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Platform Focus: Axa Elevate

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Axa Wealth launched the Elevate platform in November 2008 and has grown to £7.89bn as at March 2014. It was the fourth fastest growing platform by percentage year-on-year to the 

end of 2013. 

Elevate has built assets on the platform relatively quickly in comparison with peers and so it should shout to detractors who point to the substantial sales headcount and cost base.

The platform is not yet profitable but says that rising sales should see them reach profitability “within 18 months” from October 2013 (Axa Wealth reportedly saw 20 per cent higher Q1 2014 sales than Q1 2013).

Elevate, in the eyes of the advisers who use the platform, is a bit of an all-rounder. And there’s nowt wrong with that. 

While we don’t necessarily hear advisers noisily championing the qualities of the platform and its staff, neither are there many fuming about poor service or functionality. Elevate users appear to be basically happy.

Functionality and simplifying straight-through processes on the website in particular are areas that the platform has tried to improve over the last few years and we hear better feedback from frequent users of the platform.

Elevate has always been fairly decently priced and is typically a mid-pack player when it comes to cost. The group responded to the Budget announcement in March changes by bringing its charging band down to 25bps for clients with more than £1m. 

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Tinkering around the edges shout those detractors. It’s 10bps for clients with more than £5m – although if someone with £5m on a platform has not negotiated a fixed or capped fee they need their head read.

We think Axa is doing quite well. The business is multi-faceted and has Architas, tax wrappers and a D2C business to work into its propositions. Sales are OK. User feedback is OK. Price and value are OK.  Developments are OK.

A wee look at that cost line and how to accelerate the move to profit to keep the Gallic governors happy must be the headache. With the more mature Standard Life platform constantly seen as its main competitors, we suspect some may be fervently hoping for a yes vote over the border later this year as Axa  would likely profit from any short-term stumble in Standard’s ongoing march.

Holly Mackay is managing director of The Platforum

 

The Platforum’s take on price:

Unlike most platforms, Elevate’s charging structure is banded rather than tiered: so the stated basis point charge applies to the whole portfolio, and not just the assets above a certain level. This approach works well when combined with the ability to link family accounts. For portfolios between £25,000 and £100,000 the charge is 0.34 per cent, putting them fairly mid-range. New Sipps now include a flat £48 p.a. wrapper fee, which will make them more expensive for smaller pension pots.

Adviser View:

Crothers-Gordon-Attain Wealth Management-2014

Gordon Crothers

Managing director

Attain Wealth Management  

It is one of our main platforms because it gives what we want for the average investor. The family group discount is great and the platform gives all the assets and funds we want to use. There have been problems with the  speed of the platform in the past and it could be quite laborious to use. But that is a risk with any web-based service and it has improved. The only thing we still want from them is a good tax calculation facility. The data exists in the system so it should be easy to give it to clients.”

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