Adviser platform assets fell 12.1% last quarter to £480bn with just over £66bn wiped off the overall adviser platform market. Platform assets have, however, held up well compared to overall market falls – the FTSE All-Share Index fell by 26% over the quarter.
Overall net flows onto adviser platforms in Q1 were stronger than we have seen in recent quarters – higher for most than both the final quarter and the corresponding first quarter of 2019. The transition into lockdown only began in March, so much of the quarter would have been business as usual for advisers, and a lot of assets flowing onto platforms would have already been in-flight.
While it comes as no surprise that we have seen a drastic fall in adviser platform assets, we have never seen this level of deterioration in a single quarter. During the financial crisis in 2008, the platform market was much smaller – by assets and participants – so comparatively low inflows were enough for platforms to weather the storm.
Because virtually all platforms continue to charge on an ad valorem basis, their revenues will take a large hit, which could lead to difficult decisions for already unprofitable platforms when the dust settles. In more positive news, advisers have generally rated platforms well for the way they have adapted to the new working environment, according to a recent survey by Platforum.
We may see some signs of recovery in platform assets in the second quarter of 2020, but with fears of recession that’s far from certain. The annual spike in flows at the start of the new tax year could well have been dampened, with many advised clients having other priorities in the current climate. We expect to see an overall decline in new business inflows and transfer activity when we receive platform data for Q2. For all their resilience, platforms are in for a rough few months.