Pull up a chair and enjoy the investment platform price war

We love a price war. And it looks like one is really getting going among the online fund supermarkets and brokers. This week Hargreaves Lansdown’s new charging structure kicked off with most clients being charged a basic levy of 0.45% of their assets every year.

That makes them cheaper for most people than they were (particularly given that they have also negotiated down substantially the management fees of the big funds they sell on). But it still leaves them at the top end in terms of overall pricing.

So, who’s the cheapest? That’s a much more complicated question than you might think. The new charges from the brokers might be transparent, but they most certainly aren’t simple. The firms all charge in such different ways that it is hard to make a direct comparison. Instead, the best deal for you will depend on how much you have invested and what kind of funds you invest in.

If you haven’t much money invested (well under £100,000), you are usually better off with a broker that charges a low percentage of assets under management. Charles Stanley is one to look at here – it charges 0.25% a year.

If you have more than that, you should look to those that charge fixed fees (because the more money you have, the lower a fixed fee will be as a percentage of your overall portfolio).

Here (if you aren’t too nervous of putting money in Scotland to look at it), Alliance Trust offers pretty good prices, as does Interactive Investor.

Monevator.com also points towards the “intriguing” iWeb. This new Halifax-owned service doesn’t charge fees on individual savings accounts (Isas) or trading accounts, but instead relies on “trading frequency” to generate returns. So, if you are a “disciplined infrequently trading investor”, it could work out pretty well for you.

The table below shows some of the better brokers and the cost structure they offer. However, it isn’t comprehensive and there is no one-size-fits-all solution. We’ll be putting up a longer version at Moneyweek.com soon, so you will need to look at that and do some sums based on your own investments before you can see what will work for you.

But once that is done, there’s one more thing you might want to do before you switch – haggle. Several clients of Hargreaves Lansdown have recently taken to online financial forums to “boast that they have been able to secure better deals after threatening to transfer”, says The Daily Telegraph.

How much better? They claim that, with over £100,000 invested, they have been given a “special charge” of 0.25% a year. That’s significantly less than the 0.45% charged to most people with under £250,000.

Is it true? Hargreaves says that “from time to time, exceptional arrangements may be appropriate”. Bestinvest has also been offering deals and Mark Polson of industry analyst Lang Cat tells The Daily Telegraph that “we are aware of a number of providers who are offering account fee discounts and other reductions on fees to retain customers”.

We expect prices to keep falling from here as those special deals end up being the basic price for everyone. But in the meantime if you think you are paying too much, call and ask to pay less. It looks like it might just work.

Company Platform charge Dealing costs Exit fees
iWeb (www.iweb-sharedealing.co.uk) £25 account opening charge. Sipp: £22.50 a quarter under £50k; £45 over £5 Yes
Interactive Investor (www.iii.co.uk) £20 per quarter (dropped if you also have a Sipp); Sipp: £144 a year £10 (first £20 per quarter knocked off quarterly fee) + frequent trader discount Yes
Alliance Trust Savings (www.alliancetrustsavings.co.uk) £22.50 per quarter. Sipp: £186 a year £12.50 + frequent trader discount Yes
Charles Stanley Direct (www.charles-stanley-direct.co.uk) 0.25% a year on first £500,000 of funds, then 0.15%; 0.25% on shares & ETFs (max £150). Sipp: £120 a year £0 on funds; £10 on ETFs and shares Yes
Cavendish Online (www.cavendishonline.co.uk) 0.25% a year £0 on funds; 0.1% on ETFs and shares No
Hargreaves Lansdown (www.hl.co.uk) 0.45% a year on first £250k of funds; 0.25% on next £750k. Shares Isa: 0.45% p.a. (max £45) on ETFs, shares and bonds. Sipp: 0.45% p.a. (max £200) charge on same £0 on funds; £11.95 on ETFs and shares + frequent trader discount Yes
Youinvest (www.youinvest.co.uk) 0.2% p.a. on funds (max. £200); Sipp: £5 a quarter for £10K or less; £15 on £10K to £20K; £25 on 20K+ £4.95 on funds; £9.95 on ETFs and shares + frequent trader discount Yes
Fidelity (www.fidelity.co.uk) 0.35% p.a. on first £250,000 of funds and ETFs; £5.10 monthly for share account £9 for ETFs and shares No
The Share Centre (www.share.com) £1.80 to £14.40 a month, depending on account type 1% (£7.50 min) + frequent trader discount Yes


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