The growing coronavirus crisis is not affecting Royal London’s plans for potentially selling Ascentric as the business continues to consider its strategic options, according to the group's chief executive.
Barry O'Dwyer told FTAdviser “nothing has changed” regarding the fact Royal London was exploring its options regarding the sale of its platform business.
Last month it was reported Ascentric had entered sales talks with an unknown buyer and an email to advisers, seen by FTAdviser, showed chief executive Rob Regan had confirmed Ascentric had entered preliminary discussions involving the sale.
Following Royal London’s results today (March 17), Mr O’Dwyer said the business was still “considering its strategy options” with Ascentric and stressed “nothing has changed”.
He also said advisers had been “remarkably sanguine” to the news the platform could be up for sale and the business had seen “some good inflows” from advisers who used the platform.
Discussing the impact of the coronavirus on the platform’s assets, he said: “Like all platforms, the assets depend on where the customers invest in equity markets. But really, it’s very much business as usual.”
Mr O’Dwyer said the Royal London group had not pulled or changed any plans due to the coronavirus crisis, which has seen markets tumble and put countries in lockdown.
He added: “It’s a flowing situation and it may have some knock on implications, but it’s too early to tell.
“We’re asking colleagues to work from home where they can and that may have some consequences.”
Mr O’Dwyer said the business had primarily been focusing on “helping customers and wider society” by making sure they had flexibility in their products and “working on how to underwrite people without placing a burden on the NHS” through their protection business.
In terms of Royal London’s asset management arm, Mr O’Dwyer accepted it could be affected by the drop in markets and growing uncertainty over the economic situation.
He said: “We think retail flows will slow down. People will not pull out their money but they’re reluctant to place more into the market. Flows will slow down.”
Mr O’Dwyer’s comments come after Royal London reported its Aum had increased 22 per cent last year in its yearly results published today.
Ascentric saw its Aum increase 12 per cent to £16.3bn throughout 2019, primarily due to market growth.
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