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Great record

Hargreaves Lansdown (LSE: HL) provides all manner of low-cost services to the private investor, including brokerage, pensions and ISAs. Buying the shares themselves would have rewarded you with a 140% price gain over the past five years, with dividends of around 2% per year to add to it.

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But the price fell back in the latter part of that period, by 16% since January 2014, to 1,207p today — largely, I’m sure, because over-enthusiastic investors pushed the shares of a very good company beyond a sustainable valuation.

There was a 2.4% fall this morning, after the release of a reasonable looking third-quarter update. Assets under administration grew by £5.9bn to a record £67.6bn in the period, with quarterly income up 15% to £90.6m. But the surge in asset values since the end of June, following the immediate post-referendum fall, helps make those figures look good — new business inflows actually dropped by 22% to £1.11bn in the quarter.

Hargreaves Lansdown does have a high client retention rate, so its customers seem to like its services (I’m one, and I’m perfectly happy), and earnings performance over the past five years has been impressive. There’s a 6% rise in earnings per share forecast for the current year too, but that would put the shares on a P/E multiple of more than 30 now, and I feel that’s a bit too toppy.

I think this is a great company with a great long-term future, but I see the shares as too expensive right now.

Funds or shares?

You can have it both ways with Jupiter Fund Management (LSE: JUP), by investing in the firm’s funds or buying its shares. The latter haven’t done quite as well as Hargreaves Lansdown’s over the past five years, but a doubling in price isn’t to be sniffed at, and annual dividends exceeding 5% provide a nice extra boost.

A Q3 update today told us that net inflows of £789m in the quarter have helped boost assets under management to £40.4bn, with £767m flowing into the firm’s mutual funds.

Chief executive Maarten Slendebroek also told us that “we continue to see strong investment performance across our product range,” pointing out that this was “achieved against a backdrop of market uncertainty following the UK referendum.

Jupiter shares, at 448p, are pretty much unmoved as I write, but I think investors could be missing an opportunity if they pass this one up. The price did plunge right after the referendum result, dropping 26% by 6 July, but the market quickly saw the error of its ways and Jupiter is now actually up a fraction of a percent since the Brexit vote.

We’re looking at a forward P/E for the full year of 15.4, dropping to 14.4 for 2017, and that’s with total dividends expected to yield 5.6% and then 6%. There are uncertainties by the shedload, and the Jupiter share price could be a bit erratic over the next two or three years, but I see a long-term winner here.

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Alan Oscroft has no position in any shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has recommended Hargreaves Lansdown. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.

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