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Platform Focus: Ascentric

Independent platform business lacks the soft touch of some of its rivals but is praised by its users for its functionality

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Ascentric is an independent wrap platform, whose parent company, IFDL, is owned by the Royal London Group. It operates in the advised (Ascentric), direct (FundsDirect) and institutional (IFDL) platform markets and has amassed over £7bn of assets across these three channels. Despite a drop in net inflows, Ascentric’s net/gross sales ratio is a healthy 64 per cent for the first quarter of 2014.

Anecdotally, Ascentric users tend to be fairly self-sufficient, placing the importance of platform functionality above the ‘soft-touch’ customer service offered by business development managers from the life company platforms.

Often praised for its fund range (which includes ETFs and passive investments) and trading capabilities (Ascentric operates its own securities trading platform), the group appeals to those advisers who do not require a great deal of hand-holding. Other areas of the platform have been called ‘clunky’ and ‘unintuitive’ and it appears that new users sometimes have difficulty navigating the system.

The group’s emphasis has always been on offering broad access to both tax wrappers and investment vehicles and this continues to be highly valued and rated by users. 

We can also see this in the split of assets by tax wrappers – it is much more broadly spread around a variety of tax wrappers than most other platforms, which continue to have a simpler GIA/Isa/Sipp focus.

Outside the adviser space, Ascentric’s parent company IFDL provides a range of white-label and institutional services to advisers and other providers. Many of these are groups looking at offering direct-to-consumer or B2B2C services. We think the subject of simplified advice and how to provide advice to the mass market will be a major theme this year and many other advised platforms are addressing this segment.

It is difficult to assess Ascentric as a single unit because the platform’s AUA is divided among individual advisers and firms using the Ascentric brand, and the institutional business it supports. For example, its £7.63bn (as at 31 March) includes approximately £1.75bn written on Succession’s platform offer. 

The group will hope this multi-faceted approach to the market will stand them in good stead for future growth.

Holly Mackay is managing director of The Platforum

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Adviser View:

Nick Bamford, executive director, Informed Choice

”We think Ascentric may have a little bit of work to do around costs, particularly around some of the additional charges such as setting up a pension plan or moving into income drawdown. These kind of charges make Ascentric less competitive today than when we first started using the platform. On the plus side, we like their senior management people and we get on well with our account manager. Ascentric is very good at the straightforward stuff and overall it is a good platform.”

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