hargreaves-lansdown-Chris_WorleHargreaves Lansdown (HL) is one of the biggest companies in the South West region, and one of the largest financial-services companies in the UK. They developed an all-encompassing finance app in 2013 which was nominated for the Best App Award at this year’s SPARKies tech awards. We spoke to their Head of Digital, Chris Worle (pictured right), to find out more about the company and its awesome app.

TechSPARK: Hi Chris, can you start by telling us a bit about the history of Hargreaves Lansdown.

Chris Worle: Hargreaves Lansdown was founded in 1981 by Peter Hargreaves and Stephen Lansdown, in a back bedroom of a house in Clifton, Bristol. Today Hargreaves Lansdown is in the FTSE 100, and one of the one of the largest companies in the UK.

TS: And what exactly does Hargreaves Lansdown do?

CW: Hargreaves Lansdown is one of the UK’s leading independent financial-service providers and asset-management specialists.

“Our mission is to help investors make more of their investments by providing the best information, the best service and the best prices”

 

Our mission is to help investors make more of their investments by providing the best information, the best service and the best prices. We are an investment supermarket, a fund manager, a discount broker, a stockbroker, a pension specialist, an annuity specialist, a wealth manager and a financial adviser. In other words, we are a one-stop shop for financial services.

We are the biggest broker of shares, ISAsSIPPs (a type of pension), Junior ISA and annuities for the retail investor (the man or women in the street).

Our experts can simplify and streamline your affairs and free up your time by helping you to choose, buy, sell, hold and manage your investments. As a one-stop shop, we remove unnecessary duplication and give you the benefit of low, transparent charges and market-leading initial and annual savings on funds.

TS: How has the company grown and expanded since its foundation?

CW: Hargreaves Lansdown now administers over £44 billion on behalf of 653,000 clients, and employs 850 people.

The company was formed to provide personal advice to clients on unit trusts and tax planning matters, using national press advertising and investment newsletters. Our direct, information-driven approach to helping clients choose their own investments was in contrast to the vast majority of financial organisations such as banks, who insisted on using financial advisers.

DIY investing has grown tremendously in popularity over the last 15 years, in large part due to the growth of information on the internet, and at the same time the decline in numbers and use of financial advisers. Hargreaves Lansdown has always provided advice to clients, but only upon request, and nearly 90% of all decisions by HL clients are made without advice. We offer the investor choice.

We are also completely free of proprietary links so investors can rely on the total independence of our experts. As their investments prosper, clients tend to give us more of their business and also refer friends and family to us.

TS: When was the HL Live app developed for Hargreaves Lansdown?

CW: Our HL Live Pad app was developed throughout 2013 and launched in December of that year.

The iPad app took about a year to develop, including all the planning and design phases. We built it from the ground up, taking what we’d learnt from the iPhone and Android apps, but still effectively starting from scratch.

TS: Approximately how many users does the app have?

CW: The HL Live iPad app has had more than 75,000 downloads to date, and its daily usage continues to grow. The iPad app alone now accounts for 10% of our total digital traffic.

TS: Do HL Live users have to be Hargreaves Lansdown clients?

CW: No. That was very important to us from the start – we wanted it to be a great experience for clients and prospective clients. An app is a shop window and an opportunity to attract new clients, not just service existing ones. There’s nothing worse than downloading an app and being faced with a log-in page and nothing else when you first open it up.

“The app contains everything someone needs to build and manage their portfolio with up-to-the-minute news, prices and expert opinion”

 

Therefore, all users, clients or not, will find a wealth of investment news, data and tools including watch lists where people can build their own virtual portfolios of funds and shares.

TS: What do you believe sets the app apart from other finance and investment apps?

CW: I think first and foremost it’s the comprehensiveness of the information and functionality. It’s not a hollow, vanity app; it contains everything someone needs to build and manage their portfolio with up-to-the-minute news, prices and expert opinion. Importantly though, all this functionality is delivered in a clear, easy-to-navigate design.

We spent a lot of time exploring, testing and revising design elements, layouts and interaction points within the app to ensure the journey was as simple as possible. This made a huge difference to the quality of the end result, and based on the feedback and results, it paid off.

TS: What are the most popular features of the app?

CW: It’s a real mix. The app’s incredibly popular with our clients and therefore the secure area where people can check their accounts and place deals is the most used section overall. In addition to that though, the watch list function that allows clients and non-clients to create their own virtual portfolio of funds and shares is incredibly popular. It allows people to get used to the app and the concept of investing before opening an account for real.

TS: Will HL be adding to the app?

CW: Yes, we will continue to develop the app, and are working on a significant new feature for the iPad app at the moment, I’m afraid I can’t tell you what that is. We also want to bring some of the features and learnings from the iPad app to the iPhone and Android apps which are slightly older in terms of design and technology.

TS: Why are Hargreaves Lansdown still based in Bristol when it is one of the largest financial services companies in the UK?

CW: Quite simply, there has been no need to relocate the business anywhere else. Hargreaves Lansdown is an exceptional company to work for and is highly attractive to prospective employees, as is Bristol as a place to live.

“Bristol has one of the biggest financial services sectors in the UK which HL contributes to and benefits from”

 

Hargreaves Lansdown has built strong links with Bristol and is one of the biggest employers in the area. Bristol has one of the biggest financial services sectors in the UK which HL contributes to and benefits from. We actively recruit from the schools and universities and have been able to attract talented people both locally and from further afield.

Some of our financial adviser employees are located around the UK to advise clients in their locality but Bristol has always been home.

TS: What do you see as the advantages of being based in the South West?

CW: Compared to being in London, the business benefits from lower rental and staffing costs amongst other things. Our employees are less reliant on public transport and also benefit from a better quality of life; much shorter commuting times and less traffic.

HL_Live_iPad_1

Appy days: With over 75,000 users and growing, HL Live has changed the face of share dealing

Hargreaves Lansdown is based in the centre of Bristol, yet just a 10-minute drive from the countryside, so environmentally is very well placed. It’s a testament to the firm and its location that so many senior staff have long career histories with HL.

Thank you for taking the time to talk to us, Chris. You can follow Hargreaves Lansdown on Twitter. Don’t forget to follow us while you’re there.