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 a year unlike any other in recent history, the fourth quarter was home to an unexpected and welcome upturn in fortunes and the first shoots of optimism for 2021 for the platform industry. Stock markets surged in November with the FTSE All Share index rising by 12.4% in the month, on the back of Covid19 vaccine approvals and Joe Biden winning the US presidential elections. This resulted in industry assets expanding by 7.6% in the fourth quarter to £785bn. To provide some context, annual growth was just £65bn, or 9%.
THERE MAY BE PROBLEMS AHEAD…
By the end of March 2019, stock markets had recovered from the severe whipping they’d received in the last quarter of 2018. All major markets were home to stellar growth, with even the FTSE All Share rising by 8.3% despite Brexit concerns. The upturn pushed UK platform assets up 7.3% to £637bn, a vast improvement on Q418, but only £4bn higher than Q318’s closing balance of £633bn. Hargreaves Lansdown, D2C platform and the UK’s largest distributor, moved into pole position as the UK’s largest investment platform.
It’s been a tough year for fund groups and platforms alike with Brexit and other worries cooling the markets. Initially, platforms were cushioned from the worst by ongoing DB transfer business, but by the second half of the year that business was also drying up. Year-on-year asset growth was a meagre 4%, while gross and net sales have plummeted. The economics are relatively unchanged, but investors have been spooked by Brexit and US-China trade wars.
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