How to help clients sweep up next Isa season

Howard Finnegan

Howard Finnegan

With all the shenanigans going on in government you may not have noticed that tax year end came and went last week. 

And so was the peak Isa subscription season, which is also the time of year advisers transfer client Isas onto their favoured investment platform.

One service often neglected by advisers is to sweep up all their clients' cash Isas and Junior Isas held with banks and building societies into stocks and shares Isas on their favoured platform.

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The average returns on cash deposit Isas are at abysmal levels and, despite market turbulence, the medium and longer term returns on stocks and shares Isas are likely to be much better.

The overall number of cash Isas may have dropped substantially in recent years - 10 per cent in tax year 2017 to 2018 - but stocks and shares Isas subscriptions continue to grow.

However, during the 2017 to 2018 tax year, 72 per cent of all Isa subscriptions went into cash Isas (that’s close to £50bn), and for every new stocks and shares Isa account opened, there were three cash Isa accounts opened.

The vast bulk of the new cash Isas are opened by clients directly, so the adviser may not be aware of them.

Offering to ‘sweep them up’ and transfer them to better-performing assets has, in the past, been hampered by the cumbersome cash Isa to stocks and shares Isa transfer process.

It involves the adviser getting the client to complete the bank's or building society's cash Isa transfer forms, send them to the platform provider, the platform sending them to the ceding bank, the ceding bank sending the cash Isa history form and a cheque back to the platform provider.

The cheque - and yes, it’s nearly always a cheque - must be banked, cleared and reconciled before the adviser can re-invest in better-performing assets.

The banks are efficient, once they receive the paper work, but the end-to-end process takes between four to six weeks and can be even longer.

Also, the average holdings in cash Isas tend to be significantly lower than stocks and shares Isas, so is it worth all the hassle for what could end up to be a meagre return?

This is where the recent technology developments, pioneered and gaining traction among the direct to consumer (D2C) providers, can help advisers by making the process much better, simpler and quicker for them. 

The banks and building societies have always had an electronic transfer service for moving cash Isas between cash Isa providers.

Similarly, most of the adviser platforms have had the capability to electronically transfer stocks and shares Isas between themselves.

Nevertheless, until recently, the two electronic systems could not connect, so everything had to be completed on paper.