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Interactive Investor continues ‘listening exercise’ over future of ATS advised clients

Platform awaiting feedback from advisers before firm plans are revealed

Interactive Investor has begun a “listening exercise” with advisers as it weighs up the future of Alliance Trust Savings’ advised clients.

Advisers have said they remain uncertain over what will become of the ATS proposition after II – a major player in the direct-to-consumer market but a platform with no advised presence – purchased ATS last October.

The uncertainty continued last week after ATS parent Alliance Trust released its annual financial results. While the II deal is still yet to receive the final go-ahead from the FCA and Prudential Regulation Authority, II said in a statement that “if regulatory approval is received, ATS customers will be migrated to Interactive Investor’s own platform over time and will become Interactive Investor customers”.

Money Marketing was also alerted to a case study released by branding consultants Wolff Olins on its work with II.

The marketing strategy relies heavily on the notion of independence, with II’s purpose being to “compel people to take control of their financial futures, rather than relying on financial providers or IFAs”.

Speaking with Money Marketing, II chief commercial officer Alex Kovach says that while regulatory approval is still in process, the firm is engaging in a series of meetings to get feedback from advisers before revealing any firm plans on the future of the advised platform.

He says: “We are very open-minded. Nothing is on the table, nothing is off the table.

“Talking to advisers with ATS is a really good listening exercise for us. It’s firming up our understanding. It is a new part of the business for us. We understand the D2C business well, and we want to understand the adviser business in detail.

“We are quite humble in that this is a space where we really need to get into the detail. That’s why we are doing this listening process and talking to advisers.

“We don’t own the business yet, it’s awaiting regulatory approval, so it would be wrong of us until we get that to give anything more than we have said before.”

An example of the branding devised for Interactive Investor by Wolff Olins to emphasise ‘independence’, including from IFAs, in the newly merged business with Alliance Trust Savings

On use of the idea of independence from IFAs in the marketing message, an II spokeswoman says that this refers to generic points about the business, and is not specifically related to advisers’ clients.

Kovach says: “Our marketing campaign is about people being independent and taking control, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing for IFAs.

“It’s a good thing if people are more engaged with more responsibility for their savings; that should be a positive thing all round.”

Since Money Marketing raised the wording of the campaign with ATS, the reference to independence from IFAs has been removed from the Wolff Olins case study page.


The revised wording of Wolff Olins’ II case study

Kovach notes that most of ATS’s business remains non-advised.

While Kovach appeared not to be able to categorically rule out the possibility some clients could be orphaned, if the migration applied to all clients and the II platform only chose to run a D2C model, he says that clients being left without their advisers is not something the firm “anticipates happening”.

Kovach says that while the approval process for the deal remains in the hands of the regulators, he estimates that it could go through at some point towards the end of the first half of 2019.

Should the ATS advised business remain in its current form, Kovach suggests II would be keen to keep its fixed-fee structure.

He says: “What I can say is that we are great believers in fixed fees. We certainly see the role of fixed fees in the adviser market.”

Platforum head Jeremy Fawcett says: “II is showing its ambition in D2C, but we won’t know its intentions in the advised market until it gets through the regulatory approvals and has a good look under the bonnet.

“The fixed annual fee price model from ATS was very appealing to some financial advisers and II may well take this on as a new business line.

“It could do this under a different brand, although ATS didn’t think this was necessary.”

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