What caught my eye this week.
A reminder that platform consolidation continues apace. Monevator readers have noticed a Legal & General statement on logging into their accounts stating they’re set to be transferred to Fidelity. Meanwhile EQi has emailed me – and I presume others, unless it thinks I smell – to confirm my account is to be spirited away to Interactive Investor.
The L&G move is the result of a £5.8bn deal struck last October. After the handover, Fidelity will administer the 300,000 accounts it acquired in the deal, but your money will remain in L&G’s funds. You can also choose to invest in a wider range of other shares and funds, too.
Fidelity claimed when the deal was struck that acquired customers would pay “the same or less”. You might want to run the numbers to check this, though.
I must confess to a bit of sentimental sadness about this particular platform consolidation. L&G was the first place I invested my money, nearly 20 years ago.
End of an era!
Twist and shout
As for the tricky Scrabble hand that is EQi-to-II, I’m not hugely upset.
Interactive Investor offers cheaper share dealing than EQi and the assets being transferred are chunky enough for me to benefit from its flat fees.
So no need for me to hunt for a cheaper alternative using TA’s peerless – albeit eye-straining – broker comparison table just yet.
Still, it’s a bit annoying.
EQi deleted some of my old Selftrade records when it took over the latter a few years ago. That meant hassle with unsheltered holdings. I’d prefer it hadn’t bothered, given it hasn’t stuck around.
There was a Know Your Customer faff, too. I hope that doesn’t happen again.
Who will win as this platform consolidation plays out? How many will win? Will the winners include you and me? What will we be charged?
It all seems up for grabs.
For example I like the super-dominant Hargreaves Lansdown, both as a platform and as a monster business. But I recently sold its shares. I fear its fat margins will be squeezed by competition from the likes of Freetrade.
At the same I’ve considered upgrading my Freetrade account to the ‘Plus’ offering. This would give me access to lots more shares as well as some other good stuff – including an ISA wrapper – at a cost of £9.99 a month.
Freetrade also recently launched a SIPP, again at £9.99 a month. The gap between the legacy and upstart platforms is shrinking.1
While still very competitive versus rivals, we’re not quite talking free investing anymore. At the least, sensible investors will want to lay down £3 a month for the must-have ISA tax shield.
The Freetrade platform is slick and modern. For an active investor like me it is liberating to shuffle a portfolio around without the friction of dealing fees.
So I see plenty to like, even with some extra costs. Which is heartening, given I’m a Freetrade shareholder…
However these add-on charges highlight that there will surely be some minimum cost wherever you go at the end of this platform consolidation – at least for those who want to deal in a wide range of securities.
Free as a bird
Fair enough – everyone has to make a living and we hardly want to keep our lifesavings with brokers who can’t afford to protect them.
But does such an inescapable cost mean Hargreaves Lansdown’s margins are safe?
You’d think maybe not, because its fees for share dealing might still look egregious compared to £0 trades with Freetrade and others of its ilk.
Yet Hargreaves just reported profits boosted by rampant customer share trading!
Maybe its wealthier customers don’t mind stumping up? Perhaps they’re happy to pay a premium for its very well-established platform, and the reassurance of its great reputation for customer service?
Maybe – but how much of a premium?
I think it’s fascinating watching the industry’s combination of consolidation, competition, and cost obfuscation playing out like this.
Especially as fresh competitors will keep emerging.
For instance the 14-year old Israeli broker eToro this week announced it will go public in the US in a $10bn ‘SPAC merger’ deal. The social trading platform already operates in the UK, but it could do so with a bigger warchest if backed by a lofty market valuation.
How could that affect the incumbents?
Don’t let me down
Remember you can try Freetrade by signing up via my link and we’ll both get a free share. You don’t have to pay for those premium features, unless you want them.
I don’t just keep inserting my link to Freetrade for the freebie share – though that’s clearly part of it! Nor even because I’m a shareholder.
I really do think everyone should give one of these modern trading apps a go. You might be surprised how fluid they feel. I was.
Anyway, have a great weekend. This time next Saturday we’ll be on the eve of our first post-lockdown mini-garden parties in England…
How to automatically donate share dividends to charity – Monevator
How I lost £436,957 trading Tesla shares – Monevator
From the archive-ator: Index tracker costs to watch out for – Monevator
Note: Some links are Google search results – in PC/desktop view you can click to read the piece without being a paid subscriber. Try privacy/incognito mode to avoid cookies. Consider subscribing if you read them a lot!2
UK government borrowing hits February record – BBC
Cornwall overtakes London as most searched for location for movers – Guardian
Treasury raises £1.1bn in Natwest share sale; taxpayers still own 59.8% – ThisIsMoney
IR35 tax change for the private sector begins 6 April: are you affected? – Which
Scottish Mortgage Trust’s James Anderson to retire next year – Portfolio Adviser
Slipping? Retirement income prospects for Generation X [Report, PDF] – ILC
The rout in long government bonds continues to roil the tech sector – FT
Products and services
Royal Mint gold rush causes chaos for customers – ThisIsMoney
AirBnB offers estimate of what your home would rent for [Top left] – AirBnB
Yorkshire Building Society first to bring back 95% mortgages – Guardian
10 surprising facts about Bitcoin – The Big Picture
Eco-friendly homes for sale, in pictures – Guardian
Comment and opinion
A candid account of another early retirement gone wrong – LivingaFI
Will the inflation dog bark? – Real Returns
“I can’t possibly afford it”: how Covid dashed retirement dreams – Guardian
Bond declines ain’t so bad – The Irrelevant Investor
Get rich versus stay rich – The Belle Curve
Twelve truths – Humble Dollar
‘I gambled £50,000 on a horse and lost everything’ – BBC
Larry Swedroe: Have you been framed? – The Evidence-based Investor
Don’t worry be bullish mini-special
How to stop carrying too much financial anxiety – Incognito Money Scribe
Most people would be wise to assume markets rise – Of Dollars and Data
Ray Dalio and the power of setting defaults for optimism – AWOCS
Naughty corner: Active antics
Deliveroo offers retail investors a slice of the IPO action [Search result] – FT
Donkeys – Enso Finance
Analyst anchors – Klement on Investing
Is quality on sale? – Validea
The new Credit Suisse Global Returns Yearbook is out [PDF] – Credit Suisse
Covid and politics
UK death rate ‘no longer Europe’s worst’ by winter – BBC
Report finds small number of Facebook users responsible for most Covid vaccine skepticism – Guardian
My mum believes in QAnon. I’ve been trying to get her out – BuzzFeed
Marina Hyde: How long until the next Priti Patel brainwave? – Guardian
Kindle book bargains
Business Adventures: 12 Classic Tales from Wall Street by John Brooks – £0.99 on Kindle
Money Saving Book: Simple Hacks for a Happy Life by Holly Smith – £0.99 on Kindle
Doughnut Economics: Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist by Kate Raworth – £0.99 on Kindle
Billion Dollar Loser: The Epic Rise and Fall of WeWork by Reeves Weideman – £0.99 on Kindle
Buy a Kindle and you can sell all your leather bookmarks on eBay for cash!
Government sets out £1bn plan to cut industrial carbon emissions – BBC
Gen Z’s high-speed rail meme dream, explained – Vox
Sperm whales in 19th century shared ship attack information – Guardian
Off our beat
The Great Amazon flip-a-thon – New York Times
Will I ever work in an office again? – Guardian
American Special Op forces are everywhere – The Atlantic
What happens when a firm introduces a five-hour workday – Fast Company
The things we go back to – Seth Godin
“There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.”
– Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking
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- If you open a SIPP you also get a 30% discount on Plus. [↩]
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