We’ve seen notable improvements across the D2C market in our annual UK D2C: Investor Experience report, published this week. The largest players have closed out gaps in their propositions and most offer a full set of tax wrappers and investment types.

The content is more relevant to ‘normal’ people who don’t invest as a hobby and we’ve seen better navigation. Good content on retirement saving and drawdown is quite common these days.

But public websites are often disconnected from the secure areas for logged-in clients. This year, the availability of ESG information and products has increased with demand, but not all services offer much. Mobile apps are widely available to the extent that their absence is conspicuous for a few services. Those with the best mobile propositions are close to being able to deliver their entire service via a mobile.

Whole of market access is not necessary for every investor and the impressive growth of Vanguard’s digital service shows the potential for strong brands with simple, well designed services. BMO is another asset manager with significant D2C assets which has upgraded its client portal. Others, like L&G, are opting out – its acquisition by Fidelity was announce this morning.

The banks continue to shape their thinking on how to engage with the investing market. However, integrating online investing with today’s online banking platforms tends to compromise the user experience. Halifax Share Dealing is very competitive on price and Natwest Invest has slashed its fees this month showing that banks will consider other ways to differentiate.

Customer services was only a little slower in this pandemic year despite the huge challenge of locating help desks remotely. AJ Bell Youinvest, Bestinvest, Charles Stanley Direct and EQi did particularly well here.

Congratulations AJ Bell Youinvest and Fidelity Personal Investing which top the Platforum Investor Experience Leaderboard.

AJ Bell Youinvest is consistently strong across all areas including pricing and customer service. The company announced solid year-end trading numbers this week with D2C customers up 43%. The quality of the online service will undoubtedly have contributed to that.

After a major revamp, Fidelity’s service is as slick on a mobile handset as it is on the big screen. It is much more comprehensive than it was a few years ago when its focus was purely funds, but it also does well on the delicate business of guidance without stepping over the line into advice.

Looking back over the decade that we have been testing online investing services, the space looks less ‘disrupted’ than people might have predicted. That is because providing a good investor experience is far from easy and the leading direct platforms have used their experience to do it better than others. It doesn’t stop here and the opportunity to provide better investor experience is there for the taking.

Our latest UK D2C: Investor Experience report has just been published. Get in touch for more details.