Business

Banks and building societies snub Lifetime Isa launch

women looking in estate agent window Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Lisa is designed to help savers buy a property

The government's flagship savings programme, the Lifetime Isa (Lisa), has been snubbed by banks and building societies on the day it launches.

None will offer Lisas immediately, saying they are either not ready or prefer the existing Help to Buy Isa.

Lisas are aimed at people who want to save for a house, or for retirement.

Only three providers will offer the Lisa this month, and they are all investment platforms which will operate a stocks and shares version only.

One of them - Hargreaves Lansdown - said 1,000 accounts had been opened by mid-day on Thursday.

The savings product was the brainchild of former Chancellor George Osborne, and offers savers a 25% annual bonus.

The Lifetime Isa: Free money, or just too complicated?

"It's a bit of a damp squib as there are no cash Lisas yet confirmed for launch," said Hannah Maundrell, editor-in-chief of Money.co.uk.

"Yet again the government has promised consumers the chance of a shiny new savings vehicle without consulting with the industry on how and when they can deliver it."

The Treasury said other providers had already announced plans to launch Lisas. It added that it expected the market for Lisas, including cash accounts, to continue to grow this year, as more providers put systems in place and developed their products.

Penalties

From Thursday 6 April, those between the ages of 18 and 39 were due to be able to open a Lisa cash savings account.

But banks and building societies have complained that the product is too complex for customers to understand.

And there have been worries that workers might stop saving into a pension because of it.

Some providers have even warned that savers could also lose money in the short term, if they want to withdraw their cash.

Image copyright Getty Images

Savers benefit from a government bonus of £1,000 a year, if they deposit the maximum amount of £4,000.

But apart from in the first year, they will lose 25% of everything they take out of it, unless it is to buy a house, or unless they have reached the age of 60.

£32,000 bonus

Last December Nationwide said it would not offer Lisas because they were too complicated.

Lloyds, which will continue to reconsider its plans, said it was a "longstanding advocate of the simplicity of Isa wrappers".

Both Nationwide and RBS said they preferred to continue with the existing Help to Buy Isa, even though the Lisa potentially offers a larger government bonus.

The maximum bonus from a Help to Buy Isa is £3,000, whereas the maximum from a Lisa is £32,000.

However, most banks say they will consider launching a Lisa in the months ahead. The Skipton Building Society is planning to issue a product in June.

Nevertheless, three investment platforms, Hargreaves Lansdown, Nutmeg and the Share Centre, are launching Lisas on Thursday. These will be for those who want to invest cash in shares, funds or bonds.

The ISA family
Individual Savings Account (Isa) Simple tax-free savings account. Up to £15,240 can be invested in cash or stocks and shares. Limit rises to £20,000 in April 2017.
Junior Isa Similar to Isa, but for under-18s. Anyone, eg grandparents, can pay into it. Maximum yearly contribution: £4,080.
Help to Buy Isa Anyone over 16 can invest. Government adds 25% bonus, to a max of £3,000, for those buying a first home.
Lifetime Isa (Lisa) For those aged 18-39. Government adds 25% bonus each year, up to max of £32,000. Can be used for buying a first home, or for retirement.
Innovative Finance Isa Money gets invested in peer-to-peer lending. Returns are better than cash Isas, but money is at risk.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites