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THE TOP CLASS WEDNESDAY UPDATE MIGHT PUT THE TREE UP EARLY THIS YEAR

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Welcome to the last twelfth of the year so bad they named it twice. If you’re still here – and that’s a conditional phrase that carries more weight than it should this year – then you made it. Well done. Nearly there. Keep going.

I’m usually a bit of a moan about the run-up to Christmas – blah blah commercialisation, enforced jollity and all that. But this year even I am planning to put the tree up this weekend and shine a few points of light out into the darkness a couple of weeks earlier than usual. I was finally allowed out after quarantine this week and on a walk last night it was nice to see the lit up windows. That said, I won’t be missing the Edinburgh Christmas Hellfest Market.

Christmas lights are interesting, for a given value of ‘interesting’ – they were a German tradition, and were brought over here, along with interesting piercing techniques, by Prince Albert. It was all done with candles in them times, so folks would just have trees up for a few days until they started to dry out and form the mother of all fire hazards. Nonetheless, there were fires aplenty, to the extent that in 1908 some insurers started excluding Christmas tree fires from their policies, proving that even over a century ago there was little actuaries couldn’t ruin if they put their minds to it.

None of this has anything to do with Parmenion being sold by Standard Life Aberdeen. You’ve no doubt seen it break over the weekend; new SLA CEO (an anagram of ‘solace’ which is nice) Stephen Bird is simplifying the group and has decided that the right number of platforms for SLA to have is one fewer. This is exactly the opposite of the ‘how many guitars is the right number?’ equation (also works for bikes), which is: G= ((n+1) < d) or something like that (I suck at maths). What it means is that the right number is one more than ‘n’ which is the number you have at the moment, but only where that is less than ‘d’ which stands for ‘divorce’, which is more expensive than even really nice guitars. SLA still has Wrap, Elevate, FundZone and some older bits hidden away in the basement, so it’s not going short.

This also doesn’t have much to do with Parmenion’s sale, but on the other hand we don’t have all that much to go on yet. From where we sit it’s the same story as it was with Ascentric – it’s better for a platform to be owned by someone who wants it than someone who will leave it in a flight case under the sofa. So we just hope the people impacts are minimal – there are stories circulating about folk who’d been taken on for the Virgin deal who now are facing a tough time – and as always with these things we strongly counsel advisers to keep the heid; Parmenion’s suitability for your clients isn’t directly or immediately affected by a sale memorandum.

The more interesting bit is who’ll stump up – I think we can safely ignore the trial balloon being flown in the weekend’s PR of a £150m – £200m valuation. A £6.5bn platform with its own tech and a good reputation is valuable, but that’s a big old price tag for a lovely but relatively modest scale competitor in a very aggressive market. But who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Some folk think it’ll be a wealth manager looking for digital capability; others think it might be another platform. I think it might be either a straight up PE deal or possibly a PE-funded management buyout. I really like Parmenion’s platform and it’s a business with great people, but I’m not sure it fits in and plays nicely with other children, so anyone looking to take it and integrate it with another platform will have a big job on their hands. Personally I’d love to see what the management team under Martin Jennings could do with their hands fully on the reins.

HOUSE NOTICES

A couple of bigger things from us if we may.

Firstly, some of you have been in touch to ask when our 2020 State of the Platform Nation annual Guide will be out, cos it normally is by now. The answer is we’re doing it a bit different this year. Instead of publishing with Q3 data, we’re going to wait for the full year 2020 data and reset it on that basis. So it will be out in mid-March.

Also different is how you get your mitts on it – the only (legal) way this time if you’re an advice professional is to take a subscription to Platform Analyser. This costs a wee bit more than a standalone Guide, but you get quarterly market monitoring, a bunch of other cool content and a whole platform due diligence and price comparison system chucked in. A blizzard of good stuff. You can find out more about Analyser here.  #marketing

And our final survey of the year needs your help. This time it’s ESG, but digging deeper into the issues surrounding that term and all its wily ways. No greenwashing here. We’d love to hear from you as we think there are a bunch of views out there we just haven’t heard yet. It takes ten minutes or less and you can find the survey here. All respondents get an exclusive playback and a place on our Christmas card list, if we had a Christmas card list, which we don’t. G’wan g’wan g’wan. We do really appreciate it.

MILDLY FESTIVE LINKS

  • Only two HomeGames left in 2020, and today’s is going to be a belter. We’re #delighted to have the mighty Justin Cash, editor of Money Marketing on. He’ll be talking about the role of the media in our sector, stories that caught his eye this year, what he wants for 2021, and possibly about going raving with Mike Barrett. You won’t want to miss this, and if you go here then you won’t need to. As ever, the lang cat’s YouTube channel is there for all your catching-up-later needs.
  • The market price for a drawdown product is now 0.15%, capped at £375pa. Vanguard is bringing the fight to the D2C market – no advice included of course. I already know adviser firms suggesting to clients that they’ll tell them what to do and the client can just do it themselves on Vanguard. Hard to see why the same couldn’t work for straightforward drawdown…
  • Movement from the regulator, maybe, on levies. James Fitzgerald at Citywire has the story with him here.
  • And your music choice this week was very nearly this mashup of Slayer, Rammstein and Wham, but out of pity for those of you playing Whamageddon this year I thought it would be cruel. Instead, let’s go right back to the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, and in particular Stourbridge in 1980. Diamond Head have just rerecorded their classic ‘Lightning to the Nations’ and it absolutely rips. You may know DH for being a big influence on Metallica, who covered Am I Evil? on their Garage Days EP and so introduced millions of spotty Californian kids to a bunch of hairy scruffs from the West Midlands, which is funny. So DH has returned the favour on this record, and done a cover of Metallica’s No Remorse. It’s a top song and a top cover and I think you might like it.

See you next week

Mark

P.S. Thanks to all those who checked in last week. That was a kind thing to do. Kurt would be proud.

Posted in: #Top Class Wednesday Update  

About Mark Polson

lang cat founder and boss. Expert on all things platforms, pensions and investments. Prolific writer and public speaker, even when people ask him not to be. Knows more about Scandinavian black metal than you, and isn't afraid to prove it.

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