AJ Bell YouInvest Review – Best Stockbroker in the UK?

AJ Bell Broker

Overall broker score:


90%

AJ Bell Youinvest offers trading fees the more you trade! AJ Bell is a Which? 'Recommended Provider' for the last 3 years.

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Breakdown:


Trading fees

95%

Account fees

93%

Investment range

92%

User experience

94%

UK Regulation

100%

Size of firm

92%

Customer service

93%

Account opening

90%

Pros:

Fees stay competitive as you grow

Invest regularly from £1.50

Participate in IPOs

No fees for inactivity or withdrawals

Cons:

None - good all-rounder account

In our balanced and comprehensive review of UK stockbroker AJ Bell YouInvest, we’ll answer every question you could ask about this investing platform. We’ll also compare AJ Bell against the other popular UK stockbrokers. Is AJ Bell the best stockbroker in the UK? Read this AJ Bell review to find out!

AJ Bell YouInvest Review

At Financial Expert we take our broker reviews very seriously. To help you truly understand if AJ Bell would be a good option for you, we’ll go above and beyond reiterating AJ Bell’s fees and slogans. This guide will contain insights such as:

  • Who is behind AJ Bell and is it financially sound as a business?
  • Is AJ Bell the cheapest investment platform compared to similar providers?
  • What type of investor is a good fit for AJ Bell’s platform?
  • Does AJ Bell have a good reputation among investors?
  • How is AJ Bell regulated?
  • What are the downsides or drawbacks of AJ Bell as a platform?

Why this review of AJ Bell could be the best on the web

As a UK investor, you have the right to expert and balanced reviews from any financial website.

Unfortunately, many broker review sites are stuffed with glowing reviews about every stockbroker who pays them a commission. This helps them generate revenue but it doesn’t help the public find the perfect broker for them. 

We also receive commissions from participating stockbrokers for referring users to UK stockbrokers. However, our editorial standards protect our articles from bias. We proudly point out the key highlights and drawbacks of investing platforms in our reviews and stockbroker comparison tables

Please support Financial Expert in the pursuit of truthful and balanced financial journalism by signing up to your chosen broker via links on our webpage so that we will receive a small payment. 

AJ Bell stockbroker

Sign-up to AJ Bell Youinvest today with a £25 regular deposit.

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AJ Bell YouInvest review: a summary

  • The second largest stockbroker in the UK by assets under management
  • AJ Bell plc is a publicly listed firm with a sound financial position and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
  • Fees and charges which scale down for small accounts and are capped for large accounts means this platform is good value regardless of your investment style.
  • AJ Bell has a good reputation amongst its clients, scoring 4.4/5.0 on Trustpilot (see below)
  • Offers a wide range of accounts for adults and children

In our conclusion, AJ bell is a well-regarded broker which suits all investment styles and portfolio sizes. 

AJ Bell stockbroker

Sign-up to AJ Bell Youinvest today with a £25 regular deposit.

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Who is AJ Bell?

AJ Bell is the trading name of AJ Bell plc, a publicly-traded company listed on the London Stock Exchange. AJ Bell is a large firm and is listed in the well-known FTSE 250 index.

AJ Bell was founded in Manchester in 1995 by Andy Bell and Nicholas Littlefair. It’s still based in the North-West – their headquarters are situated in Salford Quays.  Andy Bell remains the CEO of the company. 

AJ Bell offices
Source: Google Street View

Head office: 4 Exchange Quay Salford Quays Manchester M5 3EE

London office: 1st Floor 49 Southwark Bridge Road London SE1 9HH

AJ Bell employs 989 employees (2021), of which 189 work in the technology division. 

Is AJ Bell well known?

AJ Bell is the second-largest UK stockbroker by assets under management. Stockbrokers’ and wealth managers’ revenue is linked to the value of client assets, therefore by the most important measure, this makes AJ Bell the UK’s #2 stockbroker. 

As a FTSE 250 company, AJ Bell is recognised as being one of the largest 350 public companies on the London Stock Exchange. For those confused by this statement; remember that the FTSE 100 comprises the 100 largest companies, and the FTSE 250 is the next largest 250 companies.

AJ Bell states on its website that it has over 382,000 clients in the UK. That’s a large market share for this industry. A total of 2.4 million Brits have stocks and shares ISAs, with hundreds of brokers competing for a slice. We estimate that this makes AJ Bell the #3 UK stockbroker ranked by number of clients

Who regulates AJ Bell?

AJ Bell operates under many layers of strict regulations:

As a public limited liability company registered with Companies House, AJ bell falls under the rules of the Companies Act. These rules dictate good corporate behaviour, including the duties of Directors to act as stewards of the company and to not breach wrongful trading rules. 

As a company listed on the main market of the London Stock Exchange, it falls under various regimes such as the ‘Listing Rules’ enforced by the LSE. It must also meet the financial reporting standards known as IFRS, which are the most prescriptive financial reporting and accounting rules in the world. 

Because AJ Bell’s subsidiaries offer financial services, they are registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). There are several subsidiaries of AJ Bell plc which appear on the register of firms maintained by the FCA. 

Here are their legal names, their FCA reference number and a link to their entry on the FCA website which explains their authorisation to perform financial services such as stockbroking, payment processing and holding client money. 

Examples of FCA rules which help to protect investors is the requirement to ring-fence client assets from AJ Bell’s own capital, meaning that investor money cannot be used to pay for business expenses or cover the firm’s own losses. 

Other rules include the need for all key financial and management personnel to be vetted by the FCA and deemed ‘fit and proper to perform their role. These are known as ‘Approved Persons’. 

AJ Bell Securities Limited is a registered member of the London Stock Exchange. This LSE membership entitles this subsidiary to place trades directly on the London Stock Exchange on behalf of clients. This means that AJ Bell does not need to use any other brokerage firm as a ‘middle man’ to execute trades, which helps to ensure that its execution costs are some of the lowest in the industry.

For more information about how UK stockbrokers are regulated, read our dedicated guide. 

AJ Bell stockbroker

Sign-up to AJ Bell Youinvest today with a £25 regular deposit.

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Is AJ Bell a financially sound business?

AJ Bell publishes financial reports on an annual basis, which can be accessed from their investor relations website. This provides a snapshot of the business which has been audited by external accountancy firm BDO LLP. 

For the twelve months ended September 2021, the group reported revenues of £145.8m, up +15% on 2020. Profit before tax also increased by 13% to £55.1m. 

The net assets of the business (comprising all company assets minus liabilities) was £131m. This figure excludes client assets.

By any financial metric, this is a healthy financial position to report and reflects buoyant trading during the pandemic period and stable profit margins. 

Audited financial statements are not guaranteed to be accurate – an auditor performs procedures that are inherently limited (such as picking items of income to test on a sample basis) to provide assurance but this cannot be taken as gospel by investors.

AJ Bell is riding a recent trend. As the Financial Times wrote in 3 December 2020; ‘AJ Bell benefits as younger traders flock to markets’. During the original lockdown, one of the hobbies that young adults seemed to flock to was investing. Stockbrokers like AJ Bell were more than happy to cater to these new clients. 

It is not possible to predict with certainty whether AJ Bell will continue to trade well in the future, or whether it will be immune to scandals or mismanagement. However, what we can say is that AJ Bell’s track record of governance is good, and currently has an excellent financial foundation that provides existing clients with confidence. 

AJ Bell account fees and dealing charges

We’ll now examine the fees and charges of AJ Bell YouInvest and compare to other brokers.

Please read this section carefully, as the fee structures of the major brokers all differ in subtle ways which makes an ‘apples versus apples’ comparison difficult. 

Annual charge

AJ Bell calls its annual account fee a ‘custody charge’, which is calculated as a percentage of assets. The charges quoted below are for the Stocks & Shares ISA product.

0.25% on shares* capped at £3.50 per month (£42 per year).

*shares includes any directly held listed equities, such as ETFs, investment trusts, REITs

0.25% on funds, reducing to 0.1% on any fund value between £250k and £1m, 0.05% on fund value between £1m and £2m and no additional fee is levees on any fund value above £2m. 

0% on cash balances (however, no interest is paid on this balance). 

Because these charges are difficult to compute in one’s head, you can use the handy fee calculator on its website to get a more precise estimate of your total investing costs based on a portfolio value. 

Dealing charges

Dealing charges may change in the future. At the time of writing the AJ Bell dealing charges are: 

£9.95 for a share purchase (UK or international – online orders only)

£4.95 for a share purchase if you placed 10+ share trades in the previous month 

£1.50 for a fund purchase

We the love the simplicity of this pricing structure. Other schemes are available such as a dividend reinvestment scheme which charges 1%. This is ideal for small transactions – the dealing charge would be 70p on the reinvestment of a £70 dividend as an illustration. 

AJ Bell stockbroker

Sign-up to AJ Bell Youinvest today with a £25 regular deposit.

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Is AJ Bell YouInvest the cheapest investment platform?

Let’s now try to compare AJ Bell YouInvest stocks & shares ISA fees against that of its main competitors; Hargreaves Lansdown (review) and interactive investor (review)

To perform a meaningful comparison, we must consider a combination of dealing and account fees. Some stockbrokers offer lower account fees but charge more to trade, while others have higher fees but charge less on each trade. For this reason, it’s pointless to directly compare only the share dealing fee or account fee in isolation. 

We’ll compare fees for three scenarios for all three brokers for three different portfolios to show which brokers are advantageous 

  1. Portfolio 1: “Fund Simplicity” – £50,000 of funds such as OEICs, Unit Trusts (not ETFs) with 2 fund purchases per month. 
  1. Portfolio 2: “Armchair investor” –  £250,000 of shares with 10 trades per month.
  1. Portfolio 3: Passive newbie – £10,000 of ETFs with one trade per month. 

We encourage you to perform your own assessment because many factors could differ including your blend of assets, your account value and how frequently you intend to trade.

Fund Simplicity – £50,000 of funds with 2 fund purchases per month

AJ Bell total investing cost: £161 per year (£1.50 per deal, 0.25% annually on fund value)

Interactive investor cost: £167 per year (2 free fund trades included in ‘Funds fan’ membership for £13.99 per month.

Hargreaves Lansdown cost: £225 per year (£0 per deal, 0.45% annual on fund value)

AJ Bell is the cheapest stockbroker for a modest value of funds due to its low dealing charge paired with a competitive annual charge. 

“Armchair investor” –  £250,000 of shares with 10 trades per month.

Note: 10 share trades per month will qualify for discounted trading fees for HL and AJ Bell. ‘Super Investor’ plan qualifies for discounted dealing charges for ii. 

Interactive investor cost: £622 per year (£3.99 per deal, two free deals per month, £19.99 per month for ‘Super Investor’ plan).

AJ Bell total investing cost: £636 per year (£4.95 per deal, £42 capped annual fee on shares value)

Hargreaves Lansdown cost: £1,119 per year (£8.95 per deal, £45 capped annual fee on shares value.

Based on our calculations above, interactive investor is the cheapest stockbroker for an account with a large account value and 10+ trades per month. We noticed that the AJ Bell online charges calculator gave an artificially high estimate because it did not incorporate the dealing fee discounts for 10+ trades per month, therefore we used our own calculation. 

“Passive newbie” – £5,000 of ETFs with one trade per month. 

Interactive investor cost: £119.88 per year (Free deal per month included in ‘investor’ plan for £9.99 per month.)

AJ Bell cost: £131.90 per year (£9.95 per deal, 0.25% annual fee on ETF value)

Hargreaves Lansdown cost: £165.90 per year (£11.95 per deal, 0.45% annual fee on ETF value). 

Based on our calculations above, interactive investor was the best value broker due to their inclusion of a single free trade per month which meant no incremental dealing fees were incurred even when on their most basic membership plan. 

What type of investor is a good fit for AJ Bell’s platform?

Our analysis above has shown that AJ Bell YouInvest offers the best value to investors with £50,000 – £150,000 in funds.  

It’s also worth noting that it was difficult to notice the difference between ii and AJ Bell YouInvest in the other scenarios, illustrating that while the fee structures of the firms do look different, they seem to achieve a similar total cost, although ii is slightly cheaper particularly for large accounts or very high volume trading.

AJ Bell stockbroker

Sign-up to AJ Bell Youinvest today with a £25 regular deposit.

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What accounts does AJ Bell YouInvest offer?

AJ Bell offers a range of tax-free and general investment accounts as follows:

  • SIPP
  • Stocks & shares ISA
  • Lifetime ISA 
  • Dealing account
  • Junior ISA
  • Junior SIPP
  • Junior dealing account
  • Cash savings hub

Read more about the accounts offered by AJ Bell on their website.

Does AJ Bell have a good reputation among investors?

AJ Bell Review
Source: Trustpilot.com

AJ Bell has a 4.4/5.0 score on Trustpilot from verified investors, which translates to an ‘excellent’ rating overall. 

This compares to 4.2 for Hargreaves Lansdown and 4.7 for interactive investor. 

A recent review by Andrew reads as follows:

I have been a customer (and invested) using the AJ Bell platform for about 2 years now. I came late to the self-investment “game” but with some help from a cousin, I have found it quite easy. On occasions such as today, when I have been unsure about how to do something, or the meaning and consequences of doing or not doing something, it is great to know that there is a friendly and helpful AJ Bell agent at the other end of a phone line to guide you through. Big thanks to Haziq on this occasion.”

This review is representative of many of the positive reviews left on Trustpilot, rating the customer service highly and expressing gratitude for assistance provided over the phone. 

As can be seen in the rating distribution above, three times more customers have rated AJ Bell YouInvest five stars than any other category. 

Sample of negative reviews cite a website interface where the customer found it ‘baffling’ and ‘difficult to find a record of transactions’.

It’s worth pointing out for balance that five of the recent one-star reviews were left by the same individual, which has inflated the number of ratings in this category. 

AJ Bell stockbroker

Sign-up to AJ Bell Youinvest today with a £25 regular deposit.

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What are the downsides or drawbacks of AJ Bell YouInvest as a platform?

AJ Bell occupies a middle ground of fee structures, and therefore it’s difficult to find a downside in their offering. 

Consider the rest of the market: 

  • some brokers charge high account fees but low dealing fees to attract high-volume traders who will save money overall. These brokers would be inappropriate for inactive investors. 
  • Other stockbrokers offer low account fees which creates a strong appeal for inactive traders who just want to hold a lump sum for the long term but could be expensive for frequent traders who won’t enjoy the higher trading fees which the broker uses to subsidise the low account fee. 

AJ Bell, in contrast, offers an account fee that is charged as a percentage – which makes it affordable for small accounts. Yet because the fee is capped at £3.50 per month, this makes it very desirable for large portfolios.

Dealing charges start at £9.95 – which is not cheap. But most retail investors hold a mixture of shares and funds. 

Fund purchases are a bargain at just £1.50. Moreover, AJ Bell offers a £1.50 ‘regular investment service’ which allows you to set up a monthly direct debit and investment instruction which will buy shares once per month for just £1.50 per trade. So an organized investor may never pay the headline £9.95 dealing charge. 

Therefore it’s difficult to conceive of an investment style that would attract an unreasonable level of fees based on an investment frequency, type or size of portfolio. 

This makes AJ Bell YouInvest an investment platform that will ‘scale with you’ as you continue to grow your investments over the course of your life. You should never feel that you have ‘outgrown’ your broker and feel you need to move elsewhere. 

This, we suspect, is precisely why AJ Bell has such a large customer base. They’ve retained the loyalty of clients who have joined them years and years ago by continuing to serve them with fair rates and charges throughout. 

Conclusion: AJ Bell YouInvest review in a nutshell

  • The second largest stockbroker in the UK by assets under management
  • AJ Bell plc is a publicly listed firm with a sound financial position and is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.
  • Fees and charges which scale down for small accounts and are capped for large accounts means this platform is good value regardless of your investment style.
  • AJ Bell has a good reputation amongst its clients, scoring 4.4/5.0 on Trustpilot (see below)
  • Offers a wide range of accounts for adults and children

In our conclusion, AJ bell is a well-regarded broker which suits all investment styles and portfolio sizes. 

AJ Bell stockbroker

Sign-up to AJ Bell Youinvest today with a £25 regular deposit.

Visit broker

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How does AJ Bell Youinvest compare?


Overall best broker

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Best for £100k+

Interactive Investor Broker

Large UK trading platform with a flat account fee and a free trade every month. Cheapest for investors with big pots.

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Best for funds

Hargreaves Stockbroker

The UK’s no. 1 investment platform for private investors. Boasting over £135bn in assets under administration and over 1.5m active clients. Best for funds. 

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AJ Bell Youinvest Stockbroker

Youinvest stocks & shares ISA offers lower prices the more you trade! Which? 'Recommended Provider' for last 3 years.

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Nutmeg Stockbroker

Choose a pre-made portfolio in minutes with Nutmeg. Choose your level of risk and let Nutmeg efficiently handle the rest.

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Fidelity stockbroker

Buy and sell funds at nil cost with Fidelity International, plus simple £10 trading fees for stocks & shares and ETFs.

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