Regenerated UK Platform Group stages a comeback

Hopes have been raised that a new platform group can increase the £500bn industry’s lobbying power and influence.

The UK Platform Group announced it had 28 member firms – representing 95 per cent of platform assets – and would act to “fully represent UK retail platform operators”.

A group of the same name, which included only Hargreaves Lansdown, Fidelity, Axa, Standard Life, Cofunds and what is now Old Mutual Wealth, had wound down its activities in recent years.

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Bill Vasilieff, chief executive at Novia Financial, said he thought it had “died away” but welcomed its refounding with a “wider membership”.

“I wish it success,” he said. “It remains to be seen if it can be successful but we are going into it with an open mind.”

Mr Vasilieff said one issue worth tackling was re-registration – the process of moving client assets from one platform to another. This has blighted the platform industry, with some moving to make the process digital while others continue to use paperwork.

“The industry has been talking about re-registration for 10 years,” he said.

Hugo Thorman, managing director at Ascentric, expressed support for the group. “In RDR discussions we were a split voice, with the old platform group, the Association of British Insurers and individual platforms all saying different things. Then we wonder why the regulator and the Financial Services Consumer Panel sometimes just got it wrong,” he said.

Something like the ban on cash rebates to customers had been an error, he added, and rebates through units “simply compounded the complexity and costs for the industry and customers”.

“The creation of this new platform group will hopefully help to avoid such outcomes in future,” Mr Thorman said.

“Each member will of course be able to have their own opinions, but on big issues like re-registration and rebates, we will hopefully have one common view in future.”

Fidelity’s Ed Dymott, chairman of the UK Platform Group, said the platform market was “still in its relative infancy” and needed a forum where it could focus on “driving efficiencies and best market practice”.

“Ultimately this needs a forum where platforms can contribute towards this agenda and drive the next evolution of platform developments,” he said.

“We had increasingly seen no effective forum where this could happen, and where platform operators could ensure that policy was being appropriately developed. This has driven the formation of this group.”

Mr Dymott said the previous group had been “extremely effective” and “drove many good developments” but was “increasingly not representative of the diverse range of platform operators”.

A number of platforms had discussed the idea of forming the group and drew up plans at the start of 2014. “Until this date, platforms had to lean on other groups to co-ordinate feedback,” said Mr Dymott.

“While I am very happy to lead the group for the first 12 months, the creation of the group has very much been a collective effort.”