Feb 052014
 

Of all Hargreaves Lansdown’s new charges, the least popular with clients was the decision to levy a separate charge for holding investment trusts, whether in a dealing account, ISA or SIPP. Given the amount of criticism and illwill this has generated, it’s not entirely surprising to see that the firm has now changed its mind.

Investments trusts will now be bundled with shares, ETFs and bonds for custody fee purposes. There will be no charge for holding any of these in a dealing account. In an ISA, there will be a fee of 0.45% capped at £45, while a SIPP will incur 0.45% capped at £200.

There are still much cheaper providers for holding all of these assets for most investors (see the UK online broker comparison table for suggestions), but this certainly removes a very hard-to-justify charge and it’s good to see that clients were able to make the firm back down.

Jan 042014
 

Alliance Trust Savings has announced some changes to its fees [PDF] and I’ve updated the stockbroker directory entry to reflect this. The main points are:

  • The fee for a regular dealing account and an ISA rises from £10+VAT per quarter to £18.75+VAT per quarter. The annual fee for a Sipp rises from £135+VAT to £155+VAT.
  • Charges for corporate actions have been removed
  • Transfer out fees are now a flat fee for transferring the whole account rather than a per-investment fee. This is quite an interesting decision since almost all UK brokers charge a per-investment fee and might reflect recent cases where the FSA/FCA has forced providers to waive transfer charges when increasing their fees (a precedent that AJ Bell Youinvest/Sippdeal now seems ready to try to fight over its latest fee changes).

I’ve also updated the entry for Youinvest, having confirmed that the new FX commission of 1% will also apply to non-CREST stocks (for these, there was previously an FX charge of 0.25%, but a £10 custody and settlement supplement which has now been absorbed into the FX fee). Dividends will be converted to GBP at a FX commission of 0.5%, unchanged from the previous rate).

I’ve also updated the comparison of ISAs for international dealing, the UK international stockbroker table and the UK online stockbroker table to reflect these changes. In addition, the Share Centre has been added to the broker directory; this is a popular broker, although not an especially obvious choice for international dealing.

Nov 302013
 

Sippdeal – up to now one of the cheaper UK brokers for international dealing – has rebranded itself in an effort to shed its SIPP-only association, changing to the rather clunky-sounding AJ Bell Youinvest. More importantly, it’s announced a new charging scheme to bring its business model into line with the Financial Conduct Authority’s platform review and the resulting ban on execution-only brokers receiving trail commission.

Unfortunately, Youinvest has combined this with another rather unwelcome fee change that will be much more of an issue for international investors, even though few people seem to be picking up on it so far. Full details of all the changes are listed on the Youinvest website [PDF], but the key points are: Continue reading »

Oct 302013
 

Update 04/01/2014: I’ve done a small update on this article to reflect AJ Bell Youinvest/Sippdeal’s increased FX costs and Alliance Trust Savings’ increased ISA fee.

 Update 30/11/2013: Sippdeal has announced an increased FX fee (as well as rebranding as AJ Bell Youinvest) – see this post for more. I’ll update the comparison table when I have more details, but it looks like it will no longer be the cheapest option, although the lack of an ISA admin fee should still make it one of the cheapest for smaller ISAs. For now, adding £57.6 to the figures below should give you the estimated annual cost under the new charges.

Since quite a few UK stockbrokers have changed their fees over the past year, I’ve updated my calculations for the cheapest ISAs for buying international stocks.

Full details of charges, changes and costs are listed in the tables below, but the main conclusions are:

  • Sippdeal now appears to be the cheapest for dealing in foreign stocks that can be traded as CREST Depository Interests (ie major US, Canadian and European companies). It also offers some other markets that can’t be settled in CREST, although these will be more expensive.
  • The main caveat to this whether Sippdeal’s current pricing structure – no account fees, no inactivity fees and no custody charges for CREST-settled stocks – can continue in the post-RDR world. I would not be surprised to see some kind of account fees come in over the next year or so, but I would expect the firm to remain one of the most cost-effective.
  • iDealing comes in as only slightly more expensive than Sippdeal, due solely to the annual account fee it charges. It does not offer the non-CDI markets that Sippdeal offers, making it a slightly less flexible option.
  • Following AJ Bell Youinvest’s increase in FX commissions to 1% (from 0.5% or less – depending on deal size – previously), it no longer offers such a cheap service and is now beaten by iDealing. Youinvest offers a a wider range of markets (ie the ability to access some non-CREST markets – iDealing may be willing to deal in some other markets on request, but is likely to require fairly large deal sizes), still remains one of the cheapest options and gets consistently good feedback for customer service, but can no longer be said to be the standout choice.
  • Saxo Bank (or Saxo Capital Markets as it’s gradually rebranding itself) is relatively cheap, but has restructured its ISA service since last year. The mass-market Modern Wealth Management offering has closed down, to be replaced by an ISA offering on the main Saxo Trader platform. This offers more markets but carries a high £50,000 minimum account size for an ISA (the regular Saxo trading account still requires a lower minimum of £5,000 in the UK)
  • Very broadly, holding US and European shares in an ISA can make sense for most investors using the cheapest brokers, but holding shares from other markets will arguably only be cost effective for larger investors. Continue reading »
Apr 012013
 

There have been a number of changes to services offered by UK brokers over the last few weeks. I’m still in the process of updating all the pages to reflect these, but here’s a brief summary of the major ones:

  • Saxo Bank has closed its Modern Wealth Management service and is transferring existing clients to the Saxo Trader service. This seems to have positive and negative implications: The firm appears to be retreating from the UK fund supermarket business altogether, but is bringing an ISA wrapper to Saxo Trader, which may now be the most cheapest ISA for international markets where CREST settlement isn’t available.
  • Charles Stanley has closed its Fastrade service and relaunched it as Charles Stanley Direct. Changes are extensive – the key ones are that online trading fees have been reduced to £10 per trade, but there is now a custody fee of 0.25% per year (min £20, max £150) waived if you trade more than six times every six months. Given that one of the Fastrade service’s strongest selling points was that it offered at-cost personal CREST membership, the introduction of a custody fee will probably work out as a cost increase for less active traders using it for that purpose.
  • In addition, the number of brokers offering personal CREST membership shrunk further. NatWest Stockbrokers apparently no longer offers this to new clients, so has been removed from the personal CREST accounts comparison table. Fyshe Horton Finney – which offered a relatively expensive personal CREST option – went into administration and its clients were taken on by Redmayne Bentley.
  • iDealing now offers direct access to Euronext Amsterdam and Brussels.
Mar 082013
 

As mentioned by users of this site and elsewhere, TD Direct Investing UK has informed non-residents in a number of countries that it will be closing their accounts. Japanese residents seem to be the most commonly affected, but some clients in the Middle East have apparently been told the same.

I had been expecting that the firm might start to steer non-residents towards TD Direct Investing International in Luxembourg (formerly known as Internaxx) instead of the UK arm, but it seems that some of the users who are having their accounts closed have been told that TDDII won’t accept them either.

Exactly what lies behind this isn’t clear – areas such as complying with money laundering regulations are an obvious possibility, but the underlying reason could be a wider drive to simply admin and cut costs. Regardless, the extremely short notice period means that many affected clients are understandably not very satisfied.

There’s a discussion on the UK stock broker accounts for non-residents post about alternative providers, although the choice among UK-domiciled brokers is likely to be slim.

Jan 232013
 

In recent days, a few people have noted that UK broker Selftrade has stopped opening new client accounts. The text on the account page has been reading “We are undertaking a review to enhance some of our processes, so we are unable to progress your application at this time”, which could mean anything.

Today, an article on Money Marketing sheds a little bit more light:

Execution-only platform Selftrade has stopped taking on new customers with the platform voluntarily varying its permissions following discussions with the FSA.

Exactly what’s going on is still not clear, but the involvement of the regulator will not reassure some users. For obvious reasons then, Selftrade is at pains to stress that whatever it is has not involved any losses to clients or the firm: Continue reading »

Jan 212013
 

I’ve updated the TD Direct Investing profile and the UK international stock brokers and online brokers tables to reflect the new fees announced a while ago. They won’t take effect until the beginning of February, but obviously at this juncture nobody should be signing up on the basis of the current fees.

I’ve also overhauled the Barclays Stockbrokers profile to merge the entries for the International Trader and Foreign Dealing Account into one record – it seems slightly more logical that way, since an investor can run both services within the same account.

Jan 062013
 

There are a couple of updates to fees at two Singapore brokers. OCBC Securities has slightly reduced its commissions on the higher tiers for Singapore stock trades – trades S$50-100k are now 0.22% from 0.275% and trades above S$100k are now 0.18% from 0.20%. This brings it in line with most of its local peers for online Singapore trades.

It’s a small change, but at least it’s in the client’s favour. DBS Vickers appears to have gone in the opposite direction. A reader has pointed out some significant alterations to the firm’s fee schedule for some international markets. (These apparently came in a little while ago, but neither I nor anyone I know uses DBS, so I wasn’t aware of it until now.)

Continue reading »

Dec 192012
 

Fidelity now appears to gone live with the eight additional markets they announced they would be adding earlier this year - there doesn’t seem to have been any official announcement of this, but the exchanges, currencies and commissions are now listed on the international trading pages of their website.

The new markets are Austria, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Poland, South Africa and Spain and all relevant new currencies have also been added (Danish Krone, Polish Zloty and South African Rand). Rates look reasonable – for online trades, the euro markets are €19 (US$25) like others already on the platform, Denmark is DKK160 (US$28), Poland is PLN90 (US$29) and South Africa is ZAR225 (US$27). However, there is of course a foreign currency conversion charge on top, of up to 1%. Continue reading »