The first half of 2016 was challenging for fund groups and platforms alike. The stock market correction eased up as the second quarter began — in time for last-minute ISA activity — but Brexit scared off many investors who chose to hold off until after the referendum. Only pension flows broadly maintained their momentum.
According to the Fundscape Platform Report, as a result of investors switching and taking shelter in cash and safe products, gross flows for the quarter swelled to £24bn (£22bn in Q116), but net sales fell to £9.57bn (£9.6bn in Q116), the lowest total since Q3 2014 (£8.8bn). Bella Caridade-Ferreira, CEO of Fundscape, said “Investors lost their nerve in the final weeks before the Brexit vote and cashed out. Platforms without decent cash facilities would have felt the pain more keenly.”
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Chinese concerns and Brexit fears spooked the stock markets and sent retail investors scurrying for cover in the first quarter. Stock markets have since been home to a modest recovery, but with the Brexit referendum approaching fast, investors are putting some investments on hold.
According to the Fundscape Platform Report, despite volatile markets and stock market growth of 1% in the first three months of the year, platform assets under administration rose by 3% (£13bn) to £415bn. Gross platform sales in Q1 totalled £21.2bn, marginally higher than sales in Q415, but down 7% on the first quarter of 2015. With investors running scared, the net sales total slipped below £10bn (£9.4bn) for the first time since Q314.
An extensive analysis of fund shortlists found that the quality of research varies greatly from list to list, and so it pays for advisers and consumers to be more selective about fund selectors. The independent study by Fundscape and gbi2 analysed 36 gatekeepers in four different categories of fund selectors: D2C buy-lists, adviser buy-lists, rating agencies and off-platform lists.
These gatekeepers influence a significant proportion of fund flows and as a result, have the potential to make or break funds whose success in gathering assets may depend on being selected by one or more fund selectors.
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With a stock market correction of 8% during the quarter, it was no surprise that platform assets shrank by 0.7% to £377bn — robust flows and a strong interest in all things pensions cushioned platforms from the worst. Fundscape’s Q3 Platform Report showed that gross flows were slightly lower than the last quarter at £24bn, but net flows rose to a new high of £13bn. On a YTD basis, gross sales were £72bn v £60bn in 2014, while net sales were £35bn v £30bn the previous year.
Stock market turbulence put a brake on platform asset growth in the second quarter. But despite the FTSE 100 falling by 4% during the quarter, platform assets rose by £5bn to £382bn, a rise of 1.3%.
Despite stock market volatility, platforms registered a new high in gross sales as the ISA season and pension freedoms converged to boost platform business. As a result, gross sales for the platform industry totalled £24.6bn, and on a year-to-date basis £47bn against £41bn in 2014. Net sales came to £11.1bn, bringing the year-to-date to £21.6bn against £20.6bn the previous year.
It was a sluggish first quarter for platforms. With polls predicting a hung parliament, investors held off on their investments until the outcome of the general election was clearer. Pensions also played a role in dampening flows. Not only did NS&I’s new rate-busting pensioner bonds divert the silver pound, but preparing the ground for new pension freedoms kept platforms and advisers busy throughout the first quarter.
In the first quarter of the year, platform assets under administration rose by £26.5bn (7.9%) to £370.8bn. Since March 2014 assets have expanded by £67bn, a rise of 22%. Three platforms outperformed the asset growth trend: Aviva, Zurich and Nucleus with YOY growth rates of 90%, 73% and 29% respectively.
Geopolitical clouds gathered for the fund industry in the second half of the year, but platforms weathered the storm thanks in particular to robust pension product flows. As a result, platform flows rose to record highs in the fourth quarter, with gross sales totalling £22bn and net sales coming in at just over £12bn.
According to the Fundscape Platform Report, it was a remarkable year for the industry. Platform assets rose by £50bn to reach £343.7bn at the end of the year, a growth rate of 17% that overshadowed the FTSE 100’s -2.7% for the same period. Pension freedom and the ongoing demand for income were the two main factors that drove flows and worked in the industry’s favour. Gross sales for the year rose by 21% to £82bn from £68bn in 2013, while net sales were up by 16% to £42bn from £36bn in 2013.
New style ISAs, pension reform and an improving UK economy set the scene for a good start to the third quarter of the year for platforms. July was a bumper month, but the summer holiday season, growing economic uncertainty and the Scottish vote eventually took their toll on the quarter’s flows.
Total platform assets under administration rose by £9.7bn to £326.4bn, a rise of 3.2% on the previous quarter, but 19.3% on the third quarter of 2013. Gross sales for the first three months of the year totalled £19.4bn, up 13.6% on like-for-like sales in 2013, but down on last quarter’s £21.2bn. It was the same for net sales, which rose by 3.9% to £9.4bn relative to the third quarter of 2013, but were down 15% quarter on quarter.
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Fundscape has just published Navigating the post-RDR landscape in the UK, a report commissioned by Alfi to assess the impact of RDR on the UK and its potential impact (in the form of MiFID2) on the European fund industry. It is available to all industry professionals at no charge.
The Alfi press release is available here. To view the presentation click here. Click on image below to download the full report.
The second quarter kicked off with a bang. Stock markets were on the rise and one ISA season was coming to its feverish close while another was just beginning. The UK’s ongoing economic recovery, shock budget announcements and the lead up to the world cup also provided that all-important feel-good factor that helps to drive investment.
Total platform assets under administration rose by £14bn to £317.3bn, a rise of 5% on the previous quarter, while new records were set for sales. Gross sales for the first three months of the year totalled £21.2bn, up 19% on like-for-like sales in 2013, and net sales rose by 21% to £11.0bn.
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Fundscape's Q3 Distribution Report has just been published. Overall, it was a difficult third quarter for fund distribution. Gross sales totalled £22.1bn and were down 5% in the previous quarter and also in the same period in 2011. but highlighting the lack of sticky business was the fact that net sales fell 41% to £2bn. The press release is available here.
After a difficult final quarter in 2011, UK fund distribution was back on track with gross sales up 35% to £25.3bn and net sales up a whopping 147% to £4bn. However, personal pension business and not ISAs were the best products of the quarter. Click here to download the full press release.