It was 2000 when I started looking at wrap providers and fund platforms. I had been using Skandia for a few years because of their wide fund choice but as ethical investment increasingly became my focus, it was clear that Skandia’s limited ethical fund choice was too restrictive. Itstarted researching other options and ended up with a short list of Transact and Avalon. Which one of these was to be my final choice would depend on the following factors in order of importance:
– Open architecture of open-ended investment companies, unit trusts, and investment trusts (since when I have added exchange traded funds).
– Quality of administration support, which must include a human point of contact for when something goes wrong.
– Totally flexible remuneration options.
– Online valuations (remember this was 2000).
– Flexibility on product design and services.
– The availability of a discretionary portfolio management service from a discretionary fund manager of our choice (not just a panel).
I decided on Avalon because, as well as being independently owned, they best met my above requirements. I also felt confident they would be flexible to my needs. My main concern was that Avalon was small and perhaps not financially secure. I therefore initially spread my business between Skandia and Avalon as a precaution.
Today, my concerns have evaporated and I use Avalon heavily for Isa, investment portfolios and self-invested personal pension business.
Charges are always a factor but fund performance is more important and so open architecture would be crucial – how can you call yourself independent if you do not offer whole-of-market fund choice? In fact, Avalon has a very reasonable charging structure which, as a small wrap/fund platform, may be surprising to some readers.
Treating customers fairly is at the core of everything that Avalon does (yes, I know they all say that but it is really true in their case) and a useful feature is that direct shareholdings can be re-registered. Also, Avalon have a good relationship with a firm of stockbrokers.
Online facilities are crucial these days and Avalon’s website is easy to move around and very secure. Valuations can be obtained easily and in the next few weeks I am expecting Avalon will be linked directly to our back-office system, which is with Durell.
Research facilities are not directly available but there are links with various marketrelated data, including Trustnet, the Financial Times and Morningstar. The beauty, of course, of using a discretionary fund manager is that fund research is left to an expert, leaving the IFA to concentrate on what we do best – client relationships.
Over the years, I have developed a really good relationship with all the team at Avalon and I am confident that my clients’ investments are in good hands. Technology is improving at a great rate but I know that Avalon will be there or thereabouts – independent ownership will guarantee that.
Jeremy Newbegin is a director at The Ethical Partnership