Hargreaves Lansdown is reducing the minimum investment for clients opening an account on its Vantage platform in a bid to broaden its appeal to new investors and has dumped its controversial charge for share voting.
The minimum amount to open an online account will fall from £500 to £100 with the same reduced figure to be applied to new fund investments.
At the same time it has ditched its £10 plus VAT charge for clients who want to vote at annual general meetings (AGMs). Hargreaves was widely criticised for introducing the fee in June with campaign group ShareAction warning that shareholders were being 'squeezed to the margins'. Hargreaves similarly backtracked on plans to introduce a separate charge for holding investment trusts back in February after the proposals caused an outcry.
Catherine Howarth, chief executive of ShareAction, said: 'It is reassuring to note that Hargreaves Lansdown has listened to its customers and changed its policy on charging shareholders to vote at the AGM. Small investors used to be the lifeblood of the shareholder register of this company, and this U-turn just goes to show that their voice is still welcome, and heard, at the Hargreaves Lansdown table.'
As part of a raft of changes to its online offering, Hargreaves is also set to introduce stock screening tools, the ability to customise how clients view their portfolio online and integration between PC, smartphone and iPhone apps.
It has also recently offered broader options on fees, enabling clients to pay out of capital to preserve income and introduced corporate bond dealing. It has also upgraded its investment trust factsheets.
Chief executive Ian Gorham (pictured) said: 'All improvements make our clients better off -either financially, through access to better service or both. Many improvements have been made in response to client suggestions.
'The varied nature of the reuqests we receive means we cannot accommodate them all, however we do care greatly about all our clients, and listen carefully to their feedback, identify the most popular requests and invest heavily to incorporate them into the Vantage service where possible.'
The new changes come hot on the heels of UBS downgrading the company, warning it is overvalued and will struggle to attract the level of new customers needed to warrant its current valuation.