From Boring Money Bulletin July 2017

What are they saying on Boring Money?

We launched our revised website this month. A key change is that we have started to gather and use customer ratings and reviews in our analysis.

With about 700 consumer reviews of online investment and pension players so far, we’re doing deeper analysis on the feedback we’re getting from investors. The unprompted words that crop up most at the moment are ‘website’, ‘service’ and ‘easy’. Convenience and service are valued.

Despite the column inches in the press, focus on fees and charges is not as prevalent as you might assume.  A third of investors mention charges – with some positive sentiment and some negative. While many reviewers state that they’d like their platform to reduce charges (who wouldn’t?) there was a huge distinction between flat fee and % charging platforms. Most reviews of fixed fee charging were positive, while people mentioning % charges tend to be negative.

Here are three reviews which we think highlight some key points which we hear all the time. People are keen to keep an eye on fees, sometimes to the point of this impacting what investments they buy. Service is important. And the system has to be easy to use.

Charles on Charles Stanley Direct“Customer service responses always quick and useful. Lowest fees I could find. Could do with more research articles.”

Mark on Hargreaves Lansdown"It all works well. The phone is always answered by an informed human being. No menu of button-pushing and excessive security. Good at administration and quick email responses. The website works simply. No flashy graphics. Paying in and withdrawals very straightforward. Charges are reasonable – if you avoid funds. Charging could be more transparent with a breakdown of how it is arrived at in an annual or six-monthly summary."

Simon on Aegon’s Retiready“Nice interface, plenty of whitespace and easy to use. Have to access a different site with different login details to do a fund switch. Fund selection isn't easy and it’s difficult to filter sensibly. Overall not bad but needs to get everything onto a single platform.”

We now allocate a 25% weighting of our overall scoring system to the customer reviews. If our views differ dramatically from the weight of user opinion, it’s a great sense-check and the written reviews are informative. As review numbers grow this % weighting will increase. We need at least 20 reviews for any provider today before they can join our Best Buys.