Alliance Trust is perhaps best known for its £2.2 billion investment trust. But it also has an increasing popular investment platform called i.nvest, run by its Alliance Trust Savings arm.
What started out primarily as a savings scheme for its investment trust has now grown into a fully fledged investment 'supermarket' or 'wrapper'. As well as offering access to a wide of investments it also offers attractive trail commission rebates on investment funds.
An Alliance Trust Savings i.nvest account allows you to buy and sell UK listed shares, investment trusts, exchange traded funds (ETFs), unit trusts, oeics, corporate bonds and gilts. These may be held normally, or within a stocks & shares ISA or self-invested personal pension (SIPP), with full online portfolio valuations.
Alliance Trust's choice of funds has historically lagged competing fund supermarkets. While this has improved recently, with i.nvest offering access to 44 fund management groups at the time of writing, it's still less than many competitors. Choice should nevertheless be adequate for most investors, but do check your desired funds are available before opening an account.
The key attractions to buying funds via i.nvest are the initial and annual charge discounts. Most initial charges are reduced to nil, pretty much the standard for discount brokers, but annual charge (trail commission) rebates are generous at around 0.50% - 0.75%. So you'll likely end up paying an effective annual charge of 0.75% - 1.0% on a fund with a standard 1.5% annual charge. The savings over time could be significant (take a look at our Fund Cost Comparison Calculator.
The downside to buying funds is the £12.50 online dealing charge (£20 by phone/post), which applies to all investment purchases and sales (including funds). If you save monthly by direct debit this is reduced to £1.50 per purchase, which should make all but the smallest regular savings economic.
A stocks & shares ISA wrapper costs £25 & VAT a year (includes 2 free trades) and you'll have to pay £125 plus VAT a year if you want a SIPP. There's also a £50 plus VAT charge for transferring investments into a SIPP and a rather steep £125 plus VAT charge if you decide to transfer the SIPP elsewhere. Move the ISA elsewhere and you'll have to pay £50 plus VAT, while all cash withdrawals (except income) are charged at £10.
The charges to move elsewhere and withdraw cash are unwelcome, but overall this should still prove a cost effective platform (especially for funds) provided you don't wish to make regular monthly savings under a few hundred pounds.
If you want to hold shares AND funds within an ISA, SIPP and/or directly then Alliance Trust Savings i.nvest is well worth considering.
At the time of writing Sippdeal is likely to be cheaper if you just want to hold shares in a SIPP, x-o.co.uk a better deal for shares held within an ISA or directly and Cavendish Online one of the cheapest ways to buy a fund within an ISA. But combine shares and funds then Alliance Trust offers a competitive proposition thanks to the reduced annual fund charges. Just watch out for the dealing charges on regular savings and charges to make cash withdrawals or transfer elsewhere.