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Hargreaves Lansdown vs AJ Bell: what’s the difference?

Hargreaves Lansdown (HL) and AJ Bell are two leading investment platforms in the UK. 

But how do they compare on fees, the selection of funds and service offerings? 

This guide examines the key differences between HL and AJ Bell to help you decide. 

Summary: 

  • Hargreaves Lansdown (HL) offers wider choice and guidance, while AJ Bell focuses on low fees

  • HL is more suited for beginners, while AJ Bell is ideal for experienced DIY investors

  • Both investment platforms offer a long-term passive strategy

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What is the difference between Hargreaves Lansdown and AJ Bell?

The core distinction lies in their service offerings: 

  • Hargreaves Lansdown offers a broad range of investment options and guidance tools aimed at a range of investors, including those starting out and experienced investors. 

  • AJ Bell offers an execution-only dealing platform targeted primarily at confident DIY investors who know what they want. 

So HL provides more support while AJ Bell offers a more stripped-back service at a lower cost. 

In short: 

  • Hargreaves Lansdown: It offers more guidance but higher fees. 

  • AJ Bell: You benefit from lower fees but have less guidance. 

Hargreaves Lansdown vs AJ Bell: how do the fees compare?

Pricing is a key consideration when comparing platforms as fees can eat into your returns 

Here is how the fees stack up: 

Hargreaves Lansdown pricing
  • 0.45% account fee (capped at £45 per year for stocks and shares and lifetime ISAs or £200 annually for a self-invested personal pension). This fee may be reduced for bigger funds. 

  • Dealing charge of £11.95 for funds, shares and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) - this may be reduced with more deals. 

  • No platform or account fees on funds. 

  • Average ongoing charge figure (OCF) of 0.81% on funds. 

AJ Bell pricing
  • 0.25% account fee (maximum £3.50 per month for shares custody charge). The custody charge for funds may be reduced for bigger funds.  

  • £1.50 regular fund dealing fee. 

  • £9.95 fund and share dealing (a smaller fee applies for regular dealing). 

  • No platform or account fees on funds. 

  • Average OCF of 0.82% on funds, 

AJ Bell is cheaper overall for regular fund investors thanks to lower account and dealing fees. HL fund dealing costs can be much higher than AJ Bell and add up. 

Is Hargreaves Lansdown or AJ Bell better? 

Looking beyond the fees, other factors worth weighing up include: 

  • Choice: HL offers over 3,000 funds, shares, ETFs and investment trusts. AJ Bell has a smaller fund range (over 2,000) but also offers shares and trusts. 

  • Tools: HL provides research, fund shortlists and calculator tools, while AJ Bell has minimal tools. 

  • Service: HL offers advice, guidance and customer support. AJ Bell is purely an execution-only platform. 

  • Accounts: Both offer individual savings accounts (ISAs), SIPPs and general investment accounts (GIAs)s. HL also has a lifetime ISA. 

  • Brand: HL more established name, while AJ Bell has a growing reputation. Overall, there is no definitively superior platform as each suits different types of investors. 

Which should you choose?

Consider the following when deciding if Hargreaves Lansdown or AJ Bell better meets your needs. 

If you’re prioritising: 

  • Low fees: AJ Bell 

  • A wide fund range: Hargreaves Lansdown 

  • Investment guidance: Hargreaves Lansdown 

  • To do your own research and DIY investing: AJ Bell 

  • Reporting tools and calculators: Hargreaves Lansdown 

  • A simple trading platform: AJ Bell 

  • More guidance: Hargreaves Lansdown 

  • An execution only platform: AJ Bell 

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Can you have accounts with both HL and AJ Bell?

Yes, you can open a Hargreaves Lansdown and an AJ Bell account. 

Here are some of the potential benefits of holding both: 

  • Access to a wider range of investments. 

  • You can use HL for guidance and AJ Bell for lower fees. 

  • The ability to compare platforms and switch if needed. 

  • Split tax-efficient allowances between two ISAs. 

  • Diversify across providers for added security. 

The only extra hassle is tracking multiple accounts and paying more in fees overall. 

But using HL alongside AJ Bell can provide a good combination of research and low costs. 

Which offers better support for long-term, passive investing?

Both Hargreaves Lansdown and AJ Bell accommodate a long-term passive index investing strategy: 

  • HL has a large range of index funds and ETFs. 

  • AJ Bell has a smaller but decent index fund selection. 

For completely hands-off investors, HL offers more guidance, fund shortlists and tools to support passively managing your portfolio. 

But AJ Bell costs less, which may appeal to DIY investors, who just want a cheap platform to execute trades. 

So, HL likely suits passive investors who value some guidance while AJ Bell fits those who prioritise low fees. 

How do their investment philosophies differ?

Hargreaves Lansdown’s philosophy includes: 
  • Providing a wide selection of investment options. 

  • Offering tools and services to help investors. 

  • Enabling investors to actively manage their portfolios. 

  • Providing market insights and fund research. 

  • Developing long term relationships with clients. 

AJ Bell’s philosophy includes: 
  • Providing a simple low-cost investment platform. 

  • An execution-only service with no advice. 

  • Letting investors research and choose their investments. 

  • Offering basic tools focused on ease of trading. 

  • Keeping investing simple and hassle-free. 

So, HL aims to equip active investors with tools and guidance, while AJ Bell seeks to strip back investing to just the essentials at a low cost. 

HL suits those who value more guidance while AJ Bell will appeal to confident DIY investors who want low fees. 

Want help with your investment journey? 

Unbiased can quickly connect you with a qualified financial adviser who can help you craft the best investment portfolio for your unique circumstances and review your portfolio regularly. 

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