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Looking good

In another life, this column could have been called My Disastrous Insurance Company Admin Hell or My Ugly Bank Relationship but it is called My Beautiful Wrap and with good reason.

I have always wanted a wrap, I just did not know what it was called. Now it is called the ASPL wrap – a white-labelled version of Standard Life’s platform.

The ability to produce client valuations 24/7 is very appealing and cost-effective. Modelling self-constructed portfolios sourced from a significant fund and securities range and which can be bought without an initial charge and with a reduced total expense ratio is fantastic.

Wrap can greatly assist and even become the foundation of your service proposition. It is an investment on the adviser’s part, so it is highly preferable if your provider similarly invests time, resources and technology in your business. This is what Standard Life has done for us.

With a lot of the regulatory noise about wraps centring on the costs, one of the many attractions of our wrap is ease of access to cost-effective exchange traded funds.

Wrap further helps move back-office emphasis from administration to service.

There is less need for paper and the ability to access live portfolios enables quicker responses to client queries.

Wrap is not appropriate for everyone and we have restricted access to clients who accept our revised terms and consequential improved levels of client care. Taxation of investment profits and exit penalties are likely to be the biggest barriers to the speedy migration of assets over the coming years – and rightly.

The more of us who adopt wrap, the better equipped we are as a profession to take on the big private bank and wealth manager institutions. Without this technology and efficiency, we are not as much of a threat as we should be.

More deep-pocketed entrants to the wrap market seem inevitable, as does the eventual consolidation of providers. Will separately managed accounts take off? Will easy access to ETFs become a driver? Who knows? What I do know is that our ASPL wrap, if not consistently beautiful, is at least rather good looking.

Adrian Smith is director of Adrian Smith & Partners


The history men

Conferences seem to be playing an increasingly important role in my life. Perhaps it is the pervasive uncertainty that is persuading fund groups to maintain a highly visible presence in the IFA market. The good news, from my perspective, is that fund managers appear just as confused as me. Even more important is the degree of disagreement that exists over likely outcomes. It reinforces my view that this market is as hard to second guess as it has ever been. Inflation, the credit crunch and the bursting of the property asset bubble have combined to draw a veil over the future. But forecasters never really know, do they?

Tax and figures

Offshore insurance bonds offer a number of potential tax advantages. These include the fact that capital growth within offshore bonds is virtually free of tax, policyholders can switch between funds within bonds without triggering a capital gains tax liability, bonds can be assigned to lower-rate taxpayers and the policyholder can decide when to cash them in and thus when they face their tax liability.

0.9% Dip in house prices

House prices fell by 0.9 per cent in June, taking them 6.3 per cent lower than at the same time last year, according to Nationwide. Prices are still 4 per cent higher than two years ago.

The curse of long-term cash

Trevor Greetham, Head of Multi Asset at Royal London Asset Management, reveals why clients should be seriously concerned when short-term holdings of cash turn into a long-term investment. There is nothing wrong with holding wealth in the form of cash on a short-term basis. For many people capital stability is important and access to ready cash […]


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