Over the past few years, AJ Bell has transformed the business away from its Sipp heritage as it morphs into a broader platform.
The acquisition of stockbroker Lawshare in 2007 makes this platform better than many at supporting listed securities and the recent purchase of specialist financial publisher MSM Media adds an interesting new string to its bow.
The group supports both direct and advised clients, rebranding from Sippdeal to AJ Bell Youinvest in direct-land. It supports sporting events such as the World Squash Championships and sports teams including Lancashire County Cricket.
In the advised space, the group announced that it would rebrand the Sippcentre platform as AJ Bell Investcentre in April but this has not been implemented yet.
The platform is keenly priced and falls into the “lower cost, fewer frills” camp. Interestingly, the decision has been taken to cap fees in the direct space but not (yet?) on the advised platform. Nonetheless, advisers often mention the competitive fees.
Other pluses include good access to multiple investment vehicles and open architecture. As for usability, we hear some stories of trouble online and our direct roadtesting has unearthed a few glitches. Growing pains are cited by some, specifically problems with adviser charging earlier in the year, but general feedback is positive.
Finally, enhancements to investment performance tools and data pages on the website are in the pipeline.
The former will enable advisers to produce reports that include a full performance breakdown of the portfolio.
The improved data pages should allow advisers to carry out ad hoc or regular bulk downloads of transaction and valuation data, payments in or out and adviser fees.
The Budget should be good news for AJ Bell, which should be ready to embrace the drawdown opportunities presented.
Holly Mackay is managing director of The Platforum
We have been using AJ Bell since 1998. Having added Isa and GIA on top of the traditional Sipp, they have become our main platform of choice. The BDM we are in contact with and all their other staff are always helpful and informed. My own Sipp is with them, which is probably the best endorsement and AJ Bell’s charges are very low and transparent – we like that. They are playing catch-up a little bit on some of their IT capabilities but are investing in catching up with other more established platforms and we are looking forward to their continued improvement in this area.”