Platforum: Axa Wealth’s Elevate defies uncertainty with strong pension flows

After a tough 2014, Axa Wealth’s Elevate appears to have turned a corner. It is receiving investment, gathering assets at pace and seeing strong flows into pension wrappers.

While the platform’s assets under administration shrank by 1.61 per cent in the third quarter of this year, this trend was reflective of the sector as a whole. Total adviser platform market AUA declined 0.84 per cent over the same period, stultified by the continuing bear market.

Over the past year as a whole, Elevate’s AUA has grown 13.8 per cent, buoyed by a rise in pension sales of 10 per cent in the first half. The platform’s gross and net sales have also remained steady this quarter, showing continued momentum in asset flows despite uncertainty over its future ownership: French parent company Axa is rumoured to have put the platform business up for sale.

While the bosses remain tight-lipped on the subject, continued speculation does have the potential to affect new business and asset inflows. As it stands, adviser sentiment remains fairly positive but we will be watching closely to see what impact this uncertainty has over ratings next quarter. We hope Axa and the Elevate team can find a swift resolution.

For now, advisers praise its business development manager support and its “excellent” helpdesk. The platform has implemented a customer services academy, bringing through skilled employees to enhance its support to advisers. Service has been an issue in the past and this investment should be welcome news for users.

The platform offers asset allocation and risk modelling tools, and has recently added an income modeller, the Retirement LifePlanning Tool, which is a proprietary tool developed with Voyant. The platform also provides a capital gains tax tool.

Elevate has a solid range of tax wrappers, although it eschews some of the more exotic ones, such as Section 32, SSAS and Sipp commercial property. It does offer a very comprehensive range of direct securities, including ETFs, and collectives ranging from Sicavs to investment trusts. As such, advisers rate it highly for its range of funds and assets.

The platform’s pricing is reasonable, coming out just below the industry average for buy and hold investors and model portfolio investors. There are no set up fees or ongoing charges for its pension wrapper; advisers only pay the platform charge.

While asset growth has been mainly driven by pension inflows, Elevate does have one eye on attracting assets into on-platform discretionary fund manager models: an ambition shared by many of its peers.

Advisers can choose from 32 DFMs available on platform. Elevate is seeing an increased demand for risk managed portfolios. Axa Wealth’s Architas is the platform’s top selling fund manager and the multi-manager also offers a range of risk-profiled funds. Architas saw 46 per cent growth in assets under management between Q3 2014 and Q3 2015.

The platform tells us that improving integration with advisers’ back office systems is a focus for 2016 and it has already set this project in motion.

This would simplify processes and should mean advisers do not have to re-key details onto their own systems as well as the platform: a big tick in the box for most. The platform’s back office technology currently sits on FNZ, as does the D2C platform, sister-brand Axa Self Investor.

Miranda Seath is senior researcher at Platforum