Over 2 million investors were left frustrated yesterday as they were locked out of huge price rises for leading stocks and indices as several of the UK’s largest investment and trading platforms crashed, having been overloaded with traffic. Hargreaves Lansdown, Fidelity and AJ Bell were among the investment platforms investors were unable to execute trades on. Trading 212, an app-based trading and investment platform that offers unlimited commission-free trades also crashed.
Hargreaves Lansdown, the UK’s biggest investments platform, with over 1.4 million customers, said yesterday’s traffic, across both the company’s website and app, reached record levels:
“We are seeing our busiest ever day for web and app traffic and, as a consequence, some clients are experiencing some intermittent service issues. We apologise for any inconvenience.”
IG Group, the country’s largest day-trading platform, offering CFDs and spread betting, said that volumes in the half hour after Pfizer released news of its successful Covid-19 vaccine trials, reached 10 times the levels before the announcement. It called the activity levels “unprecedented”, and significantly ahead of the previous record set in March as markets crashed.
Customers were, it’s fair to say, less than impressed, with many taking to Twitter to vent their frustration. Comments on the microblogging platform included:
“I can’t even log in. Hargreaves Lansdown is a shambles. This is potentially costing customers a lot of money.”
“I think it’s fair to say a lot of people will be moving from Hargreaves Lansdown after today.”
It’s not the first time in recent memory that Hargreaves Lansdown’s systems have failed to cope with increased levels of customer activity. In September, as Tesla’s share price entered a correction after a period of phenomenal gains, some clients reported delays when trying to sell the stock. Hargreaves Lansdown put the issues down to trading volumes.
Some of yesterday’s stock price movements were among the largest ever one-day swings for London-listed companies. Jet-engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce gained an incredible 43.8% over the session, while British Airways-owner AIG Group surged by 26%, having also been up over 40% at one stage. Among the other biggest gainers were events company Informa, up 22%, British Land, a REIT that owns office buildings and shopping malls, up 21.9%, and caterers Compass Group, up 21.7%.
The companies to see their share prices soar were all among those to have suffered most as a result of restrictions brought in to control the Covid-19 pandemic. And there were also heavy losers yesterday among some of the companies to have benefitted most from lockdown restrictions.
Online groceries company Ocado slumped by 11.5%, Reckitt Benckiser, the consumer goods group that owns disinfectant brands Dettol and Lysol, sales of which have rocketed this year, lost 5.5%. And Fresnillo, the miner that is among the world’s biggest producers of gold and silver, was the biggest loser with a slide of over 15%. The price of gold, a safe haven asset during times of economic volatility, slid by up to 4.5% yesterday as market sentiment dramatically improved.