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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.

After significant falls in Q1, stock markets began to level out at the end of March... just in time for the last two weeks of the ISA season. By the close of Q218, the UK stock market had recovered most of its lost ground, with the FTSE 100 and FTSE All Share rebounding by 8% and performing better than most major stock markets in Q2.

It was a cracking start to the year for the platforms industry with several new highs. Assets under administration rose by £31bn (6%) to £520bn, smashing through the £500bn ceiling, while gross and net sales set new records of £29bn and £13.3bn respectively. This was in marked contrast to the start of 2016 when economic factors and Brexit fears led investors to stay away from investments.

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.

Owing to geopolitical uncertainty, the first quarter of 2014 was more volatile for investment growth, but platforms swam against the tide thanks to strong sales. In the first three months of the year, the stock market contracted by 3%. Platforms are inevitably affected by market movements, but instead of shrinking, total platform assets actually increased by 3.3% to £304bn over the quarter.

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