Not that it’s been a long summer or anything. Actually, it hasn’t. Time was that the financial industry would pack up and stop doing interesting things with all the enthusiasm of MPs heading off for a nice break with only about 10 weeks to go until the biggest constitutional shift in the UK for five decades.
But someone must have put some Calvinist work ethic into the coffee (you always know when someone’s done that, it tastes slightly of despair, and turnips) and as a result we’ve had an unparalleled amount of activity to wade through in the short summer months.
I’ve already dealt with GBST and FNZ in Updates passim, but the big news this week is that the FCA has given its blessing to the takeover of James Hay’s parent company, IFG Group. The lucky new owner is private equity firm Epiris (which I think is pronounced eh-pie-ris rather than eh-pee-ris or ee-pee-ris or even ee-pie-ris but I’m not sure; more news as we get it). The deal is worth £206m, or rather less than half a Quilter replatforming, and gives Epiris a nice wealth management business in Saunderson House and a SIPP and platform provider in James Hay.
For what it’s worth, I think this is very positive news for James Hay, though I’m not so sure what it will mean for Saunderson House. James Hay has a strong SIPP heritage, as most of you reading this will know (although a brief and ill-starred foray into less mainstream assets has hung around its neck), and has been a sort-of platform provider for some time. But it’s never quite made it into the mainstream platform world, thanks mainly to some quirks of how its proposition has evolved – for example, you cannae have an ISA unless you’ve got a SIPP as well, and its model portfolio capabilities aren’t up there with the best. That said, it’s well priced for all but the smallest pots, and advisers we talk to who use James Hay love the technical support in particular.
The real issue here is that JHP needs to work out what it wants to be – does it head back into the ‘pure’ SIPP provider space, or does it want to fully take its seat in the platform space? I think the best answer for it is the latter – but that will require some investment. If they’re convinced by their new acquisition, Epiris has the ability to make that investment in a way that perhaps might have been challenging for IFG.
So all in all it’s the most exciting times in Salisbury since those two Russian chaps decided to take a look at the cathedral: “it’s famous for its 123-metre spire, it’s famous for its clock, the first clock made in the world that still runs.”
From Salisbury to Switzerland, the hits keep coming in this summer of surprises. That’s how you do alliteration, kids. Now, no-one knows anything, right, and no-one’s talking, but the information memorandum for Zurich’s adviser platform (which is called Zurich Intermediary Platform or ZIP but should definitely have been called the Zurich Adviser Platform or ZAP) is going round. The existence of a memo isn’t proof that a sale will happen, but for the right price I suspect someone will be happy to pick this up. I think I can guess who as well, but this probably isn’t the place for that.
I’ve always liked the Zurich platform – it’s incredibly functionally rich and Zurich is awfully obliging in putting its balance sheet in play by prefunding anything that moves. Pricing is decent in the round and it’s staffed by people who seem to give a toss.
Nonetheless, it’s never really found its mojo in the wider adviser market – that might be due to a brand thing, or the fact it was relatively late to market, or something else. But outside of a few major relationships – notably Openwork – its support is a bit thin.
So in the last 18 months we’ve seen 3 platform IPOs, two sales (ATS and JHP), one tech acquisition (nearly), and a partridge in a pear tree can’t be far off. I’m off for a lie down.
- Here we go again with the shamefully marketed ultra-high-rate minibond ISA nonsense. This time it’s Blackmore Bonds, which has links to LC&F. The whole thing is just very depressing. I hope someone will be receiving some quality time in the HMP chain of hotels soon.
- And more ‘interesting’ investment-related nonsense here. More regulation isn’t the answer to everything – but it might be in this case.
- May I commend our forthcoming event in November – The DeadX Talks – to your attention. Our keynote speaker is the effortlessly cool Justin Basini of ClearScore. We’ve asked him because we want to talk about trust. ClearScore is trusted more than the credit reference behemoths it sits in front of. We’ll be talking about how that happens and how you build and maintain trust. It’ll be fun, and there will be drinks. Tickets are priced to own right here.
- And your music choice this week comes from Kate Tempest. I saw her at the Edinburgh Festival last week and it was transcendent. There is so much peace to be found in people’s faces.
See you next week.