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.
On the back of this upturn, platform assets rose by £32bn to £604bn, smashing through the £600bn level for the first time on industry records. Hargreaves Lansdown registered the most growth in cash terms, with assets rising to £92bn. Meanwhile Cofunds’s assets stand at a remarkable £96bn. If markets continue to rise at a similar pace, it should be the first £100bn+ platform in the UK in Q318.
After an ISA-fuelled first half of the year, platform activity in the third quarter was more muted. The summer season is traditionally quieter and political and economic uncertainty was on the rise. However, the steady flow of pension money meant that platform business remained strong. Stock markets flat-lined in the quarter, but platform assets increased by £19bn (3.6%) to £560bn, nonetheless.
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Momentum continued to build in the platform industry during the second quarter as pension freedom and ISA business drove investment. Market growth was neutral in the second quarter, but assets under administration rose by £19bn (4%) to £539bn, while gross and net sales again climbed to new highs of £34bn and £14.4bn respectively.
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.
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In a year overshadowed by political uncertainty, it is no surprise that investors sat on the side-lines waiting for the storm clouds to clear. But after three quarters of sluggish activity, sentiment improved and net sales rose to £10.5bn in the fourth quarter, the highest since Q415. However, it was not enough to correct the balance — annual net sales of £38bn were down 16% on the £45bn in 2015 and few platforms were able to improve on their 2015 figures.
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Fund platform sales in the third quarter fell flat, despite decent asset growth among the top players.
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