to its portfolio optimization functionality, Tornado could be viewed as an alternative to robo-advisors. The monthly subscription fee of $4.99 could be easily justified (depending on the size of your portfolio) for passive investors who want to minimize fees. Investing with Tornado and occasionally using the portfolio optimization tools may suffice for some passive investors.

It’s equally important to understand the type of investor that is not well served by Tornado. High-volume traders and short-term traders that need access to powerful analytical tools will be better off with other platforms. Plus, the fee structure of Tornado is not ideal for anyone who consistently places more than 25 trades per month. 

The tools of other platforms, like Webull, are better for technical traders. 

Learn more in our Webull review.

Key Features

There are several important features that make Tornado different from its competitors. To decide if Tornado is the right choice for you, you’ll need to consider these features and how they fit into your own investing style and needs.

#1. Social Connectivity

Tornado is one of the few investing platforms that offers social networking features, and there are several different ways you can connect and interact.

Connecting with Other Users

With a Tornado user profile, you’re able to connect with your friends and family members who are on the platform, as well as other users you don’t know personally. When you connect with another user, you’re able to see what they’re invested in. 

Tornado also shows you how the other user’s portfolio is diversified with a percentage for each investment, and overall performance for each asset (you can’t see dollar amounts). 

Additionally, Tornado ranks the portfolios of users, essentially gamifying the platform. If a user is listed as “unranked,” that means they’re in the bottom 50%. If the user is in the top half, you’ll see the exact percentile.

Here’s an example of what that all looks like, taken from a demo account that was provided to us by Tornado for this review.

The Tornado.com connections dashboard
You can see the overall performance of your connections (but not specific portfolio amounts or allocations).

Thought Leaders

Thought Leaders are famous investors like Warren Buffett and Carl Icahn. You can select one of the thought leaders and see some of the long-term investments they hold. This data is gathered from publicly available sources and the Thought Leaders are not associated or affiliated with Tornado.

Example of some of the Thought Leaders whose ideas you can browse on Tornado
Clicking “View Ideas” gives you insight into the portfolios of these top investors.

Ask a Community Thought Leader

Community Thought Leaders, not to be confused with the Thought Leaders mentioned above, are highly experienced members of the Tornado community who are compensated for their involvement. 

You can ask Community Thought Leaders questions about specific stocks and ETFs. This one-on-one access is a very unique feature of Tornado and could easily justify the $4.99 per month fee for beginner investors or anyone interested in learning from experts, although it’s important to remember that these individuals are not necessarily certified financial advisors.

Pros and Cons

Tornado users are able to list pros and cons for any stock or ETF. You can enter the symbol of any investment and see the pros and cons created by other users. You’re able to agree or disagree with the pros and cons listed by others. The data you gain from checking the pros and cons of an investment is valuable information that helps in your own decision-making.

Tornado's pros and cons screen works like a positive and negative news feed for each idea.
The Tornado pros and cons feed for a single idea — in this case, Amazon.

Messaging

You’re able to send a message to any of your connections and ask questions about any of their investments.

Tornado has its own internal messaging system.
Tornado has its own internal messaging system.

Top Performers

The Top Performers list shows the top 10% of stocks being traded, based on performance.

Tornado's Top Performing assets screen.
You can see the best performing ideas over a given time period.

#2. Ideas

Tornado is built around “ideas” and users sharing ideas with each other. Ideas are also helpful for keeping track of investments you’re considering, and they’re a critical factor used by the Optimizer that recommends investments for you.

You can share your ideas and thoughts on any stock or ETF. By default, your ideas are visible to your connections, but you can change this in the settings if you want your ideas to remain private. To see the ideas of the people you’re connected with, simply view their profile. If they have any ideas that are public, you’ll be able to see them.

Ideas can be used in your research process. Similar to the pros and cons listed by other users, ideas allow you to see how other users view a particular stock or ETF. You may find ideas that address things you wouldn’t have considered on your own.

When you create an idea, you’re able to enter data like your expected rate of return and your level of conviction. You also decide if you want the idea to be included in the Optimizer, which means it will be a factor that’s used in the one-click optimization of your portfolio. Simply flip the toggle off if you don’t want an idea to influence the Optimizer.

You can browse a list of your ideas at any time.

Tornado's main ideas dashboard.
The primary “ideas” dashboard within Tornado.

From the “Explore” link under “Ideas,” you can browse categorized ideas entered by other users. For example, you can see a list of “Value Stocks” or stocks that pay “Juicy Dividends.” 

Exploring ideas in this way can be extremely helpful for finding investment opportunities based on what you’re looking for. The accessible ideas become a filtering system that allows Tornado users to find the right investment opportunities. When you’re viewing the ideas created by other users, you can save the ones you like to your own ideas list.

One of the challenges new investors often face is not knowing what to invest in. For example, you can easily create an account at Robinhood or another brokerage, but how do you know what to do next? Tornado helps investors overcome this problem by always having ideas that are easily accessible. New users can browse the list of value stocks or check out other recommendations to find the options that are right for them. 

#3. Portfolio Optimization

The one-click portfolio optimization offered by Tornado is a standout feature. You can automatically rebalance your portfolio at any time. As stated by Tornado, “the goal of the Optimizer is to build a portfolio from your investment ideas that maximizes your expected return while staying within an acceptable level of projected risk.”

Tornado Projection Screen
The primary portfolio optimization dashboard.

When you create your user account, you’ll select a level of risk: conservative, moderate, or aggressive. This is an important setting because it will be used by the Optimizer to determine the appropriate suggestions. You can change this setting at any time from within the Optimizer.

The Optimizer also allows you to access and adjust advanced settings like allowing short sales, portfolio volatility, minimum dividend income, max allocation for a single stock and more. All of these settings will impact the results you get when you run the Optimizer.

Because the Optimizer is based on your ideas, you’ll need to enter ideas for it to function. The Optimizer will look at the stocks and ETFs you’ve selected, consider the volatility of those investments and how closely they’re correlated to each other. Then it will choose the allocation that maximizes your return while also considering your other objectives like your level of risk or desired dividend income.

The Portfolio Optimizer solves the problem of not knowing how much to invest in each stock or ETF. The recommendations are based on your own preferences and the optimal way to allocate or diversify. Tornado does not make any trades or investments without your approval, so you’re always able to adjust or disregard the advice provided through the Optimizer. 

Once the Optimizer runs, all of the suggested trades will be listed. You can authorize Tornado to make all of the trades with a single click.

Tornado is able to serve as a viable alternative to robo advisors thanks to the Optimizer’s functionality. Passive investors will appreciate being able to quickly optimize or reallocate holdings at any time. However, you’ll need to provide the ideas for the Optimizer to work, so it’s not a good option if you want to be completely hands-off.

Since the Optimizer is so closely tied to your ideas, you can see the importance of saving your ideas. The Optimizer considers details like the level of conviction you’ve set for each idea, so be sure to take this seriously when you’re creating ideas or saving the ideas of other users. Adjusting the variables of your ideas will impact the results of the optimization.

#4. Advanced Stock Insights

Tornado offers a best-in-class stock insights screen that can be used to evaluate any stock or ETF. You can see details like PE ratios, debt, forward EPS for the year and quarter, market cap, projected revenue growth and more.

The chart also offers some really useful features. Instead of being limited to a specific range, like five years, you can view the stock or ETF’s history all the way back to its inception with the “max” setting. You can also compare it to SPY with a handy overlay that gives an idea of how the stock or fund has performed in comparison to the broader market.

By clicking on the “compare” link, you can compare the fundamentals of any stock to closely associated companies or any other stock of your choice.

These features are all extremely helpful for quickly evaluating investments, and they’re not available on every platform. For example, Tornado provides access to far more data than Robinhood.

In addition, you can browse news headlines related to the company, see pros and cons that have been entered by other users, and see the ideas of your connections that involve that particular stock. Of course, you can also create your own idea, which will be used by the Optimizer.

You’ll also see an “ask someone” button that allows you to ask a question to a Community Thought Leader or any of your connections.

#5. Trading Simulator

When you create your Tornado account, there’s an option to make it a simulated account, which means you won’t be doing any real trading or using real money. The simulated account is ideal for new investors who want to learn and test things without taking any financial risk. There are no fees to open and use a simulated account.

Simulated accounts work the same as regular accounts. You can take advantage of the social networking features and research stocks with all of the same tools as a live account. You can also create ideas, invest in any stocks or ETFs or your choice, and try the Optimizer to see how it works. And when you’re ready to switch from a simulated account to a live trading account, all of your ideas, settings and account customizations will be saved.

When you’re in the dashboard, you can differentiate simulated traders from those who have a live brokerage account by viewing their user profile picture. If the profile picture has a circle around it, the user has a live brokerage account.

Fees

With most investing apps and brokerages rushing to offer commission-free trades, Tornado takes a different approach. Tornado charges $4.50 per trade, or users can pay $4.99 per month for up to 25 commission free trades each month. Additional trades over the limit of 25 per month are assessed a fee of $4.50 per trade.  

The fee structure is set up in a way that it makes sense for anyone who wants to make just one or two trades per month to pay for the monthly subscription. The only users who won’t be on a monthly subscription are those who rarely make trades (and simulated accounts).

Other fees are listed below:

  • ACATS Outgoing (per security or entire account) –  $75
  • Returned Check/ACH/Wire – $30
  • ACH Notice of Change/Correction – $5
  • Paper Trade Confirm – $2
  • Paper Statement – $5
  • Tax Statement – $5
  • Paper Prospectus – $2.50
  • Margin Sell Out – $25
  • Short Forced Buy In – $25
  • Voluntary Reorganization – $50

Tornado.com Drawbacks

Tornado has a lot to offer, including functionality and features that aren’t offered by competitors. However, there are also some drawbacks to the platform that you need to consider.

#1: The Social Connectivity May Lead to Bad Investment Decisions

Getting insights from friends and the community can be helpful, but following the guidance of others may not lead to the best investments. Reading the opinions of other users may lead to bad decisions that ultimately cost you money. 

Modern investment platforms give retail investors access and options they didn’t have just a few years ago. It’s important to keep in mind that the opinions you see on a platform like Tornado that combines investing and networking may be coming from someone who has no more experience than you. Many retail investors today make frequent trades in an attempt to beat the market, which has the potential to lead to big losses.

#2: Limited Tools for Technical Analysis

Tornado offers solid tools for insights and research, but technical traders are likely to appreciate more advanced analytical tools available on a platform like Webull.

#3: Monthly Subscription Fee

The $4.99 per month fee can be justified by investors who actively use several of the key features available with Tornado, but the fee could be a significant turn-off for some users. With many other apps and online brokerages now offering commission-free trades, an investor needs a compelling reason to pay a $4.99 monthly subscription.

#4: User Interface

The user interface is slightly clunky and not always the most user-friendly. In some cases, it’s challenging to figure out how things work or where to go. It’s certainly not the worst user interface, but compared to competitors like Public and Robinhood that emphasize ease of use, Tornado falls behind in this area.

Tornado Review Summary

Although there are many investing apps and online brokerages out there, Tornado truly stands out as being different from the rest. The combination of social networking functionality, options for simulated trading and capabilities for automatically optimizing your portfolio all make it worth considering.

However, the $4.50 fee per trade or $4.99 monthly subscription may be a turn-off to some investors who prefer commission-free trades with other platforms like Robinhood and Webull. The features and functionality can easily justify the $4.99 monthly fee for those investors who will put that functionality to good use.

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Marc Andre is a personal finance blogger at Vital Dollar, where he writes about saving, managing and making money. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife and two kids, and has been a full-time blogger and internet marketer since 2008.

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