The 3 investing platforms we would recommend to family & friends

published on 11 May 2022

There are +50 different investing platforms in the UK alone and they all have their own features and nuances. It can be so overwhelming and nearly impossible to rank “the best” one to use.

It all depends on what you are looking for.

One platform might be better for active day traders, but come at a high price. Whereas another might be lower cost, but not offer the variety of investments of other platforms.

It’s enough to make your head spin!

So instead of trying to answer the impossible question, “What is the best investing platform on the market?”, I thought I would answer a slightly different question:

“What are the top 3 investing platforms that you would use yourself and recommend to family and friends?”

Ahhhh, much better!

It’s important to note that these platforms are all similar in the sense that they connect you to the stock market.

They act as a middleman between you and the stock market and it’s where you go to purchase your investments.

When evaluating investing platforms, here are some criteria I use to evaluate whether I would use them or not.

I call it the 3 F’s:

  1. Fees
  2. Funds
  3. Functionality

Every platform charges you fees to invest. Investing is not a free sport. Even the middle man needs to make money!

The difference between fees on various platforms can look negligible on the surface, however, these tiny fees have the ability to destroy your wealth over time.

It’s why I start with the fees first!

In most cases, fees are taken as a percentage of the total pot you have invested.

For example, if you invested £100,000 and the annual platform fee was 0.50%, you would pay £500.

Most investing platforms have a fee for the platform itself, plus an additional fee for the actual fund you invest in. Make sure you understand the total cost to invest.

A total fee of over +0.5% (platform + fund) starts to get my “spidey” senses tingling, and total fees over +1% are a no go for me personally!

Next you want to look at the funds available.

You want to make sure your investing platform offers the type of funds or stocks you want to invest in. Otherwise there is no reason to even consider the platform in the first place.

Last but not least - functionality.

Is the platform easy to use? Is buying investments simple? Can you navigate the platform with ease? Can you quickly figure out how to deposit and withdraw money?

I want to recommend a variety of platforms depending on what you are looking for, so I picked an established veteran, a youthful tech app for millennials and a newcomer to the market.

Let’s go hunting!

*Please note we DO NOT receive a commission for recommending these 3 platforms. This is our objective opinion and we are not financially compensated for linking to any of them. This is not financial advice. You need to do your own research and make a decision right for you.

The Established Veteran - Vanguard

I currently invest all my money through Vanguard. I have a Stocks & Shares ISA and a SIPP (pension) through the platform.

No bias here 😂

Let’s start with the most important part, the fees.

One of the reasons I love Vanguard is how transparent they are about fees. It costs 0.15% to invest up to £250,000 and is capped at £375 per year over £250,000.

It’s the lowest cost platform on the market.

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But remember that is for the platform itself, there is still a cost for the funds you invest in, which can range from 0.02% to 0.93% depending on which fund you choose.

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The total cost for my Vanguard account is 0.15% (platform fee) + 0.10% (fund fee) = 0.25% of my total pot invested per year.

Pretty good!

One of the fair criticisms of Vanguard is that you can only invest into Vanguard funds, nothing else. For example you can’t buy Apple stock on Vanguard. So if you want to invest in individual companies, Vanguard is not the right platform for you. It’s also not the right platform for you if you want to explore funds outside of Vanguard.

There are only 79 different funds on Vanguard, which is relatively low, compared to other platforms that have +1,000's of funds to choose from.

However, I like this as it narrows down my options and makes me feel less overwhelmed, while still giving me access to the major index funds globally I like to invest in such as the S&P500, FTSE 100 etc.

Vanguard does have a minimum amount you need to open an account. You either need to invest a lump sum of £500, or an ongoing direct debit of £100 per month. This may be a barrier to entry for you and something to consider.

As a passive index investor, Vanguard passes the fees and funds test with flying colours.

What about functionality?

I will be honest it’s not the sexiest of platforms out there. It’s a bit old school in terms of design, but it’s very straightforward to navigate and buy investments.

It takes about 3 minutes to open an account and the dashboard summary is clear (see example below).

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One of the most common questions I get when I host a financial wellbeing Lunch & Learn session is “What is the best investing platform on the market?”

Although it’s a straightforward question, the answer is extremely complicated.

Vanguard does not have an app, it’s a web based platform. However that doesn’t really bother me.

I don’t want to be checking in on my investments daily or even weekly, so not having an app on my phone that is constantly notifying me to log back in is great!

Some of the investing platforms that are more “gamified” are designed to suck you back into the platform to trade stocks. Remember these platforms get a commission every time you trade, so they are financially incentivized to increase the volume of trades you make.

When my close family and friends ask which platform they should use, I tell them to check out Vanguard first.

Our score for Vanguard: 4.5/5

Check them out → https://bit.ly/3NYcllD

Pros:

✅ FCA regulated

✅ Super low cost

✅ Great for passive investors / DIY investors

✅ Strong customer support

Cons:

⛔️ No individual company stocks

⛔️ Only Vanguard funds

⛔️ Bad for active investors

The Youthful Tech App - Plum

Plum is a new age “robo” investing app that uses AI to help automate your investments.

But before we get into the whizzy features, the first thing to do is check how much it’s going to cost you!

There are 3 main changes via Plum to invest:

  1. Platform free of 0.15%
  2. Fund fees (ranging from 0.06%-0.90%)
  3. £1 per month subscription fee for Plus (£2.99 for Pro & £4.99 for Ultra)

Fees 1-2 are very similar to Vanguard. Investing on Plum can be cheap or a bit pricey (+1%) depending on the cost of the fund you choose.

The fund called “American Dream” (aka US stocks) costs 0.10%, which is the same as similar funds on Vanguard. Whereas the Clean & Green (CSR ethical fund) will charge you 0.90%.

Big difference!

The 3rd subscription fee is the only one that is different to Vanguard. The monthly subscription costs a minimum of £1 per month, which is not a huge extra cost. However, if you are paying the premium model at £4.99 a month but only have £300 invested, it’s super expensive compared to what you have in your investment account (an extra £59.88 per year). You might be better off starting with the £1 a month subscription first.

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With Plum you have only 12 types of funds you can invest in. Plum has actually rebranded these funds to make them more digestible for new investors.

For example the fund below called “The American Dream” is essentially tracking the performance of the S&P500 stock market index in the USA. While the “Clean & Green” fund is made up of companies that have a strong commitment to Social Responsibility.

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The funny thing is that if you invested in the “American Dream” fund on the Plum platform, the actual fund you are invested in is the Vanguard U.S Equity Index Fund, which you could buy directly through Vanguard.

In fact, a number of Plums funds are Vanguard funds in disguise.

Currently you cannot invest in individual stocks on Plum, however this is a feature that is “coming soon” on their platform. It’s only a matter of time before you can invest in +500 brands like Apple, Tesla and Facebook.

Compared to Vanguard, Plum is miles ahead in terms of user experience. Its design and functionality work more like a social media app than a traditional investing platform.

It’s so intuitive and it takes less than a minute to set up an account. Plum is accessible to everyone because the minimum investment you need to make through the platform is only £1. 

Plum allows you to pre-set how much you want to invest and the app will automatically do it for you.

Our recommendation is to download the app and give the free platform a try. If you like the user experience, the automation and the functionality, it might be worth paying the extra £1-£4.99 per month.

Our score for Plum: 4/5

Check them out → https://bit.ly/3rj1ed6

Pros:

✅ Invest with just £1

✅ Automated investing

✅ Invest in individual stocks (soon!)

✅ FCA Regulated

Cons:

⛔️ Best features are behind a paywall (£1-£4.99 per month)

⛔️ Charges are expensive if you only have a low amount to invest

⛔️ Limited choice of funds (only 12)

The Newcomer - InvestEngine

Having launched in 2019 by the same founder as Gumtree, InvestEngine is truly one of the newest investing platforms on the market.

Vanguard is more of a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) investing platform, Plum is an AI powered Robo advisor platform, whereas InvestEngine is looking to disrupt the market by offering the best of both worlds, a DIY option with a managed-for-you option.

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Depending on which route you choose, it will have an impact on the cost.

Let’s start with the DIY option.

There is no platform fee when you select the DIY route, making it the lowest cost option on the market. FREE!

The only fee you will pay is on the fund itself, which as we know can vary.

InvestEngine offers +400 different types of funds, all with their own fee. However, they do not “mark up” the price on the funds.

For example, you can invest in the Vanguard S&P500 fund via InvestEngine and it will cost you 0.07%. That is the exact same price you would pay on Vanguard itself. But remember, there is no platform fee for InvestEngine, whereas there is one on Vanguard (0.15%).

Therefore buying your Vanguard fund via InvestEngine is actually cheaper than on Vanguard itself, which charges you 0.15% as a platform fee.

Below is how the DIY costing model stacks up against its close competitors.

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If you went the managed portfolio route, you would just tack on a 0.25% management fee on top of the cost of the fund, plus 0.07% for a “spread cost” (see chart below).

Depending on which of the managed portfolios you choose, the total cost for InvestEngine would be either 0.47% or 0.57%.

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InvestEngine is super transparent about their fees, as it’s one of their unique selling points. Their DIY route is the absolute cheapest option on the market. 

You can’t any any lower than free!

On the platform you can only invest in ETF’s (Exchange traded funds), similar to index funds with a small difference. ETF’s are traded during the day with live pricing, like stocks. Whereas index funds are priced at the end of each trading day.

You currently cannot invest in individual companies on the platform.

We suggest going onto the InvestEngine site and looking at the list of +400 ETF’s they offer, to make sure they have ones you want to invest in.

As for its functionality and design, InvestEngine is almost a hybrid between Vanguard and Plum.

You can download the app onto your phone and it’s pretty intuitive to use. However, it’s not nearly as slick as Plum from a design perspective.

InvestEngine almost feels like it’s in a beta version. The design elements are a bit basic like Vanguard. I would imagine that the design will improve over time once they get the functionality right first.

Similar to Vanguard, InvestEngine has a minimum deposit of £100 to start. This is not a huge barrier to entry, but larger than the minimum £1 it takes to invest via Plum.

The one cool unique feature that I have not seen anywhere else is the “one button rebalancing” feature. One of the main drawbacks of the DIY investing route is that you need to rebalance your own investments.

For example, let’s you select a balanced investment portfolio of 50% stocks and 50% bonds. Let’s assume that after 5 years the stocks perform extremely well, whereas your bonds didn’t perform great.

Suddenly your investment portfolio is now made up of 75% stocks and 25% bonds, very different to the balanced 50%-50% split you wanted in the first place. Therefore you need to “rebalance” your portfolio to go back to the original 50/50 composition. You do that by selling your better performing assets (in this case your stocks), and buying more of your worse performing assets (in this case bonds).

This can be an annoying and time consuming process to execute. To combat this pain point, InvestEngine has developed a “one click rebalancing” feature that allows you to rebalance your portfolio at the click of a button, versus having to run the calculation to determine the exact number of stocks and bonds you need to sell/buy, and then actually do it.

We’re not sure we have ever seen this feature on any other investment platform. Please DM if other platforms now have it!

Although InvestEngine is less proven than the other two investment platforms, we love it’s blend of low cost, variety of +400 ETF’s, and its commitment to innovation with features like one click rebalancing.

Our score for InvestEngine: 4.5/5

Check them out → https://bit.ly/3LWF7kD

Pros:

✅ Free DIY investing option

✅ Huge variety of ETF’s (+400)

✅ One click portfolio rebalancing

✅ FCA regulated

Cons:

⛔️ Flat fee structure for managed option - does not reduce the more you invest

⛔️ No JISA or LISA available yet

⛔️ No individual company stocks

When it comes to investing, there is no silver bullet. No one platform that reigns superior to all the others.

What is most important is to keep your costs down, have a range of funds that meet you needs, and a platform that is easy to use.

To us, those are the core components to a great investment platform which these 3 all have.

❤️ Patrick & TOMII Tribe

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What We're Recommending 📚

Top 3 investing platforms:

Vanguard → https://bit.ly/3NYcllD

Plum → https://bit.ly/3rj1ed6

InvestEngine → https://bit.ly/3LWF7kD

What We're Doing 🤩

Free Lunch & Learn - Stress Awareness Month in April

As part of Stress Awareness Month in April, TOMII is doing a series of free financial wellbeing lunch & learn sessions with culture focused businesses. We have 10 booked in already and hosted one last week at Social Chain. Hit the link HERE to book in a call with us to learn more!

What We're Launching 🚀

WhatsApp your Money Coach

We added a new feature to the TOMII platform. You can now send your coach a WhatsApp. We realised that some employees don’t want to always book in a 45 minute call, but want answer to some more basic financial questions. Now they can text their coach! Save time avoiding hours of Googling. Get instant answers to financial questions on the fly!

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 What We're Pondering 🤔

Hosting a weekly personal finance meet up online

Last week I posted about meeting up with two friends from the Financial Independence community to talk about money. Our net worth (real numbers). Our salaries (real numbers). Our financial strategies (real numbers). No ego. No judgement. No jealously. Just an open honest chat about money. The feedback has been great. I think we are going to try set up a weekly session. Who’s in? (email me → patrick@tomiitribe.com)

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CLICK THE LINK HERE TO LEARN MORE AND GET IN TOUCH WITH US :)

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