Why you can stay with Hargreaves Lansdown after all. Probably

Good news - investment platform Hargreaves Lansdown has backtracked on its controversial charges for investment trusts.

Some good news: it may be that MoneyWeek readers with Hargreaves Lansdown (HL) accounts don't have to move after all.

We weren't that impressed with the new charging structurefor a few simple reasons. First, we figured it all came out a bit expensive, even after taking into account the great service you get at HL and their very good website.

Second, because we deeply resented the invention of a special class of fee for investment trusts. Shares in trusts are just the same as shares in any other company, so treating them differently for the very dodgy reason that some people think of them as funds seemed rather gouging.

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Good news then than HL's impressively slick PR department has realised its mistake and reversed course. A press release out this morning announces that "we have listened to our clients". The result is that "clients will pay no more to hold investment trusts in future than they do todayin fact many will pay less and will be better off". Trusts will be put back where they belong with all other shares, VCTs, ETFs and the like.

That means a single annual charge in an Isa of 0.45% of assets, capped at £45. For a Sipp, it is 0.45%, capped at £200.I'm pleased - regular readers will know that, cost-crossness aside, I'm an HL fan.

But you might be asking why this change has been made. After all, there are other charges people are cross about exit charges, probate charges and so on.

I suspect it is about the nature of investment trust investors (such as us..). They tend to be more sophisticated, more engaged with active investing and more aware of the effects of costs on investing that's why they bought investment trusts in the first place. I don't know, but I'd also guess they have larger than average accounts. All this makes them worth HL both listening to and pandering to even if it means losing a little margin along the way.

So, now we find that it actually works what shall we complain about next? After all HL margins are very high. Answers below please.

PS In the post below I mention that the closing of discounts has been a big part of the out performance of investment trusts. One of the reasons for that closing may be that the advent of the Retail Distrbution Review, which outlawed commission kickbacks on fund sales, has made advisers keener on investment trusts. That is unlikely to reverse as they become more mainstream investments.

Reasons to think that will happen: the last bit of the HL press release, which says this "There will also be improvements to our investment trust service. Shortly after 1 March 2014 we will offer better online factsheets for investment trusts, with more data, information and research support together with a dedicated investment trust area of our website providing enhanced information."

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.