To combine or not to combine? that is the question.

To combine or not to combine? that is the question.

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.

At the end of 2015, Standard Life’s assets stood at £26.5bn and Elevate at £10.6bn.  The new entity will have the largest retail advised platform in the market and if we take all propositions into account, it will sit just behind Cofunds, Fidelity and Hargreaves Lansdown (assuming that Cofunds isn’t parcelled off to various bidders in the next few months). Standard Life already attracts the highest volume of net retail advised sales, and it was the second best overall platform for net sales in 2015.

This is how the AUA market share stacks up currently:

Standard Life’s share of retail advised market:  10.8%
Axa Elevate’s share of retail advised market: 4.3%
Combined share of retail advised market: 15.1%

Standard Life’s share of platform market:  6.6%
Axa Elevate’s share of platform market:  2.6%
Combined share of platform market: 9.2%

A combined entity? 

This acquisition is not something that Standard Life has undertaken lightly. Although the technology is the same, there are differences in pricing, proposition and client base that lead me to believe the Elevate platform will not be subsumed into the Standard Life platform. I don’t think Standard Life are as a blunt as that. There is a good chance that Standard Life will run the two as separate propositions — at least in the short to medium term.  But I may be wrong. Let’s wait and see.