Archive

We knew the fourth quarter was going to be tough, but not this tough! The platform industry (all platforms) was in net outflow of £8.2m. (Yes, the entire industry was negative thanks to outflows in workplace/institutional platforms). Adviser platforms were positive, but their net flows halved quarter on quarter to £655m, their lowest total on Fundscape records.

Global stock markets were down, but UK stock markets were up in the third quarter. The net effect was that platform assets flatlined with a tiny 0.2% rise to £906bn. The UK economy also flatlined in the third quarter, narrowly avoiding a recession as high interest rates and inflation weighed on consumer confidence and households struggled with living costs. Gross sales were stable at £32.7bn, but uncertainty, lower disposable incomes and the siren call of cash and gilts, resulted in substantial outflows. Net flows plummeted to just £2.3bn — the worst quarterly net sales on Fundscape’s records —resulting in a net-to-gross sales ratio of just 7%. Seven!

As the tax-year-end approached, platform activity warmed up and there were high hopes that the momentum would carry through into the second quarter and beyond. Unfortunately, that was not the case. The second quarter of the year spectacularly failed to deliver on the sales front, but stock-market performance gave platform assets a reprieve (and therefore revenues). The FTSE All-World Index was up 3.2% for the quarter, although the FTSE 100 fell by 1.3%. As a result, platform assets were back over the £900bn* mark for the first time since the fourth quarter of 2021 (when we were still feeling optimistic about the future).

2022 was a tough year for platforms and the final quarter of the year was no exception. Investor sentiment has been battered by a seemingly endless succession of bad news including the squeeze on living standards brought on by inflation, higher taxes, energy prices and the war in Ukraine. All this means customers and new flows are hard to come by and business levels are down. Stock market volatility meant most platforms closed the year with lower assets than they started with.

After the heady growth and the robust ISA season of the first half of the year, the third quarter of the year was decidedly pedestrian. Stock markets flatlined as oil and labour shortages dragged on economies and depressed consumer sentiment. Despite this, UK platform assets rose by 2.7% to £891.5bn, while gross and net sales dropped back slightly on the previous quarter to £37.8bn and £13.7bn respectively.