Last week the lang cat launched PLATFORM PRICING PROPHECIES: PAST PRESENT AND PHUTURE. If you haven’t downloaded it yet, consider yourself on the naughty step? but don’t worry? you still can and all will be forgiven.
Calling it as we see it is kind of our thing and the paper has elicited (ooh fancy) a fair bit of reaction and comment across both the traditional and social medias. Which is great, because it’s always good to talk.
Perhaps the most contentious issue, which being honest was a bit of a surprise to me (in a good way) is the price versus suitability chestnut. We called out in the paper that analysis of pricing trends was a separate issue to suitability and it wasn’t our intention (honest) to put anyone on the defensive over their level of charging. The study was, however, about market pricing trends and to do that without assessing the highest and lowest points would, we think, have been ducking the issue. Indeed, via our ninja produced #heatmaps (as you read this Steve is on holiday, probably), the lang cat has been documenting pricing competiveness since time began (which, if you’re five, is sort of true).
It’s good that this has come to the fore. The platform sector can seem overly sensitive to price because all you ever heard for about two years solid was that a, b and c was cutting x, y and z charges.
Price is important, but here’s how I see it; only once a suitability match has been made. Whether that’s identifying a single platform that can meet the needs of all clients, or more typically these days, a small panel that’s designed for different client segments. Once a short-list has been identified that’s when cost assessment really starts to matter.
The UK platform sector is pretty diverse and that’s something which should be celebrated. For example, you’ve got James Hay, which can support highly sophisticated SIPP investors, Old Mutual with Wealth Select’s sub-advised portfolios, open architecture platforms like Transact, True Potential offers an end-to-end solution (and is also doing some pretty cool mobile technology stuff) and Aegon has just launched on-platform unit-linked guarantees. That’s just to name a few, there’s a good deal more in between.
It just doesn’t look to me like a market that’s going to consolidate into a much less interesting mass of three vertically integrated behemoths; the AUSTRALIA ARGUMENT has been doing the rounds for years now, it’s just not happening over here and I for one don’t see how it’s going to in the (ph)uture.
I think platforms should focus on what they’re good at and communicate those things clearly. And that includes being honest about what they’re less good at (or at any rate, less suitable for).
And, by the way, the same philosophy applies to D2C platforms that are also gratifyingly diverse. SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT. At the lang cat we try to practice what we preach and our forthcoming Direct Platform Guide (which will have a much cooler name than that) will give you our analysis on the differences between the main players and believe me there are plenty.
In the meantime, did I mention you can still download the pricing guide?