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What does Standard Life’s Elevate deal mean for advisers?

David Tiller

Standard Life is to consult with Elevate users before deciding whether to merge the services with its own platform, according to head of adviser and wealth manager propositions David Tiller.

Speaking to Money Marketing in the aftermath of a deal to acquire Axa Wealth’s Elevate, Tiller says while the firm will seek to gain from some back-office integration, there is no plan to fully unite the businesses as yet.

Tiller says: “We would have to be absolutely convinced that the requirements of both groups of users are the same. Speaking to you today, I’m not sure that is the case. There’s different aspects of the two platforms and we need to understand them better.”

“Elevate is different from Standard Life as every platform is different and we need to make sure that before any changes are made we are making changes that will be seen as positive by advisers.

“So we intend to continue the service to Elevate advisers that they have today, and we will be going on and talking to them and trying to understand in more detail what they want.

“We will be looking to try and make sure that all advisers that come to us from Elevate will get opportunities to ask questions. We want to work with them and develop a road map for Elevate.”

Tiller plays down the impact of the deal on the services that advisers will see, and notes the changes will be eased by the fact that both Elevate and Standard Life use the same technology provider of FNZ.

He says: “That is a huge advantage. The challenge of consolidation is the effort of bringing the businesses together.

“But we avoid any replatforming or mass migrations or anything like that, so it’s as easy as it can possibly be.”

Tiller also pledges where advisers will want to move away from the Elevate platform in the aftermath of the deal, they will face no exit charges, and Standard Life will seek to facilitate any migration.

However, he is optimistic that the promise of stability after a time of speculation on Elevate’s future will prove attractive to advisers.

“For Elevate advisers and their clients we are hopefully bringing to a close a period of uncertainty about the future.

“This was not a core business for Axa going forward. So they will be moving from a provider who is facing in a different direction to one who is absolutely committed to the market in the UK.”

Third largest platform

Platforum estimates that the deal will make Standard Life the third largest adviser platform based on retail assets with a combined AUA as at 31st December 2015 of £37.06bn, behind Cofunds and FundsNetwork.

However, research director Heather Hopkins also notes that while Elevate is highly rated for its pricing, the same is not true for Standard Life.

She says: “We view this acquisition as a positive outcome for Elevate customers as it delivers certainty of ownership and commitment to the platform market.”

“Standard Life’s wrap platform runs on the same underlying technology as Elevate which should make the transition of assets easier. Elevate and Standard Life also share a strong pensions pedigree.

“The biggest difference in how customers view the platforms is on pricing. Elevate is praised by customers as offering good value for money while Standard Life is often criticised as being expensive. The challenge for Standard Life will be to justify its higher charging structure to Elevate customers.”

At the same time, Finalytiq founder Abraham Okusanya notes that those facing higher charges on Standard Life’s wrap are likely to be less upset, arguing that many will use the firm’s offering for reasons other than pricing, such as access to Standard Life’s DFM proposition.

However, he adds that Elevate users will likely be targeted by raiding parties dispatched by rivals.

Okusanya says: “If I was advising Standard Life I would be wary of targeted efforts by other platforms to sway advisers who are on Elevate. If I was Nucleus or Ascentric or any of the others I would be definitely targeting advisers on Elevate and offering them as much support as possible to move over.

“I would be asking them, ‘Do you want to hang around and find out what Standard Life is going to do or come on board with us?’ Rather than conflict between its customer bases, I think that’s the kind of thing that Standard Life will focus on.”

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Comments

There are 5 comments at the moment, we would love to hear your opinion too.

  1. Standard Life has been quite fussy over which advisers they allow to use their platform. Will they now tell Elevate users they are no longer welcome – I doubt it somehow. I see this as bad news for Elevate users.

  2. I’ve always thought that Elevate was a far better implementation of FNZ platform than SL’s effort, which has become a mess in recent years. If SL can combine Elevate’s interface, documentation, charging structure and customer service with their own erm…. brand maybe?… then they could be on to a winner.

  3. 3rd largest platform?? What is Old Mutual – chopped liver??

  4. Heather Hopkins 6th May 2016 at 8:16 pm

    Henry, the deal puts the combined assets of Sl and Axa above Old Mutual Wealth. And in fact, we think that by the time the deal is finalised, SL will be bigger than Cofunds too. SL plus AXA assets combined are only 500k behind Cofunds. At the rate SL has been putting on assets, they should finish the half year ahead of Cofunds (when combined with Elevate).

  5. I think advisers should be a little worried. Standard (I do wish they’d drop the’ life’ as it is a misnomer) is by no means a small outfit. This aggressive acquisition programme makes it look as if they have somewhat given up on organic growth. Is this a reflection of what they consider is lacking in their proposition?
    I well recall Sir Richard Sykes commenting that mergers and acquisitions rarely benefited shareholders.

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