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).
It was a difficult first quarter for platforms with the expectation of a recession and the cost-of-living crisis dragging on sentiment and flows. Two Interest rate hikes didn’t help either. Higher interest rates are usually bad for stock markets, but markets appeared to be Teflon-coated in Q1 with the FTSE 100 up 2%, the FTSE All World and S&P 500 up 7%, and the tech-heavy Nasdaq up a whopping 17%. This boosted platform assets to £880bn, although the industry’s £930bn high is still some way off.
Rampant inflation, fuel price increases, national insurance hikes and the cost-of-living crisis took an inevitable toll on investor sentiment and market prices – and that was before Russia invaded Ukraine. As a result, the FTSE All World was down 6% for the quarter, sending direct assets below £300bn once again (to £297bn).