AJ Bell Review

AJ Bell is a titan of the UK investing scene.

Nick's Verdict

AJ Bell is a titan of the UK investing scene. In its 28 years of operation it has grown an enviable brand as a DIY trading platform that can only really be rivalled by ii and Hargreaves Lansdown. Its fees remain reasonable for a traditional broker and its research and educational materials are top-class (especially the podcast). Customer service is awesome too – in our tests we were able to get through to a real person via phone and webchat with absolutely no delay. We have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone looking for a solid option to grow their wealth over the long term. However, if you’re looking to make frequent trades, dabble in crypto or FX or just want a slick digital interface this isn’t the pick for you.

🔐 A huge trusted brand.

💷 Low platform fees for a traditional broker.

💹 Over 19,000 investment assets.

☎️ Excellent customer service.

🔐 A huge trusted brand.

💷 Low platform fees for a traditional broker.

💹 Over 19,000 investment assets.

☎️ Excellent customer service.

💷 More expensive than many newcomers to the market (e.g. Trading 212 or Freetrade).

👴 The platform is looking a bit tired.


[.custom-color]It's got a great heritage and is comfortable as the number 2 in the UK market.[.custom-color]

AJ Bell was set up by economists Andy Bell and Nicholas Littlefair in 1995 (we’re not sure why Nicholas didn’t get his name on the company!), initially as an actuary company. Over the years it evolved into one of the UK’s leading investment platforms and a huge voice for long-term retail investing. It’s probably most famous for its “do it yourself") investment platform, AJ Bell Youinvest.

It currently manages over £76 billion in assets - only Hargreaves Lansdown manages more.

It publicly listed on the London Stock Exchange in 2018, solidifying its position and the number 2 stock broker in the UK. Despite being second to HL, its cheaper fees and investor education make it the preferred choice between the two for me.

Account Options

[.custom-color]I've always though of AJ Bell as a one stop shop for investing. It's got the lot.[.custom-color]

Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP): This is essentially a private pension that you control. You can put up to 100% of your income (up to a limit of £60k) into a SIPP a year and then decide which stocks, bonds, ETFs etc to buy. It's then subject to the same tax rules as normal pensions (e.g. you can take 25% of it tax free at 55).

Individual Savings Account (ISA): AJ Bell provides a Stocks & Shares ISA, which allows individuals to invest in a range of assets while enjoying tax-free gains. There's an annual limit of £20k currently.

Lifetime ISA (LISA): Aimed at either first-time home buyers or those saving for retirement, the LISA comes with a government bonus of 25% on contributions - though you are limited to only putting in £4k a year.

Dealing Account: This is the standard investment account, so lacks some of the tax advantages of other accounts.

Junior ISA (JISA): A tax-efficient savings account for children, allowing parents to contribute up to £9K per child per year. The child can then access this money at age 18 and take any profits out without incurring tax.

Junior SIPP: This is a pension account for children, so parents can get their kids retirement planning started early!

Income Drawdown: An account that allows you to withdraw funds from your pension pot as needed while the rest remains invested and potentially grows.

Cash: AJ Bell has teamed up with partner banks to allow you to gain interest on any cash you are holding. Usually, you have to agree to lock this up for a period of time. Right now they are offering 5.59% if you agree not to touch your funds for 9 months.

Range of Investments

[.custom-color]AJ Bell has a huge range of investments, I've always been satisfied with its range of options and I think most retail investors will be too.[.custom-color]

Shares: Investors can buy and sell shares from both UK and international markets, allowing them to invest directly in companies they believe in. There are 24 worldwide exchanges to pick from and over 14,000 stocks listed in total. For most retail investors this is more than sufficient.

Funds: This includes a wide selection of managed funds, such as unit trusts and open-ended investment companies (OEICs), managed by professional fund managers. In total AJ Bell has 2,000 funds which is comprehensive but can be a little bamboozling.  

Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs): These are investment funds traded on stock exchanges, much like shares. They typically aim to track the performance of an index and can offer a cost-effective way to diversify. AJ Bell currently offers over 3,000 of these funds!

Investment Trusts: These are companies listed on the stock exchange that invest in the shares of other companies. They offer another way to gain diversified exposure to the markets. AJ Bell currently offers over 400 of these.

Bonds and Gilts: These are essentially loans to companies (bonds) or governments (gilts). They can provide regular income and are typically considered lower risk than stocks.

Cash: Investors can also hold cash in their accounts, which can be useful for managing investments or preparing to make future trades.

AJ Bell, as a more traditional broker, steers clear of riskier investments such as CFDs (Contract For Difference) and cryptocurrencies.


[.custom-color]It’s cheap for a traditional broker, but expensive compared to the newer app-based brokers and I think it should lower its prices in the near future.[.custom-color]

AJ Bell breaks down its charges between ongoing account fees (called “custody charges”) and fees per trade:

  • Custody charges for shares and ETFs: For shares and ETFs you pay 0.25% annually of their value, but this is capped at £3.50 a month for all accounts (except SIPPs which have a cap of £10 a month).
  • Custody charges for funds: You pay 0.25% up to £250,000, 0.1% between £250,000 and £500,000 and anything above this is free.
  • Trading fees: These break down in the following way:
Type of Trade Amount
Shares £9.95 (£4.95 if the previous month you made 9+ trades)
Funds £1.50
Reinvesting a dividend £1.50

NOTE: All of this applies to online trades. To make a trade over the phone that costs £29.95!

If you’re buying a stock not listed in GBP you will also have to pay a 0.75% foreign exchange fee.

This makes AJ Bell, for most portfolios, much cheaper than Hargreaves Lansdown, which typically charges a 0.45% annual fee on funds under £250,000 and £11.95 for your first 9 trades a month (going down to £8.95 for the next 10 and £5.95 after that). However, its “Fund & Share” account does not charge any annual fee for holding shares so you might want to look at this if you’re just after a general account to trade shares.

Interactive Investor will typically charge you a flat fee of £4.99 a month for portfolios under £50,000 and £11.99 a month for larger portfolios. You then get a free trade a month, but anything beyond this costs £3.99 for US and UK trades and £11.99 for other international trades. It’s harder to make a comparison here of which is cheaper in all circumstances so you will have to work it based on your current situation.

What is clear though is that newer entrants to the market are slashing the price of investing – for example, check out our review of Trading 212 and its costs. If you can sacrifice the big brand name, you’re likely to save a bit of cash.

Opening an Account

[.custom-color]I opened an account in less than 10 minutes.[.custom-color]

I tested opening a standard share dealing account and the process was straightforward and took just over 8 minutes.

I was asked for the following things: NI number, bank details, debit card details and details of any other accounts if want to transfer. I was also required to set up a couple of security questions.

You also get the option of how you want to pay – debit card, regular payment or via transferring over another account.

Platform Walkthrough

[.custom-color]I find it very functional, but it's not the best user experience.[.custom-color]

Once you’ve opened an account you can log in (there is 2-factor authentication which you can get past by receiving a text or email).

The homepage will presented me with an overview of your accounts as well as the options to view them in greater detail, as well as buy/sell shares (“Deal”) and top up your funds.

account overview aj bell

When you click “View” you get a detailed breakdown of the investments you have within that account, including how many shares or units you hold of each asset, what you paid and the change in value.

account breakdown AJ Bell

There is also a pie chart overview of how your stocks break down into sectors and, for ISAs, an overview of your remaining tax-free allowance.

Account breakdown graph AJ Bell

To buy a share you select “Buy and sell” and search for the asset you want. You will be given an overview of its price over time and then receive a current quote that is valid for 15 seconds. As is typical with traditional brokers, you cannot buy fractional shares which can make some big US stocks out of reach for some people.

Buying a stock process tested AJ Bell

The platform gives a functional snapshot of your portfolio and an easy way to buy and sell stocks – but is starting to look a little dated. I think it’s time for AJ Bell to overhaul its user experience as newer challenger brands have much slicker designs.

If you’re looking to do frequent, or even day, trading then AJ Bell just isn’t set up for you. Its sweet spot is the considered investor looking to build wealth with long-term value stocks.

Is it good for beginners?

[.custom-color]Yes. It’s quick and simple to get to grips with and offers loads of support.[.custom-color]

Even though it’s not the most user-friendly I've used, the platform is still easy enough for most people new to investing to pick up within half an hour or so.

Also, AJ Bell offers a selection of ready-made portfolios, designed to cater to various investment goals and risk appetites. These provide a hassle-free investment solution for those who prefer a hands-off approach or are uncertain about choosing individual investments. They currently offer 3 “growth” portfolios (cautious, balanced and adventurous) and one “income” fund that aims to give returns via dividends and bond interest.

It’s important to note these are not professionally managed so you will have to keep an eye on performance and rebalance them yourself over time.

I like that AJ Bell provides loads of educational resources. Their platform features a dedicated section filled with articles, videos, and webinars and cover topics from fundamental principles to advanced strategies. I particularly like their “Money & Markets” podcast. Additionally, AJ Bell offers ‘Shares Magazine’ that delivers in-depth market analysis, investment ideas, and financial news. This magazine is a particularly useful tool for investors looking to deepen their market understanding and stay informed about the latest trends. While I like what they do on the education front, I'd always suggest signing up to our newsletter too!

How good is customer service?

[.custom-color]Customer service is a real stand-out point for AJ Bell.[.custom-color]

They offer a comprehensive help section plus the ability to get in touch with a real person via email, web chat or phone.

I tested web chat and was able to contact a real person in under 1 minute. I also tested phone wait times and was able to get through to a real person in 8 seconds. Pretty awesome.

Is it safe?

[.custom-color]AJ Bell is super trusted.[.custom-color]

As its regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), AJ Bell is subject to super strict standards.

It's also part of the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which offers protection up to £85,000 in the unlikely event of company insolvency.

The thing that makes me most confident in AJ's safety is its solid history of profitability and financial stability. It's much less likely than other firms to go bust - at least in my view.

So in conclusion, is it a good platform?

AJ Bell is a good platform and I can we why it has won an army of loyal fans. I think it’s best for those who want to build a portfolio and only occasionally make adjustments to it. For those looking to trade more frequently, the cost will become prohibitive and the design is slightly too clunky.

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