Under the bonnet of fund research agencies: Dynamic Planner

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We continue our series profiling the main UK fund research agencies with a look at Dynamic Planner.

Dynamic Planner is a popular risk profiling and financial planning service offered by Distribution Technology. However, its fund ratings, which are available only to licensed users, are not as well known.

Indeed, the ratings part of the service was only launched last January, which means very few advisers – just over 1 per cent –currently use it for fund selection and due diligence, according to our recent report The Influence of Research Agencies.

Despite its relatively new introduction, the company has long felt that a ratings service would complement its asset allocation models, and admits it should do more to promote its use among its users. Dynamic Planner’s client base covers a broad spectrum of advisers, from one-man bands to large networks, and is widely available through adviser platforms. With the right education and marketing campaign, we would expect a great deal more to take advantage of it.

The nuts and bolts

The ratings process starts with a quantitative screening of the fund universe to determine which are a good fit for Dynamic Planner’s asset allocation models. The selection is then narrowed down by around a third based on qualitative research conducted by an in-house team of 10 analysts.

The process covers all funds listed by the Investment Association. Exchange-traded funds and investment trusts can be rated, but this is based on ad-hoc demand from advisers.

ETFs are still not widely used by advisers in comparison with passive tracker funds. However, we do expect demand for research on these products to increase as independent advisers respond to the FCA’s asset management market study and look to expand their due diligence to include a wider range of options.

Dynamic Planner is one of only four research agencies that rate ETFs (alongside Defaqto, FE and Morningstar) so it should be well positioned to address this demand.

Some Irish-domiciled Sicavs had been rated in the past but due to a lack of adviser demand and fund passporting uncertainty brought about by Brexit, it was decided to stop covering them.

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An increasingly important part of Dynamic Planner’s proposition is the provision of template model portfolios.

According to our data, 46 per cent of advisers run model portfolios in-house, making it the second most popular investment strategy, so this is a useful service. But while these model portfolios are indeed a growing area of the business, the annual fee it charges for their use represents a small proportion of its revenue.

So far, it has not made the move into the discretionary space. However, we think it should be looking to benefit from the increasing use of third-party model portfolios by adviser firms. Our data shows third-party models are currently being used by 38 per cent of advisers, up from 31 per cent in the previous two years.

Despite its relatively short time in the fund research world, Dynamic Planner is already working to enhance its ratings proposition. It is due to move to a simplified two grade rating from its current four, as well as introduce fund factsheets and update its fund selection tools. The relaunch of this part of the business will give it a good opportunity to educate its adviser client base on its value.

Rodolfo Crespo is senior analyst at Platforum

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