OUR BOTTOM LINE
AJ Bell Youinvest is about as simple as an investment platform can be – and investors seem to like it. Launched in 2000, its wealth platform now has 225,000 customers and more than £50bn worth of assets under administration. The site’s easy-on-the-eye design, attractive charging structure and lack of inactivity fees all deserve your attention. This is a top mainstream offering but with plenty to offer active, experienced stock traders as well.
Top features of an AJ Bell Youinvest Dealing account
AJ Bell Youinvest makes investing feel simple, with none of the clutter found on some sites. Yet, once you start digging down, there is plenty of support and information to guide your investment choices, including bags of market analysis, stock research and tips. Members with more than £4,000 in their Youinvest account will get AJ Bell’s weekly Shares magazine.
Trading is as easy as can be, with features allowing you to, say, buy a stock at a specific price or better, or set a stop-loss which automatically sells your holding if it falls by a certain amount to cap the damage. Some experienced traders like to use these features, although novices can safely ignore them.
If you don’t want to research stocks and shares yourself, AJ Bell will assemble a simple, low-cost portfolio on your behalf, with a choice of six ready-made multi-asset portfolios. You can choose which of these you prefer, based on whether you are a cautious investor or willing to take on more risk in the hope of getting a higher return. The site also offers a choice of 70 “standout funds” tipped by its investment experts.
You can download the free AJ Bell Youinvest mobile dealing app, allowing you to check the value of your portfolio and deal on the go.
The free Mywealth feature lets you view every single one of your assets and liabilities on a single page, including bank accounts, credit cards and loans and investment accounts with other providers.
The site offers everything most investors need to start building their own portfolio of stocks and shares, although advanced traders who want access to more complex instruments such as contracts for difference (CFDs) may wish to look elsewhere.
AJ Bell Youinvest commission prices
AJ Bell says it is “committed to transparent and fair charges that… are amongst the lowest in the market”, and it’s as good as its word.
There is no account set up fee, which isn’t unusual, but I’m pleased to see there is no inactivity fee either – good news for those who trade infrequently.
However, you do pay share and fund custody fees, charged at 0.25% on the first £250,000 of funds, after which they fall as your portfolio grows. So you pay 0.1% on holdings up to £1m, then 0.05% on holdings up to £2m, and zero on funds above that level. AJ Bell looks good value for smaller portfolios, as holding £10,000 would cost you £25 a year, with trading charges for any shares or funds you buy or sell on top of that.
Trading costs are competitive, with a flat online fee of £9.95 per deal for shares, investment trusts, exchange traded funds (ETFs), gilts and bonds. For active traders who have made 10 or more online trades in the previous month, this fee tumbles to £4.95 per deal. Telephone trades cost £29.95.
Unlike many platforms, the Youinvest Dealing account charges for buying and selling actively-managed investment funds such as unit trusts and open-ended investment companies (OEICs), although it’s only £1.50 per deal.
Its passive, low-cost selection of ETFs does away with dealing charges, so you do not pay any upfront charge on your ETF purchases, and only pay a low ongoing fee of just 0.35% a year.
Youinvest has a nice feature that calculates how much you are likely to pay in charges each year, based on personal factors such as portfolio size and trading patterns.
I tried this feature and found that someone with £50,000 in funds making five trades annually, and £75,000 in stocks making 20 trades would pay £361.50 a year. A little cheekily, it also shows comparative charges for rival Hargreaves Lansdown. It concludes that in this case, Hargreaves would charge £464, just over £100 more.
Interestingly, though, Hargreaves is marginally cheaper for smaller traders. I keyed in figures for someone with just £30,000 making a handful of fund and share deals each year, and found Hargreaves was £3 cheaper at £104.75.
Fees you should know about
Regular online investments cost £1.50 per deal, which is standard. You pay a 1% charge when reinvesting dividends (min £1.50, max £9.95), which is similar to the charges on other platforms I have looked at.
Buying and selling international shares online costs a flat £9.95 per trade, which looks good value as some sites charge £15 or £20, but you also pay a 1% foreign exchange charge (which falls to 0.75% on trades above £10,000, then 0.50% on the next £10,000 and 0.25% above £30,000). So, investing £1,000 in Amazon Inc would cost you £19.95, while £5,000 would set you back £59.95, which starts to look expensive. This is definitely something to consider if you trade overseas stock, although I suspect few target customers will.
AJ Bell does impose a £25 exit fee if you switch funds to another provider, which is a shame. However, you can escape this fee by converting your holdings into cash first.
Buying shares, ETFs and funds with an AJ Bell Youinvest account
The site lets you invest in hundreds of listed companies on the London Stock Exchange and the alternative investment market (AIM), as well as 24 international markets, including the US, Canada, Japan, France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
You can also choose from a broad range of more than 2,000 funds, of which 500 are investment trusts.
It’s a good site for those starting out and only trading small sums, with a minimum order size of just £1, and regular investments from just £25 a month.
AJ Bell Youinvest’s platform
The first thing I did after logging onto the account for the first time was breathe a sigh of relief. Thankfully, this isn’t one of those hectic dealing accounts crammed with flashing numbers. It’s simple, clear and headache free. There is still plenty of information on the site, and finding it isn’t a chore either. Trading is easy: you simply search for a company, set your order type, key in your value and whether you want to include or exclude charges, and get your quote. It’s all delivered in big, clear, simple-to-read boxes too. Bliss.
AJ Bell Youinvest research offerings
Users get access to a regular stream of videos, podcasts and topical investment articles, giving insight into individual company stocks and wider market themes, as well as a market newsfeed and stock research from respected analysts.
Other features include top buys and sells, share screening services, information on director dealings and a financial diary.
Youinvest also offers a host of free guides covering subjects such as tax planning, self-invested personal pensions (SIPPs), investment trusts, drawdown, investing for children, lifetime individual savings accounts (LISAs), regular investing and initial public offerings (IPOs).
Service and support
To open an account, you’ll need your National Insurance number and details of a UK bank account. Theoretically, you should be up and running in five minutes.
Once you are in, you can load your account using a debit card or bank transfer, and start trading 24/7 online or using the Youinvest mobile dealing app.
Is an AJ Bell Youinvest Dealing account right for you?
The Youinvest Dealing account doesn’t dazzle you with bells and whistles. It is clear, friendly and uncomplicated. The platform is squarely aimed at mainstream investors, which means that serious traders might want a more specialist offering. The Youinvest charging structure is also clear and pretty good value. It certainly gives Hargreaves Lansdown a run for its money (which I think is its intention).
WHY YOU CAN TRUST ME
I’ve been a personal financial journalist for 30 years, writing for national newspapers, magazines and websites. I reported on the technology boom in the 1990s, and the subsequent bust. I covered the financial crisis, and the tentative recovery. Decades of writing about the big banks has taught me to be sceptical, to examine every pledge and promise, and look closely at the small print of their product offerings. I’m on the side of the consumer, alert to rip-offs but also to good deals. There are plenty out there, if you know where to look.