What Is The Best ISA Platform?
Using a platform is one option available to you when you are looking to invest, indeed this is an increasingly popular investment method. The platform investment option is also available when you are choosing your provider for the tax year.
Using a platform is one option available to you when you are looking to invest, indeed this is an increasingly popular investment method. The platform investment option is also available when you are choosing your ISA provider for the tax year.
We work with these investment platforms:
Legal & General (Own brand)
What is an investment platform?
Platforms are sometimes referred to as ‘fund supermarkets’. It’s a very good analogy, as when you go to the largest supermarkets, not everything is ‘own brand’, indeed there might be a whole aisle of biscuits from many different manufacturers.
Likewise, if you visit the investment platforms offered by the companies listed above, then you will have access to a wide range of investment options. In most cases, the platforms provide access to investment funds from a number of different fund managers.
The supermarket analogy also works when you consider that you can purchase several different products from the platform. For example, you might take out an ISA, a non-ISA investment and a personal pension.
Because all of these products are held with the same platform, then administration of the plans can be very easy – just one phone call or one visit to the platform’s online portal might allow you to place trading instructions for all of your accounts.
You would also expect to receive a single half yearly statement which shows the performance of all of your funds, so there’s much less paperwork than would be the case if you used a separate provider for your ISA, for your other investments, for your pension ...
You don’t have to invest via a platform. If you don’t use this method, then you have access to more funds and more products, as a platform will never give you access to the entire marketplace.
However, unless you have particularly complex investment needs, it’s likely that a platform will provide what you’re looking for. The largest platforms provide access to more than 4,000 funds from more than 100 fund managers.
Each platform will also typically offer:
- A range of funds with different risk profiles
- Funds that focus on different business sectors and different geographical regions
- Funds that are actively managed by fund managers and passive funds that track stock market indices
- Options to select the shares mix yourself and also ‘ready-made portfolios’, where you let the experts pick the stocks on your behalf
Choosing an investment platform for your ISA
Not all platforms are the same, so how do you select which platform to use?
Fees – you need to get an understanding of the level of fees you might pay, as the higher the fees you pay, the more the returns from your investments will be eroded.
Some platforms charge an annual fee, which might typically be between 0.25% and 0.45% of your total investments. Others charge a monthly fee, perhaps £10 per month, so a monthly option might be better if you have a larger amount to invest, and a percentage fee option might be best if you are only looking to use your ISA allowance and maybe invest a little more.
Other platforms might charge a fixed fee for every transaction, which can get expensive if you typically buy and sell investments regularly
Fund choice – all platforms offer a range of investment funds, but the exact number of funds offered can vary considerably, say from 50 to several thousand. One or two platform providers will only offer their own investment funds – effectively operating an ‘own brand only’ supermarket - while others will provide access to funds from many different fund managers.
Some platforms will offer niche investment options such as ethical and sustainable funds, or special situations funds, while others might have a more basic offering. You need to decide if the additional fund choice is important to you
The range of available investment products – with some platforms, you might not be able to invest in anything other than unit trusts and open-ended investment companies (OEICs). Others might give you access to investment trusts, exchange traded funds and/or direct investment in shares. Some platforms might only offer the standard stocks & shares ISA, while others might let you invest in a junior ISA or lifetime ISA, for example
Technology – this is increasingly important to many people, so you might, for example, want to look at how easy it is to manage your investments via the platform’s mobile app. Also visit the platform provider’s website and see how easy it is to navigate
Customer reviews – have a look at what previous customers of the platform have to say about their service
Investment platforms don’t usually have their own financial advisers. If you’re unsure about the suitability of any platform-based investment, it’s up to you to seek advice elsewhere first.
The platform’s website and documentation may provide a lot of useful information though, such as general help in choosing shares, marketplace news, stock market analysts’ tips, frequently asked questions and jargon buster guides.
Pros and cons of using a platform
As we’ve already seen, you don’t have to use a platform when making an investment. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this approach?
Advantages of platform investment include:
They can deliver significant efficiency savings, allowing you to hold all your investments and pensions in one place. You can administer all of these products at the same time with the same provider and you only need to receive one set of paperwork, which also makes completing tax returns and the like very easy
The best platforms offer a wide range of different funds and other investments from many different fund managers
Disadvantages of platform investment include:
They don’t provide access to the entire marketplace, so if your investment needs are particularly complex, then the platform might not provide what you are looking for
Some platforms provide a very limited offering, such as only offering a small number of funds and only offering unit trusts and OEICs