Hargreaves Lansdown wants to have its cake and eat it.
It wants to carry on charging more than most of its rivals. But it doesn’t want to lose its wealthier customers.
So, it’s adopting the mobile phone companies’ favourite tactic. If you threaten to join a rival phone network, you may be offered a new special deal with lower prices.
A report on the MoneyMarketing website cites “anecdotal reports” from customers which suggest that Hargreaves is willing to negotiate on fees or cap the cost of holding assets.
Interestingly, a Hargreaves spokesperson admitted to MoneyMarketing that it may make “exceptional arrangements” for some clients.
The spokesperson said: “Our pricing tariff is clearly stated and is designed to be fair, competitive and sustainable. It is not our standard approach to have individual arrangements – with 577,000 clients this would simply be unworkable.”
So, it sounds like Hargreaves is prepared to offer discounts to some richer clients who threaten to leave, but probably not to everyone across the board.
I’m pleased that at least some Hargreaves customers will get better deals, but I’d be much happier if Hargreaves cut its prices for everyone.
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Under its new pricing structure, most investors will be charged an 0.45% annual platform fee on your invested assets (funds, shares, investment trusts, and venture capital trusts (VCTs)). There’s a £45 charges cap for any shares or investment trusts you hold in an Isa, and a similar £200 cap for Sipps.
By contrast, Fidelity and rplan are both charging 0.35% a year, while Cavendish Online and Charles Stanley are even cheaper at 0.25% a year.
When it comes to share dealing, Hargreaves is more competitive, but it’s not the cheapest broker. The standard share dealing charge at Hargreaves is £11.95 per trade, with a £5.95 rate for frequent traders.
At AJ Bell Youinvest, the standard dealing charge is £9.95, while the frequent trader rate is £4.95.
The plain truth is that Hargreaves could easily cut its fees if it wished. In its latest results, the platform provider revealed that its operating margin was 65%. No doubt that margin delights many Hargreaves Lansdown shareholders, but as a customer, I’m far from impressed.
I’m tempted to move my money to a different platform, but so far I’ve stayed with Hargreaves, because I like the firm’s website and its excellent customer service.
Perhaps I should get on the phone and threaten to leave.
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