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Standard Life eyes D2C investment with Canada sale cash

Standard Life is set to invest in its direct-to-consumer footprint in the UK using funds from the sale of its Canadian arm to Manulife.

The £2.2bn deal with Manulife, announced last week, saw the firm pay £1.75bn to shareholders.

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Speaking in a briefing following the announcement, Standard Life chief executive David Nish (pictured) said: “In terms of the UK we’ve got a very strong position in the adviser market, we’re growing strongly with auto-enrolment and we’re strongly placed in the market in terms of Sipp, wrap and drawdown.

“One of the things that we’re looking at is how we grow in the D2C space, particularly around mutual funds and Isas.” 

Asked how the balance from the sale would be invested, Nish said: “It gives us the potential to go ahead and evaluate potential investment opportunities. We see the UK marketplace as one where we’ve got a very strong franchise. We will look very positively at developing our D2C offering.”

Standard Life has previously hinted at plans to expand its D2C presence post-RDR. It currently supports business through the direct channel, including a consumer-facing Isa.

But advisers warn that providers widening their D2C presence must avoid overlap with advised client business. 

Pilot Financial Planning managing director Ian Thomas says: “A lot of the traditional insurance companies are much more aggressively pursuing a multi-channel approach. As long as it is managed properly, I don’t think a multi-channel approach is a problem. However, I have seen examples in other countries where direct runs alongside advised and treads on one another’s toes. Advisers sometimes see their clients effectively taken from under their nose.”

Prydis Wealth director James Priday says: “As an adviser I do feel concerned about the motivations of providers. Ascentric, for example, is a platform that allow us to white-label the service to offer a self-serve option ourselves. When the provider has an advised and D2C side competing for clients, it can affect adviser decisions about using them.” 

A Standard Life spokeswoman says: “Standard Life already operates as a multi-channel business, with customers self-serving online with us. We continually look to improve this self-serve proposition to enhance the customer experience.”

The deal with Manulife includes a distribution agreement which will see Standard Life run some investments for Manulife in North America. Standard Life hopes it will treble assets under management through Manulife within three years, which currently stand at £3.3bn.  

Balancing Act – How are firms managing multi-channel approach? 

Aegon
Launched Retiready D2C platform aimed primarily at pension savers. The firm says it will work alongside its existing advised offering and have an option to add in an adviser charge if a direct client chooses to take advice. 

Fidelity
Already a significant player in both the D2C and advised market for pensions, Isas and fund management but keeps its FundsNetwork platform largely separate from its Fidelity Personal Investing proposition. Clients with assets on both can get an aggregate view. 

Hargreaves Lansdown 
Has a team of advisers which operate primarily by offering a one-off advice session designed to help a client set up a portfolio which can then be self-managed through the platform. The set-up means its own advice arm is specifically designed to pair up with its self-serve platform.  

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