Yes, you can move stocks from one stock broker to another through an in-specie transfer or you can sell them first and do a cash transfer.
This is possible in the UK because of a system called CREST, which is a centralised electronic system allowing investors to own shares without holding physical share certificates. This makes it far easier to transfer stocks from one broker to another, as both have access to this centralised depository.
A stock brokerage account simply provides the administration platform for holding your stocks, making it easier for you to manage all of your holdings in one place.
Because you own the underlying stocks, it’s often possible to transfer your stock holdings to a new broker without the need to sell your shares. Think of it like moving your family photos from the Apple Cloud to the Google Cloud.
There are two ways to transfer your shares from one broker to another in the UK, but in reality only one of these is a true transfer.
In specie transfer
An in-specie transfer is when you move stocks from one broker to another, without selling them. This means you don’t need to worry about things like capital gains tax or brokerage costs, because no transaction takes place.
The downside of in-specie transfers is that you’ll need to complete an in-specie assets transfer form, and the transfer can take a lot longer than you might think. As an example AJ Bell state that in-specie transfers for UK shares typically take around 4 weeks, while that increases to 10-12 weeks for international shares.
A cash transfer is when you sell down your stocks with one broker, and then rebuy them with another. Cash transfers are sometimes incorrectly referred to as a type of stock transfer, but really it’s not (a stock transfer is an in-specie transfer).
While this does get a similar end result, the sale could trigger a capital gains tax event (unless you use a tax-free account like an ISA), or the price of the shares you are transferring move substantially between when you buy and sell. This could potentially mean you suffer a loss.
Can you move stocks from one broker to another without selling?
Yes, this is known as an in-specie transfer. For investors who want to avoid dealing with transaction fees and potential capital gains issues, an in-specie transfer allows you to move brokers without selling.
Be aware that in-specie transfers can take some time to complete, so you should only consider it if you’re not likely to need to sell the shares in the short term.
Is there a fee to transfer stocks from one broker to another?
There is sometimes a fee involved in completing an in-specie transfer from one broker to another. While you will avoid dealing or transaction charges by doing this, the receiving broker will sometimes charge a fee to complete it for you. For example, AJ Bell charge £60 for an in-specie transfer, while Interactive Investors and Hargreaves Lansdown don’t charge a fee.
A cash transfer will incur dealing charges to sell the stocks with the existing broker and buying them back again with the new one.