28 min Read
02 Jul 2019

Written by Damien

Damien is one of the most widely quoted money and investment experts in the national press and has made numerous radio & TV appearances. He created MoneytotheMasses.com while working in the City when he became disillusioned with the way the public were left to fend for themselves because they could not afford financial advice.

More about Damien

Interactive Investor Review – is it the best broker for your money in 2019?

Interactive Investor review

Interactive Investor is an award-winning comprehensive online investment platform with around 400,000 customers. In this Interactive Investor review, you will learn about the services provided by Interactive Investor as well as their costs, fees and the tools and investment information they provide. In the last section of this article I also compare Interactive Investor vs Hargreaves Lansdown, the UK's biggest investment platform.

Who is Interactive Investor

Launched in 1995 Interactive Investor is an award-winning online investment service that provides the DIY investor with the tools and trading environment to help them make informed investment decisions. Its 400,000 customers, and the acquisition of rival TD Direct, makes Interactive Investor one of the most engaged and active investor communities in the UK, especially since Motley Fool closed its investment forums. In July 2019 Interactive Investor announced the acquisition of Alliance Trust Savings (ATS) from Alliance Trust PLC. The latest acquisition brings together the two largest fixed price retail investment platforms and means Interactive Investor now has £36 billion assets under administration, cementing itself as the second biggest investment platform in the UK, behind Hargreaves Lansdown.

Interactive Investor does not offer investment advice so is an execution-only service but does provide a range of investment tools, a fund shortlist called the Super 60 and some investment information to help the DIY investor which I discuss later.

The Interactive Investor Group also owns Moneywise Publishing Ltd. which publishes financial titles such as Moneywise, Money Observer and their websites.

In 2017 Interactive Investor received the following awards:

  • ADVFN - Best Low Cost Stockbroker 2018
  • ADVFN - Best SIPP Provider 2018
  • ADVFN - Best Stockbroker for International Dealing 2018
  • Investors Chronicle 2017 – Best Self-select ISA provider
  • Shares Awards 2017 – Best International Share-Dealing Service

What services and products are offered by Interactive Investor?

Interactive Investor ISA

An Interactive Investor ISA allows an annual tax-free investment of £20,000 (for the current tax year) in a variety of assets including funds, ETFs, investment trusts and shares. You can open an Interactive Investor ISA in less than 10 minutes and monitor your portfolio on a computer, tablet or mobile app. The minimum contribution to start an Interactive Investor ISA is a lump sum of £100 or £25 per month which is the same as Hargreaves Lansdown.

Interactive Investor Junior ISA

An Interactive Investor Junior ISA is a tax-efficient way of investing for a child's future. A person with parental responsibility can open an Interactive Investor Junior ISA and once open anyone can contribute to it, subject the current annual allowance of £4,260 (this will rise to £4,368 in 2019/20). The minimum contribution to start an Interactive Investor Junior ISA is £100 or £25 per month.  Again this is the same as Hargreaves Lansdown. However, there are other platforms that do offer lower minimum amounts to be paid into their Junior ISAs (read our roundup of the Best Stocks and Shares Junior ISAs). After the age of 18 the proceeds from an Interactive Investor Junior ISA become the property of the child who can withdraw or convert it to an adult ISA.

Interactive Investor SIPP

An Interactive Investor SIPP is a tax-efficient way of building up an income for retirement. All investments in a SIPP will currently qualify for tax relief up to a maximum of £40,000 per year or 100% of your annual income. Basic rate taxpayers will receive an uplift to any investment of 20%, so an investment of £8,000 will result in a sum of £10,000 being invested in a SIPP. Higher and Additional rate taxpayers can obtain additional tax relief through their annual tax return.

Interactive Investor Trading Account

An Interactive Investor Trading Account is a dealing account offering a wide range of investments including funds, investment trust, ETFS and shares. You can reduce your currency costs by managing your money in up to 9 currencies across the world’s leading exchanges. By holding cash already in a foreign currency it reduces the need for FX and therefore FX charges. It's little wonder that ii has won awards for its international dealing. Interactive Investor also offers a comprehensive range of investment news, tools as well as an active investment forum.

Other products and services

Interactive Investor Company Account

An Interactive Investor Company Account allows trading in the name of a UK Limited Company which offers the same benefits as a standard Interactive Trading Account. This sort of account is not offered by most other investment platforms. Investments can be made in a wide of investments including funds, investment trusts and up to four nominated individuals can place trades and manage the account on behalf of the company. 

Interactive Investor Pension Trading Account

An Interactive Investor Pension Trading Account allows investment in assets such as property which are not available within the Interactive Investor SIPP. A pension trading account can be set up in association with a SIPP/SSAS administered by your preferred pension provider.

Interactive Investor Spread Betting & CFDs

Only for the most sophisticated of investors, trading Contracts For Differences (CFDs) and spread betting allows customers to speculate on whether an investment's price will rise or fall. Trading can be done with global currencies, shares, indices and commodities.

Trading on CFDs and spread betting is a high-risk investment and clients must understand fully the risks involved.

Expatriate and International Investment Account

While most investment platforms won't allow expatriates to become customers Interactive Investor is one of the few investment platforms that accept customers from outside of the UK via their Expatriate and International Investment Account. To qualify however, you would still need to be resident in either the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

What can you invest in using Interactive Investor?

With Interactive Investor investments can be made in shares, unit trusts, OEICs, investment trusts, retail bonds, ETFs, bonds, gilts, CFDs and currencies. You can pick thte actual investments yourself or use the guidance and tools, detailed in the next section, to help you.

Free tools and investment advice offered by Interactive Investor

Free Research Account

Opening a Free Research Account provides access to additional insights research tools plus you can set up watchlists, a virtual portfolio and register for email updates.

Interactive Investor model portfolios

Interactive Investor previously promoted 12 model portfolios which were created by the Money Observer editorial team. Now it has relaunched with 4 new model portfolios whose names accurately explain what they aim to achieve.

  • Active Growth
  • Active Income
  • Low-cost growth
  • Low-cost income

What I really like about these portfolios is that they include a mix of actively managed fund and passive/tracker funds. They also use unit trusts, ETFs and investment trusts and I don't know of another platform that does this. Usually, platforms focus on unit trusts, despite the opportunities and cost savings available via investment trusts and ETFs. What is interesting is that ii's new branding is all about transparency and true to its word you can actually see the portfolios and the constituents without registering with ii. So, in theory, there is nothing to stop you taking this information and investing with an alternative platform. However, Interactive Investor's cost-effectiveness likely means that most users probably wouldn't end up doing this. Even if customers don't decide to follow the ii model portfolios it at least provides investment ideas to explore themselves.

Interestingly, for those wishing to buy shares directly (i.e not via funds) ii do provide occasional portfolios to ponder, such as their Winter Portfolio.

ii Super 60

ii has finally launched its own 'Best Buy' list to compete with the newly revamped Hargreaves Lansdown Wealth 50. The Interactive Investor Super 60 is ii's take on a range of high-conviction active and passive funds, investment trusts, and ETFs. The aim is to help investors identify collective investments with consistent returns, and those which they believe are good choices in the prevailing market environment. Ii says that the investments are picked purely on quality and performance and are free of commercial incentives.

The Hargreaves Lansdown Wealth 50 (which also strangely has 60 funds in it) was launched around the same time. However, it was met with some criticism as it included underperforming funds from Neil Woodford, the most high profile fund manager out there. One disgruntled fund manager who is not included in the Wealth 50 took to the national press to question the new shortlist. According to The Times, fund manager Terry Smith accused Hargreaves of "recommending funds based on their potential to maximise the fund supermarket's profits rather than their ability to outperform for clients". Hargreaves denied this and their previous incarnation of the Wealth 50 has produced strong returns, which suggests their selection process stands up to scrutiny.

However, the fact that interactive investor's Super 60 includes ETFs and investment trusts, alongside unit trusts is a huge positive. The proof will be in the ii Super 60 performance.

Quick start funds

The ii Quick start funds are meant to be "designed as a low cost, easy way to invest and grow your money over 3 years or more"

Basically, ii has picked 3 Vanguard Lifestrategy funds. They are a bit late to the party as here is a research article by me which was published in the Telegraph demonstrating how good these funds are - read 'The tracker fund that survives stock market routs'.

What is very exciting is that Interactive Investor is not only promoting these funds (other platforms don't promote them because they'd rather investors bought funds that earned them more money) but ii is also one of the cheapest way to own Vanguard funds if you have over £60,000 invested. Not only that but you can hold these funds within the ii SIPP, currently Vanguard doesn't offer a direct pension product.

How does Interactive Investor platform work

Interactive Investor allows you to sign up to a trading account where you can invest via one an ISA, SIPP etc. However ii also offers a free research account which will interest both novice and experienced investors.

The trading account offers what you would expect from a leading platform, such as a document history section where all the relevant investment documents are held relating to a client's investments. Transaction history shows details of all transaction conducted on the account.

The research account is where all the investment research and news (including newsletters) can be found together with access to the Interactive Investor forum.

What I do really like is the ability to create a Virtual Portfolio within the research section. This means you can create watchlists and track a portfolio of shares, investment trusts, unit trusts or ETFs and make notes. I hope other investment platforms follow suit as its a useful tool in helping consumers understand risk and reward while (or indeed before) they invest.

The Interactive Investment platform is easy to use with the ability to manage all your investments needs in one place via a desktop computer, tablet or the Interactive Investor dealing app. The whole site has recently had a revamp, which I think has actually improved the user experience. Previously interactive investor's design was more tailored to sophisticated investors (which have been the core of its customers) but the revamp makes it much more accessible to less experienced investors, especially with the introduction of its fund shortlist (the Super 60) and Quick Start funds.

Interactive Investor ISA review

The Interactive Investor ISA is suitable for all DIY investors from beginners to experts. The range of investment choices is one of the best among investment platforms and trading is quick and easy. The investment tools, research and investor forum add an extra dimension to Interactive Investor's offering. The downside is that there is a £7.99 standard dealing charge on switches, even for funds, which makes the platform expensive for those with smaller pots. However, as part of your monthly service plan fee (which we explain in more detail below), you do receive at least one free credit per month and you can reduce the dealing charge further if you opt for an alternative service plan. Overall, while the investment choice is impressive, Interactive Investor only becomes cost effective if you have a portfolio of significant size. When we analysed all the investment ISA platforms in the market, based on cost, Interactive becomes cost-effective (and competitive) if you have an ISA portfolio worth over £50,000 or you want to invest in a range of assets beyond just unit trusts.

If you don't plan to invest in more esoteric investments then for portfolios up to £50,000 Hargreaves Lansdown is cheaper yet still offers one of the widest range of investment funds.  Hargreaves Lansdown does not charge for fund switches (Interactive Investor charges £7.99 per trade on their Investor service plan) but does charge for transacting other asset types such as shares and ETFs. But investors wanting to frequently trade in ETFs and shares can get the switching charge discounted to £5.95 with Hargreaves Lansdown, which is cheaper than Interactive Investor's 'Investor' plan, but more expensive than their 'Super Investor' service plan (See below).

Another alternative is to consider is AJ Bell which while not the cheapest investment platform for ISAs it is among the best value across a range of portfolio sizes (from £15,000 to £200,000), negating the need to keep moving ISA providers as your portfolio grows.

If you want to simply invest in tracker funds then one of the cheapest ways to do this is via the Vanguard Investor platform, although you can only buy Vanguard's own tracker funds and ETFs. But if you want to invest over £60,000 or more then it is still cheaper to buy Vanguard's funds through Interactive Investor.

Interactive Investor ISA Fees

From the 1st June 2019, Interactive Investor moved from a quarterly charge of £22.50 to a monthly flat fee pricing model, with three service plans to choose from. The move has been described as 'revolutionary' for the investment sector with Interactive Investor's Chief Executive, Richard Wilson exclaiming "Our flat fee structure lends itself to this much more intuitive, personalised, monthly pricing model. Each service plan has a fixed monthly fee with reduced ultra-low trading fees to suit different investment styles".

I have summarised the fees and trade charges for each of the service plans below.

Investor Funds Fan Super Investor
Monthly Fee £9.99 per month £13.99 per month £19.99 per month
Free monthly trades 1 free trade 2 fund trades 2 UK / ETF / fund trades
UK share and ETF trades £7.99 £7.99 £3.99
Funds and Investment trust trades £7.99 £3.99 £3.99
US Share trades £7.99 £7.99 £4.99
Other international share trades £19.99 £19.99 £9.99
Dividend reinvestment £0.99 £0.99 £0.99
Regular investment £0.99 £0.99 £0.99

Interactive Investor previously charged £22.50 per quarter (£90 per year) however their cheapest service plan now costs £9.99 per month (just under £120 per year). While this is £30 more per year, customers who trade at least once a month will either be paying the same or making a saving.

Moira O'Neill, Head of Personal Finance at Interactive Investor explains "Using the Investor package as an example: a customer who doesn't trade at all over the year will pay £30 per year more for their new interactive investor flat fee. But if they traded once a month, they would be paying exactly the same as before. An investor trading twice a month on Investor versus the old pricing plan would save £24 a year".

This is because Interactive Investor has reduced their standard dealing charges from £10 to £7.99 per trade. Further reductions apply if you opt for the 'Funds Fan' or 'Super Investor' service plans.

Interactive Investor SIPP review

The Interactive Investor SIPP is suitable for all DIY investors from beginners to experts. As a platform Interactive Investor becomes more attractive for investors with larger sums due to its fixed fee charging structure, as opposed to charging a fee based on a percentage of your assets as most platforms do. That means Interactive Investor is ideal for those investors with large SIPP portfolios particularly if they are interested in investing in more esoteric investments. However, if they trade frequently the trading costs will slowly mount up, although discounts are available as described below. When we compared the charging structures of all the leading SIPP providers out there Interactive Investor is generally one of the cheapest options if your SIPP is worth over £50,000.

As for alternatives to the Interactive Investor SIPP, while Vanguard Investor is a viable alternative for Stocks and Shares ISA investors wanting to build a cheap passive portfolio Vanguard does not yet offer a SIPP product. However, if your SIPP is worth under £50,000 and you just want to invest in investment funds (unit trusts) then Charles Stanley is among the cheapest SIPP providers and also one the most popular based on customer feedback we've received.

Interactive Investor SIPP Fees

Similar to the Interactive Investor ISA, there are three service plans to choose from, summarised below.

Investor Funds Fan Super Investor
Monthly Fee £9.99 per month £13.99 per month £19.99 per month
Free monthly trades 1 free trade 2 fund trades 2 UK / ETF / fund trades
UK share and ETF trades £7.99 £7.99 £3.99
Funds and Investment trust trades £7.99 £3.99 £3.99
US Share trades £7.99 £7.99 £4.99
Other international share trades £19.99 £19.99 £9.99
Dividend reinvestment £0.99 £0.99 £0.99
Regular investment £0.99 £0.99 £0.99

In addition to the fees above, Interactive Investor's SIPP attracts an additional charge of £100 per annum plus VAT. The charge is applied on the anniversary of the account being opened.

Interactive Investor Trading Account review

The Interactive Investor Trading Account offers an everyday trading account with a wide range of investments. Trade online using a computer, tablet or mobile app by accessing the Interactive Investor Trading Account platform allowing full management of investments.

Interactive Investor Trading Account Fees

There are three service plans to choose from, summarised below

Investor Funds Fan Super Investor
Monthly Fee £9.99 per month £13.99 per month £19.99 per month
Free monthly trades 1 free trade 2 fund trades 2 UK / ETF / fund trades
UK share and ETF trades £7.99 £7.99 £3.99
Funds and Investment trust trades £7.99 £3.99 £3.99
US Share trades £7.99 £7.99 £4.99
Other international share trades £19.99 £19.99 £9.99
Dividend reinvestment £0.99 £0.99 £0.99
Regular investment £0.99 £0.99 £0.99

How safe is Interactive Investor?

Under the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), investor assets are protected up to a maximum of £85,000 per person. Any cash held is pooled with that of other customers and deposited with a number of financial institutions. In the event that one of these fails then cash deposits are protected up to a value of £85,000 per person, per institution.

Summary - Interactive Investor review?

Interactive Investor suits those DIY investors who want to manage their own investments, possibly invest in more esoteric investments beyond unit trusts, investment trusts and ETFs and who have a significant portfolio. That's because Interactive Investor has a fixed fee platform charge rather than charging a fee based on your portfolio size. That means that if you have an ISA portfolio or SIPP portfolio worth over £50,000 Interactive Investor will be among the cheapest investment platforms out there. That is true even if you factor in their switch transaction charges. These transaction charges are even applied to unit trust switches, which many providers don't do.

While there are many positives to Interactive Investor's platform there have been negatives. Their acquisition of rival platform TD Direct and the subsequent website upgrade was met with quite a lot OF negative customer reviews online with some having difficulty trading. This is now behind them and the site has now been revamped. So take online reviews in context. It's not unusual, Fidelity customers experienced (see my Fidelity review) as a result of a website upgrade.

Also for investors with ISA or SIPP portfolios under £50,000, there are other cheaper options especially if you only plan to invest in unit trust funds. For those looking for excellent customer service, investment research and excellent online functionality then Hargreaves Lansdown remains a popular option. Alternatively, the A J Bell Youinvest platform is among the cheapest platforms for most people who are looking to invest in unit trusts and want to hold both their Stocks and Shares ISA and a SIPP on the same platform (read our full AJ Bell review)

Interactive Investor vs Hargreaves Lansdown

Hargreaves Lansdown is the leading investment platform in the UK with Interactive Investor now the second largest by assets under management thanks to its acquisition of TD Direct. For a lot of investors when it comes to choosing the best platform for them it comes down to a choice between Hargreaves Lansdown vs Interactive Investor. For ease I've highlighted some of the key differences and similarities below:

  • Interactive Investor does not charge exit fees (unlike Hargreaves Lansdown) if you decide to leave them and move your money elsewhere - this is a big positive
  • Both have a wide range of investment choices and investment wrappers although Hargreaves also offers Junior SIPPs and annuities
  • Interactive Investor does accept ex-pat customers (must have residency in the UK, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man)
  • Hargreaves Lansdown does not charge for unit trust fund switches
  • While both charge for switching other types of investment both offer discounts to customers making regular switches.
  • Both offer investment research, fund shortlists, research reports and suggested portfolios
  • Interactive Investor provides investment forums and an investment community
  • Interactive Investor is better value for investors with large ISA and SIPP portfolios over £50,000k+
  • Hargreaves Lansdown is usually more cost-effective for portfolios under £50,000
  • Hargreaves Lansdown has by far the best customer service, website interface and app

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