Charles Stanley Group is a UK-based company established in 1792 that provides wealth and asset management services. It is one of the oldest financial services firms and was listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1852. It has three functional divisions: financial planning, asset management and wealth management. Charles Stanley Direct is the investment platform and as of January 2018, the company has an impressive £24 billion in assets under management. But just how impressive are Charles Stanley Direct fees? And is the Charles Stanley app the best choice in an unbiased stock broker comparison?
The company charges a platform fee of 0.25% which is among the lowest in the industry. It is charged for a client’s investment in SIPP, ISA or other products and it depends on their portfolio balance. Even more attractive is the fact that this annual fee is waived if the client executes at least one trade every month. That reduces the cost for customers looking for long-term gains with the broker. Per the fee structure published on the company website the fee is reduced for larger investments. Charles Stanley direct Platform fee is 0.25% for investments up to £250,000, and for investments between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000 the fee is 0.05%.
There are no Charles Stanley Direct fees for investments greater than £2,000,000. Charles Stanley Direct offers its clients a uniform fee structure of £11.50 per trade for stocks and shares, which is higher compared to stock market industry standards. Other competitors like Barclays and AJ Bell Youinvest do not charge on a per trade basis but charge a flat fee per month, regardless of the number of trades executed in that month. Though there are no Charles Stanley Direct charges on switches, the company does charge a flat rate of £11.50. Apart from the above charges, standard government taxes are levied on the transaction. According to Charles Stanley Direct, the 0.25% platform fee can potentially give clients an annual saving of £625 compared to competitors.
The Charles Stanley platform is intuitive and is of a superior design. Clients can create their own portfolio and view messages and orders on a single dashboard. There are different tables which display an investment summary, fund basket, pending orders, a watch list and research tools. The platform also gives clients the ability to add price alerts, limit orders and share watch lists. Clients can download their portfolio and track share prices with live streaming.
Through this platform a client can also access a wide range of investment options like funds, unit trusts, ETFs and investment trusts. Charles Stanley also provides actively managed and passively managed funds. There are foundation portfolios and foundation fund lists, which are a value service provided by Charles Stanley Direct. The company also provides discretionary and advisory services to its clients based on their risk appetite. The company is one of the first to launch over 1,800 clean-priced funds and the pricing structure is transparent and does not have any hidden charges. The only downside is that the platform currently does not provide investment in CFDs or spreads. These options are offered by competitors like Hargreaves Lansdown. Nevertheless, Charles Stanley provides an award-winning platform which is cost-effective and provides exposure to different kinds of client services.
There have been several articles and press releases regarding losses, which rose from £1.3 million to £1.9 million in 2017, and the operating margin dipped from 28bps to 22bps. But in the same time, its funds under management rose from £1.4 billion to £1.9 billion. Thus, to provide safety and peace of mind to clients, Charles Stanley provides a safe and secure platform for investors and complete protection for investments. Investors’ money is placed with leading banks, so in case of insolvency or failure of the company the funds will be secure at all times. Money is also protected by the FSCS compensation scheme, which provides compensation to cover up to £85,000. Banks selected by Charles Stanley are in robust financial health and it is very important that banks provide a guarantee to repay in the event of any liquidity or solvency issue.
Another point to note is that clients’ money and the firm’s assets are kept separately per the rules of the FCA. However, the above security features are quite common and are provided by all major investment firms in the UK. The Charles Stanley Direct website makes use of a 128 bit SSL certificate, which ensures that data sent or received from a web browser is encrypted and secured. The company also makes use of intrusion detection technology in order give the website added security.
Charles Stanley Direct has an award-winning call centre which is based in Edinburgh and is open from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. BST, Monday to Friday. Though it is not a 24/7 call centre, clients can post their queries through email or through secure messages by logging on to the website. Secure messages provide a high level of security because they are encrypted and cannot be intercepted by any third party fraudsters. Currently there is not a live chat feature, which many competitors do offer. Hopefully a chat feature will be rolled out soon because if there is a negative Charles Stanley review, it is likely related to the unavailability of a live chat option.
In our review we discovered that the company's help desk is more like an advice desk where investors can request expert guidance related to investments. Managers who are involved in providing advice are highly trained and have years of experience. The company also provides data and research tools such as a fund list, market data and stock research for clients, and they also publish original articles on current trends. The website has a dedicated section of resources and market data where clients can look for recent news and charts. These research tools will work for beginners, but experienced traders may require them for more detailed analyses. When doing a broker comparison, many competitors provide better research tools on their websites, but Charles Stanley Direct makes up for this my providing award-winning expert advice to its clients.
Charles Stanley Direct provides leading investment services and has won many awards and accolades over the years. In 2014, Charles Stanley Direct launched a loyalty programme for its clients with price cuts and many other features like platform fee reduction for high-value holding customers, free SIPP for consolidators, capital gains tax reports on request and a 12.5% discount on homeowners’ insurance. These features do look attractive, but the client must do some research before taking advantage of them.
In the last five years the company has excelled in many of its services and has won several awards as a result, including Best Buy 2017 by Boring Money, and Best D2C Proposition for Service, and Best for Buy and Hold in 2015 by Direct Platform Awards. In the recent conducted Platforum Awards, Charles Stanley Direct won Best Direct Platform for Customer Service in 2018. Moneywise, the UK’s leading finance magazine, praises the company and believes that its financial instruments provide a growing number of cost benefits to its customers. Following are two more awards the company won: Best Stock Broker in 2016 from FT & Investors Chronicle and Best ISA Provider of the Year in 2016 from FT & Investors Chronicle.
The Charles Stanley Direct app was launched in the fourth quarter of 2016, which is quite late compared to competitors’ mobile applications. The app was initially only available to iOS users. In December 2017 the company launched an upgraded version of the Charles Stanley APP and it is now available in the Apple app store and Google Play. The app features top-notch features like fund and stock search and indices and sectors information. It also provides insights through fact sheets, and its intuitive design provides seamless access to clients.
This new upgrade to the Charles Stanley app brought in features like fingerprint security for Android users and face ID detection for iPhone users. The upgraded app will provide seamless onboarding and account opening processes for clients. This is evident from the positive response this upgraded app is receiving from clients. The Charles Stanley Direct website states that within two months of the launch date over 100,000 downloads were completed and the number is increasing. The company is planning to launch the second phase of the app in the second quarter of 2018. New features will include a smart registration process for non-clients, updates to the current version to make it more secure, the ability to deposit money through the app and fund trading capabilities.
Charles Stanley Direct, with its 200 years of experience, is strategically placed because its services are provided at competitive pricing, making the company a leader in the market for small investors. Other features like an upgraded app, award-winning customer support and quality service have established Charles Stanley Direct as one of the top D2C platform in the UK. Another key feature is that there are no switch charges and they are completed much faster compared to competitors like AJ Bell Youinvest.
It is ideal for investors who are planning to invest in SIPP, ISAs and junior ISAs. The £11.50 fee per trade might not be suitable for experienced traders as it will increase the trading cost, and the company’s research tools are not as exhaustive as some of its competitors. But other features like best-in-class SIPP funds, phone dealing, a robust platform, safety features and an intuitive and upgraded app make it the one of the best and most cost-effective brokers in the UK.