The army of tech-enabled stockbroking minnows looking to knock out the major players is growing by the day. I’ve been quietly impressed by Dutch new entrant DeGiro which a few months ago launched what I thought was a killer product, its new online dealing service. Charges are £1.75 per trade plus a charge of 0.004% for UK shares plus €0.50 per US share (plus $0.004 per share). It’s a no frills service with no ISA or SIPP but it works.
Now though we have Trading 212. Around for 14 years and in profit for 8, this FX trading platform is now launching a share dealing service for 0% commission. To be fair it only applies to 1500 top UK, US and German shares – I’m awaiting details of these stocks – but I have to say this is a potentially killer product. Who can argue with free dealing?
There are some obvious questions not least how on earth do they fund it? Apparently, the core business is profitable and heavily regulated and one should also assume that we’ll see a freemium model emerge where add-ons are charged. But the threat to existing investment platforms is clear. Smaller players are reducing the net cost of share dealing close to zero. For many self-directed investors on platforms such as HL this will be enormously attractive. Combine that with Vanguards D2C model and the rise of the robo advisers and you can see how all the elements of the HL model are under threat. I have no doubt the Bristol based business will fight back. It has a great brand, fantastic customer UX, lots of content and an iron grip on tax wrappers. Its also very successfully fought of fee free funds platforms. But the writing is on the wall.