Author: Bella Caridade-Ferreira

So after months of speculation, Aegon finally announced that it is acquiring the Cofunds platform for £140m. The mood at Witham is understandably elated, much to L&G’s amazement. To be blunt though, when you’ve hit rock bottom the only way is up.  The team is ecstatic to be joining a parent that actually wants to be a major player in the platform game and hopes the days of operating on a shoestring are finally over.

A long and sultry summer of sports and social events used to distract the haut monde from investments and led to the old adage of 'Sell in May and go away, come back on St Leger's Day'. Whether stock markets underperform during the six-month period has never been conclusively proven, but respondents to our May survey were undoubtedly more cautious on the outlook for the second quarter.  But it's Brexit and not tennis is overshadowing proceedings.

According to the Investment Association, the top sectors of 2015, by net sales, were UK Equity Income, Targeted Absolute Return and Europe ex-UK.  Fund groups lucky enough to have funds in these sectors will have had a good year, and if their funds were on any shortlists, they probably had a great year.  How much impact does being selected by a gatekeeper have on a fund's fortunes? We ran our gatekeepers analysis to find out which funds had performed best and whether there was any correlation between performance and the number of selections they had attracted. All of the funds shown below are ranked on their three-year returns.  The tables below include a mix of the best funds by performance and the funds with the most gatekeeper selections. The ones with the  most gatekeepers usually attract the most flows.

So Standard Life is buying Axa's Elevate platform. Howe exciting! All we need now is for Aegon to confirm that it's buying Cofunds and that will be industry consolidation sorted for a little while. A tie-up between the two makes sense. Standard Life has big ambitions and the Axa group had made clear that it wanted out. It makes sense for Elevate to move to a parent that wants it and has a long-term stake in the industry.

The Fundscape Gatekeepers study has attracted a lot of attention. The launch events were exceptionally well attended by fund groups and advisers, and the feedback was emphatically positive. Among the gatekeeper cohort, however, the reception was slightly mixed. Some got in touch to check we’d analysed their lists and sent us their selections.  Most kept their distance, but one or two went on the attack, criticising the quality of the research. The gatekeepers who went on the attack have neither read the report nor seen the analysis.  I’ll repeat that again — they have neither read the report nor seen the analysis — which we found amusing and bemusing in equal measure. You see, we got in touch with them and offered them a full demonstration and explanation of our analysis, but they turned us down, so everything they say and write is based on misconceptions, flawed assumptions and conclusions...

Gideon Osborne always likes to pull a few crowd-pleasers out of his red box on budget day. Last year it was pension freedom (anno pensionis TM) and the personal savings allowance, this year it was the introduction of the LISA (lifetime ISA) and the significant rise in the NISA allowance (new combined ISA). In light of these changes, we’ve had a few requests asking us to set out how product trends might change over the next five years.

Last Wednesday 2nd March, at a breakfast briefing hosted by Schroders, we launched the Gatekeepers report to a packed room of senior figures from the fund management industry. We were overwhelmed by the turnout — of the 50 groups that were invited to attend, 48 attended and demand has been such that we're holding a second event on 30th March (if you'd like to be come, let us know).   Gatekeepers

We’re in an extended lock-down phase until various PLCs have reported their annual results to the stock exchange. The Platform Report should be published in full on or around 18th March 2016.  In the meantime, although we can’t give you any detail, we can provide you with some high-level platform numbers to keep you going:

I started the week at a Spanish conference on private banking in Madrid.  It was a glorious day in Madrid, spring was definitely in the air and the sun was warm on our backs. This was not a load of Brits on a good old jolly... the delegates at this event were Spanish and had come from all over Spain for the Banca Privada (Private Banking) conference by IIR Spain.  It was an interesting day, but given the questions and the speeches throughout, it was clear that the Spanish still have their heads in the sand about MiFID2 and the implications for fund distribution. Many seemed to think that the fact that implementation had been delayed by a year meant that it might be thrown out altogether... dream on because MiFID2 is here to stay.

The FCA is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t. From the time that RDR was announced through its long gestation and even since its implementation, there has never been a shortage of naysayers predicting that it will have a terrible impact on the fund industry. This week there has been another wave of criticism at recent comments by the FCA’s acting head, Tracy McDermott, that commission could be reintroduced in some circumstances. She was speaking to Radio 4’s, Money Box progamme and said “We do not want to go back to a world where we had the problems of the pre-RDR, what we do want to look at is actually what is the best way of delivering advice and guidance across the market so I wouldn’t rule out that there may be some element of commission, but we are not going to reverse the RDR.”