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 in the aftermath of a deal to acquire Axa Wealth’s Elevate, Tiller says that 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 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.
“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,” he says.
Tiller also pledges that 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,” he adds.
Third largest platform
Platforum estimates that the deal will make Standard Life the third largest adviser platform based on retail assets with a combined assets under administration as at 31st December 2015 of £37.06bn, behind Cofunds and FundsNetwork.
However, Platforum 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.”