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Platforms need to give advisers more clarity over AUA

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Money Marketing tends not to cover press releases proclaiming platforms have reached ‘milestone’ levels of assets under administration.

We are yet to be convinced that individual platforms bypassing relatively arbitrary hurdles is of value to a significant number of our readers.

We were however interested in Zurich’s statement last week which put the AUA figure on its Zurich intermediary platform at £7bn as at the end of Q3, particularly as this was the time Zurich had released such figures.

Anecdotal evidence from advisers suggests that Zurich’s platform has been attracting interest, but this was the first opportunity to date to measure its achievement in empirical terms.

Taken at face value, that figure would comfortably support the claim that “Zurich’s new platform is on course to be the most successful adviser platform launch ever in its first year of trading.”

Given that the platform only soft-launched in September 2012, we were keen to understand the headline figure further as the headline total seemed too good to be true.

Money Marketing asked for a breakdown of where the growth had come from and was told: “Total platform asset are nearly worth £7bn, including growth of over £2.3bn in 2013 by end of Q3.” 

It emerged the figure was made up of around £500m in retail assets and £6.5bn in corporate assets.

After a bit more prodding, Zurich eventually added most of the money coming onto the retail platform was via external transfers and new money and that its Sterling back-book transfers were “a small percentage of the overall total”.  

How small, it would not say as it declined to provide a further breakdown of the level of assets Sterling accounted for.

Zurich is far from the first platform seeking grab the headlines with large AUA numbers which are not all they seem.

Announcing the integration of Aviva’s wrap and adviser web portal in May 2011, the insurer said the platform would launch with £56bn of assets. At the time Aviva Wrap had around £1bn in assets. 

Meanwhile, Alliance Trust Savings include direct-to-consumer data in its figures, as does Cofunds, which also incorporates institutional business. Fidelity FundsNetwork include D2C business and its pension book, while Ascentric includes wrap and the FundsDirect supermarket in its data submissions. 

Skandia decided to buck the trend in August when it announced it would be stripping out legacy assets from its AUA reporting, a move welcomed by The Platforum.

The move prompted advisers to call for greater transparency on platform AUA reporting.

All of the above means it would be unfair to single Zurich out, nor is Money Marketing suggesting it has anything to be ashamed of in what appears to be steady growth in the platform business.

But at a time when platforms cannot show off enough about their super-duper-shiny clean share terms, it would be nice if they could apply that same approach to their AUA, and finally come clean on the real numbers.  

Michael Glenister is platforms and distribution reporter at Money Marketing – follow him on Twitter here

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