Boxing day, 2000, Halifax unleashes its unknown, singing and dancing, customer services rep, Howard Brown, onto an unsuspecting UK public, singing “Extra, extra, I know you want more” to the tune of Mousse T and Tom Jones’s “Sex Bomb”. It was hugely successful as advertising campaigns went, with the brand running variations of the theme across our televisions for the next ten years.
Three years previously, the company established Halifax Share Dealing; an online share-dealing platform allows consumers to purchase and sell shares online. But does the share trading and investment platform deliver on Howard’s promised “extra” or leave Halifax clients wanting more?
Introduction: setting the stage
Halifax Share Dealing is Halifax’s direct-to-consumer, investing arm and part of the Lloyds Banking Group. Catering exclusively to Halifax’s banking customers, the platform serves up a variety of services, spanning ISAs, general investment accounts, and SIPPs. For the non-Halifax customers, iWeb, a sister platform also part of Lloyds, remains an option.
Target audience: who’s dancing to the tune?
Like Natwest Invest, Halifax Share Dealing is available exclusively to existing banking customers. If you are a customer used to online banking services, you may notice that the Halifax Share Dealing platform, seems dated and cumbersome, compared to newer entrants in the market.
However, look and feel isn’t everything. The name ‘Halifax’ evokes confidence and security, which is essential when putting your hard-earned money into a platform. So, while the interface may be dated, the platform is one of the largest direct-to-consumer platforms in the UK and efficiently manages around £18bn of customers’ assets.
Investment choices: what’s on the playlist?
You’ve got a choice of routes to go down here, with Halifax Share Dealing offering a Stocks & Shares ISA, Self-Invested Personal Pension (SIPP), a general Share Dealing Account, and several ready-made fund options that can sit in an ISA or general investment account. Within each account, you can choose from UK and international shares, funds, exchange-traded funds (ETFs), bonds and gilts, and a Select List of fund picks that have been independently chosen.
There are three risk-rated, ready-made funds available. You choose your desired risk level and the amount you wish to invest. Options ranging from the stable, low-risk, ‘Cautious’ category, to the more volatile ‘Progressive’ medium-high-risk range.
Weighing the costs: is the song worth the dance?
This is where Halifax Share Dealing does quite well, and you may find the use of flat fees more accessible and more appealing than many platforms that use percentage-based charging models.
- Admin Charges: The flat fee varies by the type of account. If you maintain an ISA and Share Dealing Account with Halifax, there’s a yearly fee of £36, equating to £3 a month. For those considering SIPPs, the costs depend on the total value of your SIPP. Up to £50,000, it’ll set you back £22.50 quarterly, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to amass over £50,000, the fee doubles to £45.
- Trading Costs: When you’re ready to trade, their online dealing commission is set at a flat rate of £9.50 per trade. This does not lend itself towards those with smaller portfolios. But it’s not the priciest option in the market either. This fee applies to a range of investment options, from UK shares and funds to ETFs, investment trusts, bonds, and gilts.
There are other fees to be aware of, and Halifax does an okay job of laying these out on its website and factsheets.
Features and functionality: hitting the high notes or falling flat?
Navigating the platform, especially for newcomers, can be a tad overwhelming. Researching shares and funds lacks the intuitive flow that users might expect from modern platforms. The fund information provided, courtesy of Morningstar, leans heavily on raw data, meaning you must understand what you’re looking for to be truly helpful.
The website is cluttered, making it a task to sift through, even if you know what you want. With dense, text-heavy pages, it’s easy to feel inundated, potentially causing users to miss out on crucial details. Simplicity, which modern investors crave, is notably absent here.
Also, there is no dedicated investment app, meaning you must browse the website on your smartphone. If you think it looks cluttered on a PC, the mobile experience could have you banging your head against the wall. The layout isn’t in any way optimised for smaller screens, and navigating potential fund choices can be particularly cumbersome.
Concluding thoughts: the curtain call
With its trustworthy lineage, varied investment portfolio, and substantial customer assets on the platform, Halifax Share Dealing is a robust, if not exciting, contender in the platform realm.
However, it remains burdened by its lacklustre user interface and the absence of contemporary features, marking areas that warrant immediate attention to fully deliver the promised ‘extra’ and to harmonise the experience for its diverse user base. The entire Lloyds group platform estate is due an overhaul as part of a multi-million pound, mega-project. However, these changes take a long time and Halifax is not near the front of the queue.
The essence of Halifax’s iconic campaign seems to linger on. Still, the tune needs modern refinement to make the customer really dance. Mobile optimisation, educational resources, data and analytics, tools and calculators are all areas where Halifax could improve.
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