Have advisers fallen out of love with Cofunds?

Donia O’Loughlin and Ashley Wassall

Another day, another Cofunds press release revealing what advisers are (apparently) thinking. The platform is taking the pulse of the sector so often it is beginning to look like a branch of the NHS.

Today’s (6 August) offering is another outcome of the poll of 404 advisers that yielded yesterday’s list of things advisers are doing to cut the costs of servicing low-value clients, this time reporting on advisers’ views on the consumer confidence boost imparted by the Retail Distribution Review.

The release proclaimed that most think it has or will boost confidence, but the numbers are less encouraging than they might appear. Only 16 per cent believed confidence has improved and just 4 per cent think it do so this year; more than four in 10 advisers think it never will pick up.

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These two releases followed another research study published last week reporting that a third of financial advisers now offer or will consider offering self-directed services to clients.

Of course, it’s in Cofunds’ interest for this to be the case: it is one of only eight platforms that, according to the latest Money Management platforms survey, offers execution access to advised clients.

Make what you will of any of the above numbers, such as they are. What is more interesting is why Cofunds has suddenly become the ‘voice’ of the sector.

Answer: perhaps they are trying to make advisers fall in love with them again.

Early last year it seemed Cofunds was set to become the major force in the platform sector as it passed £40bn in assets, having added £4bn in the first quarter of 2012 alone. Anecdotcal evidence suggested tt was an adviser favourite as it was free of provider meddling - L&G only owned a minority stake at the time - and offered excellent service.

According to platforum figures published in May the platform continues to progress and has now reached £52bn in assets under management. However, this includes all of its institutional and adviser business; anecdotal evidence coming from advisers we speak to suggests that the platform is not as popular among intermediaries as it once was.

The buyout by L&G of the 75 per cent share of Cofunds it did not own in May seemed to ruffle a few feathers of advisers that prized the platform’s independence.

When FTAdviser exclusively revealed that ‘third round’ buyout talks were taking place in November last year, adviser readers’ responses were resoundingly negative.

One, for example, said: “NOT, absolutely NOT good news. The last thing I want is another platform controlled by a Life Office or Fund Management group. If it does happen, it’s goodbye to Cofunds from me, at any rate in terms of new clients.”

The buyout also had a destabilising effect of the business: there have been four high profile exits from the platform since it become part of L&G, including respected figures like chairman Charlie Eppinger, chief executive Martin Davis and head of fund relations Michelle Woodburn.