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IFAs go off their trolley over supermart tie-ups

IFAs fear the growing number of tie-ups between life offices and fund supermarkets could create problems in monitoring clients’ holdings.

Concerns have risen after it emerged that advisers using Standard Life’s Sipp will have access to all the funds on the FundsNetwork platform. How- ever, if they transfer any holdings not on FundsNetwork into the wrapper, they will not be able to view detailed information on these funds through Standard’s Sigma platform.

This includes daily pric- ing, effectively making online monitoring largely redundant.

Much to the ire of loyal users of Cofunds, Selestia, Skandia and other platforms, Standard Life has instructed its sales consultants to push the benefits of using FundsNetwork to advisers.

With the major life offices increasingly tying up deals with fund supermarkets to offer their tax wrappers with access to the platform’s fund range and online support tools, there are concerns that the problem could get worse.

Informed Choice managing director Nick Bamford, who predominantly uses Cofunds, says: “If I go to a Sipp provider and want to use collective investments from the whole of the market, I am going to use a platform I am confident in and would have reasonable expectations they can deal with this.

“Providers should stop coming to the market with problems rather than solutions.”

Cofunds product and marketing director Mark Jones says it is too early to predict whether the wrappers launched through its own tie-up with Legal & General are likely to cause similar problems.

However, given that these are set to include personal pension and investment bond wrappers rather than Sipps, he expects there to be fewer difficulties. In the case of investment bonds, in particular, transferring funds into the wrapper could cause a chargeable event.

The same applies to FundsNetwork’s forthcoming investment bond launch through Norwich Union.

Jones says such deals may be disappointing for some advisers but he would expect life offices to tie up with single platforms for their Sipp offerings to obtain better terms and connectivity.

Standard Life spokesman Jeff Newton confirms that the life office wanted to develop a close relationship with a single partner to create efficiencies.

FundsNetwork marketing director Rob Fisher says adv- isers may be able to use back-office programs, such as First and Plum, to get round the problem as Standard Life, FundsNetwork and Cofunds all have arrangements with the major back-office soft- ware providers.

He says: “Most platforms and major providers are plumbed into back-office providers so that could be one solution to the problem. Over time, wrap platforms will emerge which should add flexibility.”

In the meantime, it seems that Standard Life may miss out on some potential Sipp sales.

Dennehy Weller managing director Brian Dennehy says the arrangement is offputting to those advisers who do not use FundsNetwork.

Bamford points out that as he can use both FundsNetwork and Cofunds to buy funds for Sipps from alternative providers such as Pointon York and still receive detailed breakdowns on both portfolios, it is clearly not impossible to bypass arrangements such as Standard Life’s.

Bamford says: “It is not difficult, it just requires people to talk to each other.”

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