“Whatever stage you’re at, we’re sure we can help you manage your money and your future.” Andy Bell, Co-founder.
It’s a fair statement. AJ Bell Youinvest is a good, all-round, award-winning platform, that can cater for the needs of most investors, from the novice, who needs handholding from start to finish, to the confident investor, who knows what they’re doing and just requires the functionality to do it.
Its stated aims are to make things easier for you, provide the best products and services available, avoid using jargon and always put the customers’ interests at heart.And it seems to be working — its profile has been growing nicely in the last few years along with assets and customer numbers (312,300) and it’s considered one of the top DIY platforms in the UK alongside Hargreaves Lansdown and Interactive Investor.
What’s on offer
Youinvest offers a wide range of investment options. For the DIY freestyler, there are more than 2,000 funds to choose from, across geographic markets, industry sectors or asset classes. The platform offers access to 450 investment trusts, a range of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and commodities (ETCs) and there are also hundreds of listed companies on the London Stock Exchange and AIM for you to invest in.
You can also deal in 24 international markets, including the US, Canada and major European markets. Government bonds, corporate bonds, permanent interest-bearing shares (PIBS), warrants and covered warrants, are also available. If you need help and guidance, Youinvest also offers its own range of funds, ready-made portfolios and a favourite funds list. The only thing it doesn’t do is advice.
There are a couple of really nice additional features. The first, called Family Linking, lets one person either view or manage their family members’ accounts, making it simple and easy to manage the family finances (also available via their mobile app).
The second is Mywealth. You add all your investment accounts (whether they’re held with Youinvest or elsewhere), your bank accounts, credit cards and loans, and any other assets of value you might have such as artwork or antiques. Mywealth allows you to see the overall picture of your wealth in one place and helps you keep track of it.
There’s a wide variety of accounts to choose from, including a stocks and shares ISA, a Lifetime ISA, SIPP and a dealing account (GIA). For children, there is a Junior ISA, Junior SIPP and dealing account. They have recently added a Cash Savings Hub, giving investors the choice of numerous savings accounts — a nice one-stop shop for managing your savings (although Hargreaves Lansdown did it first) where you can choose between competitive savings accounts, with a range of notice periods and fixed terms, letting you stay on top of what interest you’re earning and where.
Opening an account is nice and easy and can be done in about 10 minutes, if you have your NI number and bank details. Youinvest carries out an online address verification check using publicly available information, and if you pass this, there’s no need to send utility bills, bank statements etc to verify your identity.
The typical minimum amounts to open an account are £500 lump sum for an ISA or £25 a month if regular saving. For the AJ Bell SIPP there’s a minimum lump sum of £1000 but no minimum for regular savers and if buying the AJ Bell funds, you can invest from £1 as a lump sum and/or £25 a month.
AJ Bell funds
The investment choice is broad and varied. Youinvest doesn’t offer the same level of fund research as Hargreaves Lansdown, but it does offer some useful tools to help you decide such as the Fund screener and the Fund Quickrank, which lets you filter on things like performance, costs and charges and so on. You can also see, at a glance, what’s hot or not by looking at the recent Top Buys and Top Sells.
If you need a little help and guidance, there are a few options available. Firstly, AJ Bell has launched its own range of nine funds, the AJ Bell funds, which are broadly categorised as growth, responsible growth and income.
There’s also a range of 4 Ready-made Portfolios, each with different investments goals to suit varying levels of risk — cautious, balanced, adventurous and income. These portfolios are populated from the AJ Bell Favourite Funds list.
The portfolios are designed as a starting point only and the overall responsibility for selecting and managing the portfolio rests with the investor. Investors can tailor each portfolio by changing the percentage invested in each fund or by adding or removing funds from the portfolio.
Finally, for the inbetweener, there is the AJ Bell Favourite Funds list. The fund experts at AJ Bell have picked the funds they think are likeliest to provide your portfolio with an income, or with medium- to long-term growth.
The list is regularly updated and only features funds that are low cost / great value, have a proven record against the benchmark and peers and an achievable investment objective. There is also a ‘responsible’ filter on the list, which shows you six funds that have a responsible remit.
On 1st January 2021, AJ Bell increased some of its charges but it also reduced others. Of course, a fee increase is never going to be popular and it angered some of its loyal customer base, who took to social media to make their feelings clear. But the reality is that AJ Bell Youinvest remains a competitively priced platform and it sits in the middle of the pack for costs. At the same time, it also removed some of its costs (such as withdrawal charges) and reduced the cost of transferring to another platform (£9.95 per holding instead of £25) .
The increases applied to exchange-traded investments such as ETFs, ITs and shares. Holding fees increased across the board and dealing fees are high (see xxx for more info). There was no change for investors holding funds, but there is a fund trading fee of £1.50 per fund, which most competitors don’t have.
Youinvest doesn’t quite provide the full range of services and products of the market leader, Hargreaves Lansdown, but it’s a really good all-rounder, with plenty of investment choice and wrappers to make it suitable for the beginner as well as the more sophisticated investor.
The website and app work well together, providing seamless and intuitive functionality. It is easy to find what you are looking for and everything is clearly signposted and written in simple, everyday language. There are plenty of well-written, jargon-free guides, covering the product options with lots of investment articles, videos and podcasts to consume, not to mention Shares magazine for those who want a slightly more technical and detailed read.
While Youinvest doesn’t provide extensive fund research, ethical/sustainable options or the option of advice, it does offer some useful guidance for beginners in the form of the AJ Bell funds and the ready-made portfolios. AJ Bell had thought carefully about functionality and provided some useful tools like the family linking in particular.
Yes, prices have gone up, but it’s certainly not the most expensive option out there. It’s well worth a look.