Life in the public eye is not always comfortable, as Hargreaves Lansdown found this year over its platform charges for investment trusts – a decision that was quickly reversed.
The success of the company’s publicity machine is a double-edge sword for HL – the slightest move gets examined microscopically, while they are the first name many consumers think of for getting a Sipp or other investments.
But that did not prevent the company having another really good year, putting on £2.3bn in gross sales compared to last year’s results.
Danny Cox, Hargreaves Lansdown’s head of financial planning, was in no doubt about progress, and said: “Overall, Hargreaves Lansdown goes from strength to strength on all fronts, including of course, the adviser division. There has been a big, positive impact from RDR One. We have been gaining client numbers, and assets under management are up to record levels. This means we are now the largest direct-to-consumer investment platform and the largest stockbroker in the UK, as well as being one of the largest advisory businesses.”
Unlike some others, HL may not have experienced as much difficulty in adapting to RDR and thus just continued with business as normal because, as Mr Cox said: “Basically we have been ready for it since 2003.”
Mr Cox said HL welcomed the Budget changes to pensions because it stimulated interest in them, with “people now more actively engaging in pensions planning. He added that Sipp business was up 35 per cent on the previous year, but that annuity sales had declined – as might have been expected.
He added: “Around half of clients we have spoken with said they will defer making a decision until next April when things become more clear.”
In many cases, we only hear moans about the regulators, but Mr Cox was optimistic, saying that the FCA appeared to be more pragmatic and consultative in its approach than the FSA was.
Stephen Spurdon is a freelance journalist