AJ Bell as a firm has been in existence since 1995, and its award-winning online Youinvest platform is now going from strength to strength. It has built up a core base of customers who regularly use it for their investment needs – and with a range of choices available including SIPPs, ISAs, dealing accounts and more, there’s almost always a product that’ll be right for you. In this AJ Bell review, we will carry out a broker comparison focusing on charges – and work out whether AJ Bell’s Youinvest platform is the best stock broker on the market today.
When you begin your investment journey with AJ Bell, there is a wide range of product choices on offer – which means there’ll almost always be one which suits you and your personal financial situation. The SIPP, for example, is a popular AJ Bell product, and it provides you with the chance to control the whole investment direction of your pension plan and construct it yourself. For those seeking a more stock or bond-focused instrument, the dealing account provides you with the chance to create your own investment portfolio and also offers flexible withdrawals and no upper limits.
And AJ Bell also offers a range of ISA accounts, too. These include the Lifetime ISA, a government scheme which allows you to save for your retirement or your first home and also receive generous government bonuses. It also includes the stocks and shares ISA, which allows you to invest in a range of instruments across the financial markets while also making sure you receive your tax-free interest benefit. Whatever your circumstances are, there is usually a Youinvest product for you – and with a relatively uniform fee structure in place, it’s easy to find out how much cash you’ll need to pay to use the Youinvest platform.
One distinct advantage of the Youinvest platform is the relative uniformity of the AJ Bell charges. No matter which of these products you go for, the basic fees and charges are usually similar across them all – which means you can make your decision based on your circumstances and investment product needs rather than based on AJ Bell Youinvest charges. Assuming that £100,000 was invested and that five fund deals were taking place, the basic fee rate for most products would be £257.70 per year.
The overall fee may rise as more fund deals and share deals are added, but the easy to use fee calculator on the Youinvest website can help make this clear. And it’s not always just the fees which are uniform in nature, either: the absence of fees on many of the Youinvest platform’s products also forms a pattern. Many of the products available come with no setup costs, so you can expect to save cash on tasks like initial setup or transferring in for Lifetime ISAs, dealing accounts and more – a luxury not always available with other brokers offering similar products. Remember, all of these fees and their variations can change based on the exact product, so it’s worth checking this out in full in order to be sure before making your investment decision.
It’s important to remember, however, that AJ Bell’s products are not all the same and, in some circumstances, additional AJ Bell charges can be incurred depending on the nature of the investment product. Those who invest in items in the Youinvest product range with fund deal aspects will need to pay a certain amount per deal, and these are often charged at flat rates rather than as proportions, so that it can add up over time. Those with a dealing account, for example, can expect to pay £1.50 each time a fund like an open-ended investment company (OEIC) or a unit trust is bought or sold through the internet, and the fees rise to £9.00 per deal when the instrument in question is a share, an exchange-traded fund, an investment trust or similar. There is, however, an incentive to keep share deals numerous, as Youinvest slashes the fee per deal to £4.95 if ten or more deals were completed the month before. There are also some “custody charges” payable to Youinvest, too: these charges cover the safekeeping of your assets while they are in AJ Bell’s care, but they can add up. Those investors with a dealing account who are using funds like unit trusts, OEICs and structured products can expect to pay a 0.25% custody charge per year on their first investment of up to £250,000, up to 0.1% on the remainder up to £1 million and 0.05% on the remainder up to £2 million.
Thinking about AJ Bell charges isn’t the most pleasant of tasks for an investor looking to boost their returns as high as they can, but it’s worth noting that some of these fees can be partly reclaimed, at least to a small extent, in cash interest. When you invest with AJ Bell, interest is paid out on any cash which is held in your dealing account or ISA account, so it’s worth looking into. This interest is in addition to any returns you may make on your investment. However, the rates are not substantial and are unlikely to offset most of the costs of the annual charge.
Those who take out a Lifetime ISA with AJ Bell, for example, will receive an interest rate of 0.05%, both gross and AER, for anything in their account above £50,000. It’s worth noting, however, that the amount of interest you receive is dependent on the amount you invest. If you invest under £50,000 in a Lifetime ISA, for example, you won’t actually receive any interest at all. Ultimately, then, the payment of interest rates on cash held in your account should be seen as a small bonus rather than as a way to manage the other fees and charges.
Whether or not a service like AJ Bell Youinvest charges a low amount for its services, however, depends on more than just raw numbers. It also depends on the fees of alternative providers, and whether or not their fees are higher or lower than AJ Bell’s offer. The answer to this depends entirely on the AJ Bell products you choose to opt for and the amount you have available to invest, however, so it’s somewhat complex.
Those who invested £100,000 in a SIPP, for example, would most likely pay around £250 in AJ Bell fees. These AJ Bell charges are lower than the Hargreaves Lansdown estimated total charge for the same product, which is £450, while the Fidelity International fees would sit at £350. But over at Interactive Investor, though, the fee would be just £210. A similar picture emerges for other products, like the ISA options. For these products, it would generally cost £50 to invest at AJ Bell and £70 at Fidelity, but just £48 at Barclays. These research-based figures produced by AJ Bell itself are for illustrative purposes only, but they demonstrate how important it is that you do your research and find out everything you can about the institutions you choose to invest in so that you can find one which is cost-effective for you.
While the AJ Bell rates may be a little off-putting to some investors, there are other advantages to the AJ Bell platform which mean you may in the long run actually save cash. Unlike some brokers who only operate during the week or during working hours, your online Youinvest accounts will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, meaning that you can check on progress or work on any investment-related administrative tasks when it suits you. It’s also possible to deal remotely wherever you are thanks to the Youinvest mobile app, and the Britain-based customer service team at Youinvest can answer your questions online through email or web chat to save on communication time.
For these reasons, then, it’s entirely possible that the time you save thanks to AJ Bell’s efficiency and easy access will recoup the AJ Bell charges and rates you pay out. While some brokers insist on telephone calls, physical meetings or other time-sapping ways of doing business, the Youinvest digital platform’s innovative use of modern technology means that you can save time. In essence, the fees you pay can be seen as buying access to an efficient and fast investment platform which allows you to focus on other things while your investments work in the background.
In summation, AJ Bell’s Youinvest system is a great platform for those who want a digital-focused investing solution which provides convenience and a range of instrument choices. With a variety of products available including everything from ISAs to dealing accounts, as well as a clear and transparent fee structure for informed investing decisions, there’s plenty going in AJ Bell’s favour. In addition to any returns you might make, some interest can be paid out on any cash which sits in your AJ Bell account, but the amounts are generally negligible and sometimes non-existent. And when it comes to AJ Bell fees, a quick stock broker comparison reveals that the cost of using this service is sometimes higher and sometimes lower than others, which is important to bear in mind: depending on the product you choose and the amount you invest, you may not be getting the best fee deal on the market. However, some AJ Bell Youinvest charges are non-existent: there are, for example, no setup costs. The Youinvest user experience also makes for speedy investing thanks to its round-the-clock accessibility and its top customer service team, and this added efficiency can in itself make the AJ Bell charges and rates worth paying. Ultimately, Youinvest is clearly a leading light in the stock broker field. If after a thorough market analysis, the fee structure suits your plans, AJ Bell’s Youinvest should be a contender for becoming your investment manager.