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Is it worth sticking with Hargreaves Lansdown to get Vanguard funds?

If you’ve got a portfolio full of index funds with Hargreaves Lansdown then you’re faced with a dilemma. Its platform fees knock back small investors like a thumbs down from Simon Cowell.

It’s a bitter pill that Hargreaves Lansdown have sugared with a sweet range of low-cost Vanguard index funds.

Is the price of staying with Hargreaves Lansdown worth the reward of the Vanguard funds?

Frankly, Hargreaves Lansdown is not the only place you can buy Vanguard. The sheer popularity of the funds has ensured their spread to other brokers, despite a slow start.

The terms vary from firm to firm but if cost is king then there are only a few scenarios where it makes sense to stay with Hargreaves Lansdown.

Your calculations may well be beset by the burdens of inertia, convoluted financial affairs, or a profound belief in Hargreaves Lansdown’s customer service, but for sanity’s sake I won’t grapple with any of that.

My main assumptions will be:

  • Cost is the trigger to switch platforms.
  • All Vanguard funds incur a £2 per month platform fee on Hargreaves Lansdown.
  • Hargreaves Lansdown portfolios only contain index funds costing £2 a month.
  • You stick with your broker for a minimum of one year.

When it's worth using Hargreaves Lansdown for Vanguard funds

The Vanguard runners and riders

When choosing your Vanguard platform, there are two main costs to look for:

1. The management charge for holding Vanguard funds – this may be known as an annual management charge (AMC), a custody fee, or a platform fee.

Whatever the name, it amounts to the same thing: a regular charge that covers the costs of servicing your account.

2. Dealing fees – a charge levied every time you buy or sell a fund.

Hargreaves Lansdown is the only broker that charges per index fund owned. Whether it’s worth you taking that on the chin boils down to YOUR:

  • Portfolio composition: You need to work out how many Vanguard funds you can hold before Hargreaves Lansdown’s pay-as-you-go fees cost more than the all-you-can-eat deals offered by rival platforms.
  • Trading habits: You need to figure out whether the waiving of dealing fees by Hargreaves Lansdown compensates you for its other costs, compared to the rival brokers.

The rival Vanguard-friendly platforms in the mix are Bestinvest, Sippdeal and Alliance Trust. You can find out more about their Vanguard costs here.

The short answer is that the fewer funds you own, the more likely it is that Hargreaves Lansdown will come up trumps. Hargreaves Lansdown’s deal gets even sweeter if you trade often. The type of account you want is important, too.

I’ve tried to make the summary below as simple as possible, but be warned it’s like comparing mobile phone deals.

Stocks and shares ISA: Is it worth staying with Hargreaves Lansdown?

Hargreaves Lansdown only wins for ISAs if your portfolio consists of a single fund.

In that case, the £24 platform fee undercuts all rival offerings and you can trade all you like.

Happily a diversified portfolio of one fund can be devised using Vanguard’s LifeStrategy funds.

Here’s the full range of ISA scenarios depending on the number of funds held in your portfolio:

1-2 funds = Hargreaves Lansdown
3+ funds / up to 8 x £1.50 regular trades = Alliance Trust
3+ funds / 8 or more trades of any type = Bestinvest

Note: Alliance Trust online regular investment purchases are £1.50 a throw. If you expect to sell even once (perhaps to rebalance) then Alliance Trust’s low AMC advantage is wiped out by its £12.50 dealing charge.

SIPP: Is it worth staying with Hargreaves Lansdown?

Hargreaves Lansdown does a bit better with its SIPP:

1-2 funds = Hargreaves Lansdown
3-4 funds = HL or Sippdeal. If you trade more than 2-4 times respectively then it’s HL.
5 fund / less than 7 trades = Sippdeal
5 funds / more than 7 trades = HL / Bestinvest dead-heat
6+ funds / more than 7 trades = Bestinvest

Note: Sippdeal charges £150 (plus VAT) to set up income drawdown and £75 (plus VAT) annually to administer income drawdown payments. Hargreaves Lansdown and Bestinvest charge nothing for the same.

Standard account: Is it worth staying put?

Scenario is currently the same as for ISA accounts.

Minimum investments

Bear in mind, your platform of choice may also depend on whether you can make the minimum investment contributions. On Vanguard funds these amount to:

  • Hargreaves Lansdown: £1,000 per fund, or £50 per fund in the regular savings plan.
  • Bestinvest: £100 per fund.
  • Alliance Trust: £50 per fund.

There’s a couple of other quirks, too. Hargreaves Lansdown charges 0.5% (plus VAT) per year on any ETFs, gilts or investment trusts you hold (capped at £45 or £200 in SIPPs).

Meanwhile, Alliance Trust wants £5 to reinvest dividends automatically (you can avoid this by using accumulation units or just reinvest divis yourself).

Strangest of all, Alliance Trust also charges £10 every time you want to withdraw cash. Does it also own those money-grabbing cashpoints in service stations?

Take it steady,

The Accumulator

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{ 75 comments… add one }
  • 49 Simon June 5, 2012, 11:04 am

    I don’t have much to add other than thanks, yet again. I was going mildly insane last night trying to navigate through the maze of fees and costs, and yet this post was here all along.

    Actually, one question: do the “negotiated discounts on initial charges” and “rebates on the annual management charge” that AT claim have any bearing on this, or are they irrelevant?

  • 50 The Accumulator June 5, 2012, 2:53 pm

    Hi Simon, they’re irrelevant. Everyone rebates initial charges and no-one rebates anything from Vanguard funds as they don’t pay trail commission.

  • 51 tushingham June 9, 2012, 12:51 pm

    Hello again gang!

    Have bestinvest ‘made their move’ prior to rdr/fsa changes as HL, III and others have done?
    I know there could be further changes still but wondering if they’ve made any move at all yet?

    Thanks
    t

  • 52 gadgetmind June 9, 2012, 1:06 pm

    BestInvest have played some of their hand. There is a “custody fee” for holding Vanguard trackers (but not others) and equities (which includes ETFs and ITs.) The fee is £50+vat for unwrapped and ISA, and £100+vat for a SIPP. For decent sized pots, this works OK as it gives you a lot of flexibility with an “eat all you want” fee. BestInvest also refund trail in a SIPP, which is nice while it lasts.

    Post-RDR, I’d expect their fees to be extended to other investments, but BI seem to be strong on the advisory side too,

  • 53 tushingham June 9, 2012, 1:22 pm

    cheers gadget,
    finally got round to investing the cash i had sat in s&s isa just depreciating
    now have 19k or so with HL in
    4 vanguard trackers (non lifestrat)
    1 BR emerging tracker
    1 IT smaller companies (f&c)

    thats £96 per yr fees for vanguard and i think another £45 or so for the IT. £111 vs the £60 i would be charged with BestInvest. Even though only a small proportion of the pot it all adds up with compounding so think im better off with BestInvest particularly as they have some of the other vanguard trackers that HL dont have. Will allow me to tweak my portfolio allocation better whilst sticking with vanguard (im a big fan!)

    t

    ps- aware there are no fixed securities there but have other position for that!

  • 54 tushingham June 9, 2012, 1:23 pm

    pps was a little worried that bestinvest may be more likely to change again than HL but since they’ll pay my exit fees and its likely, if i want to come back, HL will do the same then im all for it!

  • 55 gadgetmind June 9, 2012, 1:26 pm

    @tushingham – That £45 is the cap on the 0.5% pa charge for equities and ITs, so you might well be paying a fair bit less depending on the size of that holding.

  • 56 tushingham June 9, 2012, 1:35 pm

    yes you’re absolutely right but I naughtily didnt mention that i have a little more cash to invest and considering a commodities ETF for that.
    just doing the calulation it come in at £20-30 and maybe more when the value rockets like its supposed too!! :op

    i think even if its £20 then im still looking at around £116 vs £60. donyt know where i got £111 from!!!!?

    if i thgouht BestInvest hadnt played any cards yet then id sit tight but given that they seem to have the vanguard emerging,small cap,pacific etc funds and HL dont then im very tempted to move.
    dont know if i’d sell the f&c smaller companies IT in order to the get the vanguard smaller companies OEIC though given that i’ve bought the IT at a discount and there were fees involved!

  • 57 gadgetmind June 9, 2012, 4:22 pm

    I do hold the Vanguard Smaller Companies tracker, but I also like the F&C Global Smaller Companies IT and wouldn’t sell the latter to buy the former given spreads and trading fees.

  • 58 tushingham June 9, 2012, 4:30 pm

    yeah i think i’ll use the vanguard smaller companies to rebalance if i ever become underweight in that sector in future…

    i might just drop HL a line to see if they’ll get the other vanguard products any time soon…

  • 59 Atherton July 7, 2012, 12:24 pm

    Hi All,

    Need some help. I have a few quid to invest in shares – possibly through Hargreaves Lansdown Share Dealing option. I understand I would pay only between £5.95 – £11.95 per transaction depending on my usage, no ongoing monthly, annual fees?

    For an individual like me who has upto 10k to invest in shares are H&L the best option in terms of initial and sale cost?

    Any advice would be helpful.

    Thanks

  • 60 The Accumulator July 8, 2012, 9:11 pm

    @ Atherton – HL are generally not cheap because they have a strong brand. The cheapest broker I know of for share dealing is x-o.co.uk

  • 61 ivanopinion July 14, 2012, 6:02 pm

    From 1 August 2012, ATS has increased its admin fee for ISAs from £30 per year to £48 (£12 per quarter). The same fee now applies on investment accounts, which previously had no admin fee. It will now rarely be the best choice for holding Vanguard funds.

  • 62 gadgetmind July 14, 2012, 9:26 pm

    HL is now a good option for a single Vanguard LS at £24pa.

    People *must* switch to keep fees low as voting with wallets is important.

  • 63 Julius August 29, 2012, 1:56 pm

    Accumulation units are referred to as the funds end with Acc correct?

  • 64 The Investor August 30, 2012, 7:38 am

    @Julius — That’s usually the case, yes. In contrast Inc tends to signify funds that pay out their income.

  • 65 BG September 11, 2012, 5:13 pm

    This website is just amazing! Thank you so much.

    I’m looking to invest for my retirement and really like the look of the Vanguard’s LifeStrategy Funds. I just want to keep things as simple as possible and start regular contributions without needing to worry about excessive costs and rebalancing etc etc.

    I would look to invest in those funds via a SIPP (or equivalent as I am an expat living in the Middle East.)

    After the RDR which platform do you think would now be my best option? I’ve been reading lots but have got a bit lost in all the numbers.

    Also, can I use these platforms if I’m not living in the UK? I see there are QROPS but its hard to find reliable advice on these.

  • 66 The Accumulator September 13, 2012, 9:07 pm

    @ BG – Here’s my best take on the current state-of-play re: brokers and RDR: http://monevator.com/no-fee-discount-broker-options/
    I don’t know about their foreign policies but I’m sure if they can take your money they will.

  • 67 Joe September 28, 2012, 2:07 pm

    I am British but currently live and work in Mexico. I want to invest in the Vanguard Life Strategy but Alliance Trust Hargreaves Lansdown or Best Invest will only act as a platform for permenant UK residents. As I am a non-dom a SIPP or S&S ISA appears not to be an option. Does anyone know of a company which may be able to act as a platform for me to invest in the Vanguard Life Strategy funds?

    Thank you and kind regards

    Joe

  • 68 Oliver February 4, 2013, 5:55 pm

    I am also in the same position as the above poster – Joe. I’m British but currently live in Japan and therefore can’t open an ISA in the UK. I do have a UK address and bank account though. I’m looking at investing in the Vanguard lifestrategy fund but not really sure about the technicalities of purchasing it without the ISA. It would be excellent if you could advise on this situation.
    PS very very nice blog!

  • 69 Sen December 13, 2013, 3:20 pm

    I have transfrred 120K cash from my old pension account to my sippdeal account. However, I have delayed investing the same in Vanguard 100% Lifestyle Equity Fund as I am not sure whether it is the best cost option. esoecially in view ofteh recent cost changes. I will invest a monthly sum of £900 into the same fund. I am also planning to invest about £150 each in my wife’s and mine Share ISA and my sons’ Junior ISA in the same fund through Charles Stanley Direct. Can you please advise me what I should do to ensure I have the most cost effective option keeping in mind I have a long term view with minimal changes?

  • 70 The Accumulator December 15, 2013, 8:27 pm

    @ Sen – the market is in flux right now and will be for the next 6 months as many big players have yet to announce their new pricing in the face of the recent regulatory changes. This regularly updated comparison table will allow you to keep on to of things:

    http://monevator.com/compare-uk-cheapest-online-brokers/

    Right now you’d pay about £300 p.a. with Sippdeal/Youinvest, £162 with Alliance Trust and £144 with Interactive Investor (plus dealing fees in all three cases) if you are investing in a SIPP.

    On a standalone basis, your family’s ISAs are best off in Charles Stanley if likely to remain under £20K for the foreseeable, but Interactive Investor allows you to link family accounts and only pay once for the lot. That would amount to £80 p.a. plus trading fees. No trading fees with Charles Stanley.

    Obviously there are no guarantees that brokers won’t change their prices. I recently opened an account with Sippdeal and then they rebranded and jacked up their fees to boot.

  • 71 Andy March 26, 2014, 11:57 am

    Hi

    I’m very new to all this so was looking for some advice regarding which platform would be the cheapest for me in the following circumstances.
    I would be looking to buy two funds in total, probably a Vanguard FTSE UK Equity Index ( £10, 000) and one other fund, not sure which one yet. Despite the £2 month/ fund charge, would I be right to assume that HLansdown would still be the best and cheapest option for me or I’m I missing some additional charges that might make HL not the best option in my circumstances.

    Thank-you

  • 72 The Accumulator March 27, 2014, 8:29 pm

    Hi Andy, this article is out of date now. For the latest broker comparisons go to: http://monevator.com/compare-uk-cheapest-online-brokers/

    HL definitely not cheapest. Look at Charles Stanley Direct if your assets are below £30K and iWeb or Interactive Investor if you’re above that level or likely to be so in a couple of years.

  • 73 Falco7 May 29, 2014, 4:31 pm

    I have been scratching my head trying to figure out something on the Lifestrategy funds and just realized the simplest solution would be to reach out to Monevator readers for help.

    I and my wife are both invested in the Vanguard Lifestrategy 100% Equity Accumulation fund. Yesterday, she asks me why there are two UK equity sub funds – Vanguard FTSE UK Equity Index (14.9% of the overall LS) and Vanguard FTSE U.K. All Share Index (10%) – and if there is overlap/duplication going on here. I just cannot figure it out… why not just have the combined 24.9% of LS just in a broad UK index like the All-Share. What is gained by having two? Can anyone clarify?

    Thanks in advance as I know i’ll get the answer pretty quick from the Monevator crew!

  • 74 The Accumulator May 30, 2014, 8:44 am

    Hi Falco,
    At the market diversification level Vanguard list the UK allocation as 25%, which is exactly what you get. For some reason at the fund level they split this allocation into two but I have no idea why as they both track the same index so do exactly the same thing. You’ll notice they do this for the US too with the US index fund and S&P 500 ETF. It is curious, no doubt.

  • 75 Falco7 May 30, 2014, 10:14 am

    Thanks for the input Accumulator. I had not even noticed the similar situation on the US funds. No matter the detailed rationale, it does seem they are still accomplishing what it ‘says on the tin’ so I suppose not a big issue. While looking for the answer to this question, i had also run across a recent article on FT Advisor talking about quite a significant change in the allocation of funds within LS which may be of interest to some: http://www.ftadviser.com/2014/04/07/investments/etfs-and-trackers/vanguard-slashes-uk-exposure-in-lifestrategy-funds-eNRrzxCoQB0XTmXKCPMpIN/article.html

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