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Financial Services Newsletter - Friday 8th January 2021

08 Jan 2021

Standard Life Aberdeen (SLA) has put platform Parmenion up for sale. Aberdeen was in talks to buy the platform in the summer of 2015. It later paid £55.4m for the business. Aberdeen then completed a huge merger with Standard Life in 2017.

Expanding Chartered Financial Planning firm Equilibrium has shown confidence in the future by taking a 15 year lease on a new HQ office building for its 89 staff. The Cheshire-based firm has moved from two older buildings to 23,000 square feet of new premises in Ascot House, Handforth.

National advice firm Mattioli Woods has brought back interim bonuses for employees after passing £10bn of assets under management. In a trading update covering the six months to the end of November 2020, Mattioli Woods said the asset figure was a ‘key milestone’ for the business, ‘I am pleased to report further progress towards our ambitious medium term goals with total client assets now exceeding £10.6bn,’ said Chief Executive Ian Mattioli. 

Brooks Macdonald is slashing VAT on its managed portfolio service (MPS). The change has been effective since 1 January and applies to the firm’s custody MPS and those held on third-party platforms.

Newcastle-based IFA Lowes Financial Management has launched an online academy for Trainee Advisers taking the Chartered Insurance Institute’s (CII) level 4 diploma in regulated financial planning. The academy offers 12-week courses for each of the R0 exams that make up the diploma.

The Director of a recently collapsed advice firm that advised members of the British Steel Pension Scheme (BSPS) is inviting some former clients to follow him to his new advice firm. Richard Hayes was a Director of Ashby-de-la-Zouch-based IFA Mansion Park, which entered liquidation in November this year following an upheld Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) complaint related to BSPS transfer advice amounting to £101,000.

National advice firm Succession Wealth has dropped its proposals to introduce an ‘implementation fee’ for Pension transfers. Last month, a whistleblower had raised concerns with the FCA about Succession’s plans to introduce an implementation fee for Defined Benefit (DB) transfers, despite the contingent charging ban which came into force on 1 October. Succession has informed planners with DB transfer permissions that they will not be able to charge an implementation fee for clients who have signed engagement documentation after 1 October and can ‘only charge the transfer fee for this advice’.

Wrap platform Transact is cutting its charges again as its profits jumped 11% in 2020. Transact’s parent company, IntegraFin Holdings, said the ‘majority of Transact customers’ will benefit from the price cut, in its annual financial statements released this morning. The new charging structure will see banding of between £600,000 to £1.2m charged 17 basis points (bps)– 1bps lower than before. For the £60,000 to £100,000 band charges will also fall by 1bps to 27bps, while the ‘buy commission exemption’ threshold falls from £400,000 to £300,000 on 1 March 2021. 

An Adviser has placed funds holding insulation company Kingspan (KGP) under review following allegations made at the inquiry into the Grenfell fire that killed 72 people. Many funds with a sustainable or ESG screen hold Kingspan based on its claims to cut down energy use and therefore tackle climate change. But the Grenfell inquiry has led one Adviser to question whether these funds should sit in clients’ portfolios.

Schroders Personal Wealth (SPW)
is to cut a number of roles across its front and back office in a restructure of the business. The news comes after SPW named former Openwork Boss Mark Duckworth as its new CEO in June following the sudden departure of previous Boss Peter Hetherington, who had been in the role for just eight months. With staff currently in consultation, SPW, a joint venture with Lloyds which opened for business in June 2019, would not disclose the number of roles which would go. The business currently employs 850 people.

Invesco’s investment trust business has been dealt another blow with the loss of Keystone to Baillie Gifford. The trust’s board said it would hand management of its assets to Baillie Gifford to be run using its sustainable Positive Change strategy, transforming the fund from a UK-focused strategy to one with a global remit. The decision, which will need shareholder approval, comes after Keystone appointed Stanhope Consulting earlier this year to advise on options for the £240m trust.

AJ Bell (AJB) added a record 63,000 customers in the 12 months to 30 September as the platform benefited from the rise of a new generation of younger direct-to-consumer (D2C) investors. The FTSE 250-listed platform saw its customer numbers rise by 27% for its latest financial year, as the D2C market has enjoyed ‘faster’ growth and witnessed a ‘pronounced change in 2020’.

In further news...AJ Bell Chief Executive Andy Bell has banked almost £17m after selling a slice of his shares last week. Bell continues to hold a 22.7% stake in the business, or 93.1 million shares worth £411m at Monday’s price of 442p, after selling 3.6 million at 460p. Also banking in on the company’s runaway share price was Managing Director of the group’s Investcentre, Fergus Lyons, who sold 1.7 million worth a total of £8.1m, leaving him with a 3.9% stake, or 15.7 million shares.

 

Financial Planners have said that they are unphased by the latest round of lockdowns throughout the UK. Keith Churchouse FPFS – Chartered Financial Planner at Chapters Financial noted: "As with any communication, listening, understanding, and adjusting are all key to our mutual future success". Ricky Chan FPFS – Chartered Financial Planner at IFS Wealth & Pensions said: "We’ve adapted our business and advice process to cope (mainly by adopting new technology)".  Darren Cooke FPFS – Chartered Financial Planner at Red Circle Financial Planning noted: "I am a one-man band business so, as last time, lock down will hardly affect me. I have held hardly any face-to-face meetings since early March last year, just a couple in September".  Martin Bamford FPFS – Chartered Financial Planner, Informed Choice said: "Little changes at Informed Choice as a result of this lockdown. We decided yesterday afternoon, ahead of the announcement, to stop seeing clients on a face-to-face basis". 

Enterprise investment scheme (EIS) Fund Manager Earthworm Limited has gone into administration following an ‘extremely challenging year’ due to Covid-19. The firm, which focused on environmentally friendly investing, appointed Andrew Poxon and Conrad Beighton of Leonard Curtis Business Rescue & Recovery as joint administrators on 1 December 2020.

Investors reacted negatively to Brewin Dolphin’s decision to cut its dividend and warning that the implementation of a new tech system will come in late and over budget. The company’s shares fell by more than 6% on the 25 November announcement, as the FTSE 250 fell 1.2%. But for the wealth major’s new Chief Executive Robin Beer, the real story is one of resilience amid a range of industry challenges exacerbated by Covid-19.

 

WH Ireland is in talks to acquire Henley-based Harpsden Wealth Management in a deal worth up to £7.8m. The deal would add £250m in assets under management to WH Ireland, taking the figure to more than £2bn.

Nucleus, the Scotland-based financial wrap platform, has confirmed it is in takeover talks with a number of potential buyers. It has received separate proposals from Integrafin Holdings and Epiris in conjunction with its associate James Hay Partnership Management regarding possible cash offers for the company. In a statement to the stock exchange the company said it is also in preliminary discussions with Aquiline Capital Partners and Allfunds (UK) regarding potential offers. Nucleus said it understands that Sanlam UK, which owns 52.2% of Nucleus’s issued share capital, is supportive of the Nucleus board engaging in potential offer discussions and the company intends to work constructively with Sanlam UK to ensure that the interests of all shareholders are properly considered.

In further news...Transact parent company IntegraFin has dropped its interest in buying rival platform Nucleus. The decision leaves the path clear for James Hay’s Private Equity Owner Epiris to buy Nucleus, after the three other bidders revealed to be taking an interest last month pulled out in succession. 

LV= has sold its entire savings, retirement and protection businesses to Private Equity firm Bain Capital for £530m. After reports Royal London was interested in an acquisition as well, LV= and Bain entered exclusive sale talks in October, and have now sealed a deal following a "comprehensive and rigorous strategic review".

Connectus Wealth Advisers, a Partner firm of US Wealth Adviser Focus Financial Partners, has entered the UK market with the acquisition of Cheshire-based Watterson Financial Planning. Focus Financial Partners, which is a financial backer of independent wealth management firms, founded Connectus last year to acquire advice firms. Connectus is now an international network of Advisers.

Aberdeen Standard Investments (ASI) has bought a 60% stake in £5.1bn logistics real estate investor Tritax Management as it diversifies into a boom growth area. ASI said the purchase will help it gain a deep sector specialism in one of the fastest-growing areas of real estate.

 

Lloyds has appointed HSBC Wealth Boss Charlie Nunn as its new Chief Executive. Nunn, who is currently global CEO, wealth and personal banking at HSBC, replaces António Horta-Osório, who in July announced he would stand down next year.

Quilter Chief Executive Paul Feeney has been named the Chair of the Financial Conduct Authority’s Independent Practitioner Panel. Feeny, who took up the role last week, succeeds Zurich UK Chief Executive Tulsi Naidu.

Aviva Investors Chief Executive Euan Munro is set to depart the firm, handing his role to the Chief Investment Officer of its real assets division. Munro will take a role outside the group, after having spent seven years as its CEO, with Mark Versey appointed to take his place.

St James’s Place’s (SJP) Chief Global Strategist Chris Ralph is leaving after 11 years at the restricted advice giant. According to a post on his LinkedIn profile, Ralph will step down at the end of the year, although he will remain on their investment committee in a non-executive capacity.

The Head of Platform Strategy at Embark’s platform Advance, Alistair Wilson is departing the business next week. In November last year,  Embark had acquired Zurich’s wrap platform in a deal which brought across £11bn of assets and 130,000 customers. The FCA approved the deal in May this year. 

Martin Gilbert has joined the board of River & Mercantile (R&M) as Deputy Chair. The Co-Founder and former Chief Executive of Aberdeen Asset Management, one of the fund industry’s leading dealmakers, join the business as it focuses on growth.

 

All information provided in this Market Digest has been gathered from multiple Financial Services Media sources and individual company press releases.

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