Until recently, the idea of actually managing stocks and stocks from your mobile device and having a dealing room in your pocket seemed like a novelty.
But today’s smartphones are making this a reality. Individual investors are increasingly using trading apps to run their entire investment portfolio, as well as run occasional stock trades.
Whether you’re new to stock buying or a seasoned stock market investor, here’s a look at how to choose the right app for your growing number of trading apps and needs.
Gone are the days of calling someone a broker who wants to invest through the stock market.
Most investors looking to buy and sell stocks want to build a portfolio of investment funds or trade sophisticated instruments such as contracts for difference and now do so through an online trading account.
Investment platforms representing celebrities in the securities brokerage and fund management space over the past 20 years have met this need with services primarily aimed at desktop or laptop-centric client bases.
However, over the past few years there has been a noticeable shift from desktop to mobile trading by individual investors.
Two factors helped accelerate this phenomenon. First, the evolution of increasingly powerful smartphones, and second, the increase in the number of stock trading apps.
Numbers are important. According to analyst App Radar, there were approximately 3.1 million Android downloads of the top 10 UK investment apps via the Google Play Store in 2020/21.
App Radar does not record iOS figures that represent Apple users. However, the ratio between Android and iOS downloads is said to be around 50/50. Taking this into account, App Radar as a whole estimates that there are currently around 9 million people using trading apps in the UK.
The rise of apps
Some of the latest investment trading services offered by Neo Broker are only available through mobile apps.
To keep pace, traditional desktop investment platform providers have developed their own trading apps for their customers to use.
Hargreaves Lansdown, the UK’s largest traditional platform, says the app will have nearly 700,000 users by the end of 2021. More than 250,000 customers say they use the app every day.
One of its competitors, AJ Bell, announced in November the 2022 launch of Dodl, an app aimed at younger customers. One of the main features of Dodls is that investors can purchase stocks without commission.
Commission-free trading has become a major selling point for trading apps that rely on other fees to make money. See below for more information on common transaction fees.
However, pricing should not be the focus of investment app users alone.
Which trading app should I choose?
Keeping the amount you pay for your trades and investments to a minimum can increase the return on your underlying investments.
However, as with many financial decisions, there is no clear choice that is right for everyone when it comes to choosing a trading app. Most decisions will depend on what you are looking for in the service.
In addition to pricing, there are a number of other considerations to keep in mind to get the most out of your trading app experience. These include:
How user-friendly did you find the app? What investment would you like to trade? Stocks, funds or more sophisticated investments? If you’re new to investing, can you use the app to virtually practice trading or trading before you start? What other administrative fees are charged by the app besides the transaction fee? Minimum investment are there? ?Can I use the app to trade tax-efficiently via stock and stock ISA? Is your app regulated by the UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA)? Are there any additional benefits/rewards? Trading apps for different scenarios
The trading app market is becoming increasingly complex. Below is a selection of apps that cover a variety of scenarios, from beginners to more sophisticated investors.
1) eToro good for beginners and social
eToro describes itself as a bridge between the old world of investing and the new world, claiming that it is the only place for investors to hold existing assets like stocks and commodities alongside new ones like the cryptocurrency Bitcoin.
The app offers a decent mobile experience and offers the added appeal of commission-free trading alongside several competing offerings.
eToro also allows users to track and copy trades from legitimate investors with a proven track record. FCA regulation.
2) Freetrade – suitable for easy investment and guide
The Freetrades Basic Service offers commission-free trading and provides access to UK and US large and mid cap stocks, as well as Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) and Special Purpose Acquisitions Companies (SPACs).
It also provides limited access to various companies listed on the German and Finnish markets.
Freetrade Plus costs users 9.99 per month, but gives users a much wider range of investment options, including access to all other London listed stocks and all other European stocks. FCA regulation.
3) Fidelity Personal Investing – suitable for funds
Fidelity allows investors to choose from over 2,500 funds and stocks in FTSE 100, FTSE 250, FTSE All-Share and FTSE AIM 100. Other available investments include investment trusts, exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and select Irish stocks.
The service allows users to link family member accounts to see everything in one place, and Watchlist can track the performance of up to 50 investments at a time. FCA regulation.
4) Trading212 – suitable for trading practice using virtual currency
Trading 212 offers unlimited trading without fees with access to over 10,000 stocks and ETFs in the UK, USA, Germany, France, Spain, Netherlands and other markets.
For those looking for a more sophisticated investment, Trading 212 also offers more than 3,000 contracts for difference (CFDs) on stocks, foreign exchange, gold, oil and indices.
Users can start with a free lifetime practice account using virtual currency. FCA regulation.
5) IG – suitable for experienced investors
IG allows users to trade on more than 17,000 global markets, including stocks, indices, options and commodities.
Offers interactive charts, news, automated trade alerts, and real-time signals. Users can bet on commodities or trade CFDs, and options trading can be used on a variety of assets on a daily, weekly and monthly time basis. FCA regulation.
Knowing how much an investor will actually pay, whether app-based or desktop-based, can be a complex business because the investment space is complex with fees and fees varying from one provider to another.
When buying and selling stock, some providers charge a fixed fee per transaction. Others organize their rates to benefit users who trade the market more often.
Users may be charged based on the size of their investment. Accounts offered by older platform providers often incur a monthly subscription or administration fee.
For example, if you plan to purchase foreign stocks, such as wanting exposure to US tech stocks priced in dollars, you will be charged a currency fee for doing so.
On the other hand, if you trade infrequently (say, assuming you have a year between transactions), your account may be charged an inactivity fee.
Several app providers promote fee-free transaction status. It is a welcomed and increasingly popular option across the investment arena. However, just because a transaction has no fees does not necessarily mean that your account is completely free of charges.
Brokers make money in different ways, such as withdrawal fees and currency exchange fees.
Know what kind of investor you plan to become before signing up for a specific investment app. Having an idea of how much you will invest, how often you plan to trade, and which markets will be your main focus can help you decide which app is best for your needs and cost-effective.
If protecting your investment from taxes is your primary concern, we provide a wrapper that allows you to grow 20,000 stocks and funds per year tax-free by making sure your provider has scope to offer stock and equity ISAs.
Beware of reckless trading
The two main appeals of investing through the app are the ability to transact quickly and cost little or no if you choose the right provider.
On the surface, this sounds like a successful combination with the potential to increase the return on investment in your portfolio. However, a study by a team at the Frankfurt Leibniz Institute found that even with the investment of a small dealing room in the palm of your hand, it’s still important to walk carefully.
Scholars suggest that shifting to app-based trading could do more harm than good to investors if not careful.
Researchers tracked transactions of 15,000 customers at two large German retail banks over several years. They found that when people traded via a mobile app, they were 8% more likely to buy a riskier lottery type of stock than when they bought it via a computer.
Transactions made through the app were 12% more likely to be trades on past winners, or stocks that have recently surged. The researchers concluded that our findings warn against the reckless use of smartphones as a key technology to increase access to financial markets.
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