Why you can stay with Hargreaves Lansdown after all. Probably

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 structure for 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.

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 today…in 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.”