The Two Minute Review
- 👑 A true heritage brand.
- ☎️ Great customer service.
- 👍 Wide investment choice.
- 🙂 Offers every type of account under the sun.
- 📖 Strong research.
- 👛 £45 cap on shares and ETF account costs make the ISA pretty reasonable if you don’t plan to trade frequently.
- 💸 Generally quite expensive.
- 🖥️ Website and app could be more user-friendly for beginners.
- 📱 Newer apps offer a better experience and cheaper fees.
- 👨💼 Doesn’t offer managed funds.
What The Experts Say
What Users Say
When you exclude reviews the company itself invited and look only at organic reviews the average score is 2.89.
Some Interesting User Comments
We spend hours reading user comments to see what feedback people are giving. Here are some positive and critical comments that stood out to us:
I admire (and welcome) HL as a British company; I find the service, and dealings therein, to be wholly professional, and (more importantly) my experience of dealing with HL over the phone to be reminiscent, to this old man, if days gone by (i. e. pre internet, pre “Bot conversational exchanges “) Don’t get me wrong; I am in no way a Luddite, I embrace this age of artificial intelligence, and see the immense use for human application, but there has to be, with all change, a lingering aspect of continuity for people to feel comfortable -especially older ‘coffin dodgers’ like myself, but there always will be a need for human to human interfaces where problems are concerned (sadly, something that is overlooked by the vast majority of companies, in my experience!) I’m of the mind that if I saw another company that was offering trading costs at a fraction of the costs I incur with HL I would simply smile (possibly at my recognition of the little nugget of wisdom that resides within my baldy little head), and say to myself, “nothing’s broken, move on”. Keep doing what you’re doing, HL, and I’ll do the same.
New to HL, imposed through my new workplace SIPP. Intention is contributing and periodic partial transfers out to the main pension platform managed elsewhere. Having just set up the app & online account, though, have to say initially really impressed. Very user friendly and pitched at exactly the level I want to see. So much so that setting up a managed fund stocks & shares ISA is incredibly simple. (Many) previous providers have made this an impenetrably daunting proposition. Full marks for this. Appreciate that many of the reviews herein moan about techy widgets, buy/sell fees and up-to-the-minute reporting precision, but tbh as an old chap not too far off retirement, don’t really care about that. Funds set up, nice and easy to monitor and access, unlikely to be doing hobbyist tinkering.
I have used multiple apps and websites over the years due to constant frustrations with bugs and reliability. Once I opened my account with H&L I have never looked elsewhere; it just works. It is well engineered, easy to understand and the support is first-class. The tools the platform provides together with the advice, tips and insight means that for me, they really do offer the complete package.
HL is the best broker in the UK. Secure, trustworthy and excellent customer service. However… We are here to invest and growth wealth end of the day regardless of the broker. HL takes a lot of fees and profit off investors and clients regardless of economic situation. Compared to US brokers they are very expensive and it limits the ability to make money. For example. You cannot swing trade to make the 1% gain because HL kills you on exchange rates and platform fees. You cannot short the market if you need or there is no way to hedge your investments. You cannot choose what currency to buy in because they change the rates at their preferential rates. Only reason I hold with HL is my kids’ account because I am sure they will be around for at least 18 years more before my kids can exit their funds. I have used HL for over 10 years but no longer top-up my ISA since 2019 as I moved over to other platforms for the reasons above. They need to cut costs to make it more competitive instead of paying dividends to their shareholders. Clients are superior to Shareholders!
What I have come to realise is their fees are astronomical yet the service is average You may wait more than 48 hours to get a reply There is little to no info on most of the stocks and funds they sell
The Deep Dive
In 1981, a remarkable journey began in a modest bedroom when Peter Hargreaves and Stephen Lansdown founded Hargreaves Lansdown. Armed with a typewriter and a vision for simplifying tax planning and unit trust advice, they tapped into the burgeoning world of personal investing. Their timing was impeccable, coinciding with the 1980s investment boom their venture rapidly expanded.
In 2023 it’s comfortably the biggest investment platform in the UK boasting 1.7 million customers, over £123 million in assets under administration, 2,000 employees and a listing within the FTSE 100. Put simply, it’s a giant.
🏦 HL has the lot!
Stocks and Shares ISA (Individual Savings Account) is a popular choice for its significant tax benefits. When you invest in this account, any profits you make from your investments are completely free from UK capital gains tax. Additionally, there’s no further tax on any income you receive, be it interest or dividends. For instance, if you invest £10,000 and it grows to £15,000, the £5,000 profit is yours without any tax liability.
SIPP (Self-Invested Personal Pension) is designed for retirement savings and offers its own set of tax advantages. Contributions to a SIPP attract tax relief at your highest rate of income tax. This means that for a basic rate taxpayer, for every £80 contributed, the government adds £20, effectively boosting the investment. If you are a higher or additional rate taxpayer, you can claim back even more through your tax return. This makes a SIPP a highly efficient way to save for retirement.
Lifetime ISA (LISA) is targeted towards younger savers, under the age of 40, aiming for either their first home purchase or retirement savings. The government adds a 25% bonus to your contributions, up to a maximum of £1,000 per year. So, if you save £4,000 in a year, you receive an additional £1,000 from the government. Withdrawals are tax-free if used for a first home purchase or after the age of 60.
Junior ISA (JISA) is aimed at saving for children’s future. Like the adult ISA, it offers tax-free growth and withdrawals. Parents or guardians can contribute up to a certain limit per year, and the child can access the funds at the age of 18.
Fund and Share Account, which is a flexible investment account allowing investors to buy, hold, and sell a wide range of investments. This account is different from the tax-efficient wrappers like ISAs or SIPPs, as it doesn’t come with the same tax benefits. It’s the equivalent of what other providers call a General Investment Account (GIA).
Active Savings Account is a financial product that allows individuals to earn competitive interest rates by conveniently managing multiple savings products from various banks through a single online platform. It provides a streamlined way to optimise savings and access a range of fixed-term and easy-access savings accounts, helping customers maximise their returns. They’ll notify you when you’re eligible for a better rate. It’s probably not what you’ve come to this review for – but it’s a cool unique service that we love.
💸 It’s definitely not cheap and it’s positively expensive if you want to trade frequently.
The most common complaint about HL is its fees. This used to be seen as a sign of quality, but newer app-based investment platforms, such as Freetrade and Lightyear, are questioning this and pioneering low-cost trading for the next generation of investors. So exactly how pricey is HL – let’s jump into it for ISAs and SIPPs.
There are a few costs you have to look out for here:
Share Fees: You will pay 0.45% a year, capped at a max of £45, on any of the following:
- ETFs: This stands for exchange-traded funds. They are baskets of assets like stocks, bonds, or commodities and trade as a package on stock exchanges. Often they follow a particular industry, index (e.g. S&P 500 or FTSE 100), or theme (e.g. green technology, property etc). They tend to have lower costs than traditional funds but can often be less actively managed.
- Investment trusts: These pool money from multiple investors to invest in a diversified portfolio of stocks, bonds, or other assets.
- VCT: Venture capital trusts which invest in start-up companies.
- Gilts and bonds: Essentially company and government debt that returns a fixed amount of interest.
So if you only invest in these things, let’s compare the costs against competitors:
*One free trade a month is included per account.
So what’s obvious from this table is that the new kids on the block are smashing HL on costs. It just can’t compete. Another traditional broker, Interactive Investor, recently slashed its trading fees for UK and US stocks from £5.99 to £3.99 in the face of the onslaught – but HL has so far not budged. We do feel that HL is now just not appropriate for anyone who wants to trade more than once a month.
If you’re cautious about using a newer company and want a heritage brand – not unreasonable given you may be investing your life savings – then really you’re looking at HL, AJ Bell and Interactive Investor and it’s hard to see clearly which one is the cheapest. So, let’s look at the charges for portfolios of different values that contain only stocks and ETFs and complete a trade once a month:
(Note: we’ve excluded FX fees for simplicity)
So it’s still the most expensive here – but the margin is less big. However, if you want to trade traditional funds the gap becomes ridiculous. This is because HL charges different fees on funds.
- 0.45% up to £250,000
- 0.25% £250,000-£500,000
- 0.1% £500,000-£1 million
- Free over a million
So let’s run the same example above but for a portfolio comprising of 50% funds and 50% stocks.
(Note: we’ve excluded FX and any fees charged directly by the funds themselves for simplicity).
Wow! Now that is expensive! We really can’t excuse this cost. You can get around it by picking ETFs over funds but we don’t think, in 2023, costs should be running this high for any investor.
The costs are broadly the same except share fees are capped at £200 a year rather than £45. Funds have the same (excessive) cost structure. It again works out more costly than AJ Bell and Interactive Investor.
So Is HL Too Expensive?
We get that it’s pitching itself as a premium product, but we don’t think it can justify its costs in 2023. The £45 cap on account fees for shares and ETFs means HL could be reasonable for those who will be holding all their assets for a long time, but if you think you will trade even semi-regularly then it is probably too expensive a service.
Range of Investments
🙂 It has a huge range of investments.
Hargreaves Lansdown has a comprehensive set of assets to invest in. These include:
Stocks and Shares: Direct investment in companies listed on stock exchanges.
Funds: A wide array of funds, including index trackers, managed funds, and exchange-traded funds (ETFs).
Bonds and Gilts: Options for fixed-income investments through government and corporate bonds.
Investment Trusts: Diversified portfolios managed by professionals.
Exchange-Traded Commodities (ETCs): Offering exposure to various commodities like metals, energy, and agriculture, suitable for diversification or speculation on commodity prices.
How does its range compare vs. competitors – let’s have a look:
Interactive Investor beats everyone hands down on the investment range, but the 11,000 that HL offers is more than enough for most retail investors.
However, you can only buy UK, American, Canadian and European shares – we would like to see them expand to other markets.
A bigger issue for us is the lack of fractional shares – a neat feature that some newer platforms have brought in. For example, Microsoft currently trades at over $370, so you could purchase just $50 worth and own 13.5% of a share.
You also can’t trade crypto-currencies – the traditional brokers won’t touch these with a bargepole (and with good reason).
Lastly, there isn’t a “robo-advice” service offered. This is where you are asked a few questions and then matched to a fund based on risk appetite. It’s the sort of service Nutmeg and Moneyfarm offer. We think it’s a bit of a miss.
What’s The Platform Like?
Opening An Account
🚪 We opened a Fund & Share account and it was straightforward.
We just needed our personal details, including National Insurance number, and bank details. The whole process took us 12 minutes.
🖥️ Overall user experience is fine, but compared to newer apps like Freetrade we found it a bit clunky.
However, there is most of the functionality you’d want. Each stock and fund has a dedicated page which gives price over time, key details like market cap, P/E and historic dividend returns as well as a rundown of charges.
There is also a news and analysis section which pulls in the latest updates. It mainly comes from Sharecast News who we think do a pretty good job of this sort of thing. In addition, there is an “HL comment” feature which gives you a detailed insight into whether HL’s analysts see an upside for a particular stock or fund. However, it isn’t as comprehensive as we like – for example, when we checked out Deliveroo’s page this feature wasn’t available. We also would like them to introduce an overview of other analysts’ views – for example, Lightyear curates lots of analysts and classifies them as “Buy”, Sell” or “Hold” so you get a quick view of how the market feels.
The buying and selling process of shares was also easy in our tests with a live quote notification giving us all the key details before we made each trade.
We thought it was worth a shoutout for this. Hargreaves Lansdown’s Wealth Shortlist is a carefully curated collection of investment funds, handpicked by their team of experts for their potential to deliver strong performance. The selection process involves thorough analysis, ensuring that each fund meets specific criteria for quality and performance. This Shortlist offers investors a diverse range of options, covering various sectors and investment strategies to suit different risk appetites and financial goals.
How Good Is Customer Service?
☎️ In our tests customer service was good.
Hargraves Lansdown offers customer service via phone and web ticket/email. When we tested the customer service line it took us 4 minutes and 6 seconds to get through to an advisor and when we did he was knowledgeable, friendly and resolved our issue quickly. However, Web tickets can often take a day to get a reply and we would like to see HL introduce live chat.
Is Hargreaves Lansdown Good For Beginners?
🧑🎓 Yes, it’s great for beginners.
HL’s platform is simple to use (if a bit clunky) and its fee structure is best for those who don’t want to trade frequently – which should suit beginners.
Its content is also top-notch. It offers free intro guides which we would recommend downloading even if you don’t sign up with the platform. The news and analysis section is also comprehensive and regularly updated. They even have a podcast, “Switch your money on”, which is fast-paced and surprisingly entertaining. The Wealth Shortlist is also good inspiration for newbies.
Is It Safe?
🔒 Hargreaves Lansdown is considered safe and reputable, being one of the UK’s largest financial services companies.
It’s regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), ensuring adherence to strict financial and ethical standards. Additionally, investments through Hargreaves Lansdown are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), offering protection up to £85,000. However, like any investment, the value can go up or down, and you may get back less than you invest.
So Is Hargreaves Lansdown Good?
Yes, it’s a good platform for those who value reputation, but whether it is worth the costs we’ve outlined is a question only you can answer.