The press is awash with stories and articles about the pros and cons of passive and active investment, active advice and robo advice, fees and the like. The often wild claims (fake news??) give investors unrealistic ideas about long-term investments and make it difficult for them to make informed choices.
We ran the sentiment survey in the second and third week of January. By this point, Trump’s shock election as president of the US was beginning to sink in, but he had yet to take office. The run-up to his inauguration and cabinet/adviser appointments were front-page news.
In all, we there were 82 responses to the survey. Fund groups represented 67%, platforms 31% and distributors 2%.
The audience was mainly British with 78% of respondents defining themselves as UK-based and the rest cross-border or international.
Interestingly, there was a significant dichotomy between the positive expectations for 2017 (answers to the multiple choice questions) and the pessimistic concerns voiced in the open questions.
Overwhelmingly, the geopolitical environment and specifically Brexit, Trump and forthcoming elections in Europe were the main concern.
At the time of writing, the fixed income rotation into equity was in full swing and stock-market indices had hit all-time highs.
Each year we provide five-year platform projections and look at the main drivers of growth and change, and their significance for different stakeholders.
The world is literally changing before our eyes. The nationalistic mood sweeping through global politics is re-setting government policy globally and there is a similar mindset shift sweeping through financial services. Whether fund managers and platforms like it or not, in this low-growth world the old way of doing business is no longer viable or sustainable and investors are no longer willing to subsidise it. That means increased focus on the cost of investment solutions and their component parts (advisers, platforms, fund managers...).
Standard Life has confirmed that the Elevate platform will continue as a discrete platform proposition and will not be merged into the Standard Life one. Advisers will be pleased as punch. And relieved.
It’s beginning to look like a trend. First we had the tiny Aegon platform making a play for the massive Cofunds platform, and last week it was announced that Interactive Investor is to buy TD Direct, TD Bank’s European direct business.
When RDR became reality and the advice gap widened, it was only a question of time before a FANG (Facebook, Amazon, Netflix and Google) or a traditional supermarket chain like Tesco, Waitrose or Sainsbury’s disrupted the financial services market with their client knowledge and big data.
Gatekeepers. That word strikes fear into many fund managers' hearts and rightly so. These are the people who increasingly influence and direct the volume of sales in the UK, and if a fund group isn't on their radar it's potentially missng out on some sizeable assets. The problem becomes even more acute when the investment outlook is stormy and investors are taking shelter.
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.
Following the UK’s historic vote in favour of leaving the EU which stunned the European political establishment and caused financial market turmoil around the world, concerns over the health of the UK property sector, which first arose in the run up to the referendum, have intensified.