Hello, hello, back again. After having done something like 150 of these Updates, it’s a wonderful thing to have a team that can not only dep on Update duty from time to time, but even volunteers for it sometimes. I mean, there was Mike before – celebrating his 7th birthday with us this very day – but he doesn’t count for obvious reasons.
I’d like to state for the record that the lang cat abhors workplace bullying. Except of Mike. That’s not true. Man, this HR stuff is difficult.
Back when Mike joined, platforms were a lot more fun to write about than they are now. Everyone was having a cracking time building stuff, pricing structures were forming and there was no shortage of naughtiness and devilment to cover. I didn’t even do Updates back then, just a blog. Simpler times.
I am doing nostalgic whimsy this week because a very rare thing has happened, and two platforms have made a big change in a week, so I get to write about it and it’s like a warm bath except without the jeopardy of dropping your phone.
If we could please open our hymnals at P for Parmenion first, something quite remarkable has happened. That something is the end of a debate that a certain Derbyshire IFA – hello Darren! – has been trying to have for some years: is Parmenion a platform? We say yes, Darren says no, and literally no-one says po-tah-to. To be fair to Darren, his point has always been that Parmenion only offers its own portfolios, so it’s hardly open architecture and that’s how he thinks of platforms, and he’s not alone. Which doesn’t mean he’s right…
If the definition of a platform is that it offers more than one set of investment options (it’s not), then Parmenion has just sorted all that out by announcing it’ll offer both Tatton and LGT Wealth Management portfolios via its highly rated platform. (Quick punt: if you want to see how platforms rate for service, then come subscribe to the lang cat’s Analyser system and you get all that and tonnes more for free as part of your sub, thank you please). `
This is a bit of a watershed moment. Most platforms start out very wide and then end up focusing in on offering their own kit in a cunning-plan vertical integration margin play. Parm, gloriously, started there and has gone the other way.
This is good news if you fancied getting some of the very nice user experience that Parmenion supporters enjoy. For my money, of which there is none, moving around Parmenion to do what you want to do is a more enjoyable experience than on most platforms. The key to its success, and that good experience, is that it doesn’t try to do everything for everyone. Most platforms are what I call Hard Rock Café outfits – love all, serve all – but Parm has always been resolute. I think it’s good Tatton and LGT users can now take advantage if they want, but there’s a clear challenge for the team to watch out for Danegeld and the pressure to throw open the doors to every model out there. The more you spread your net wide, the more you regress to the mean and that – to me at least – isn’t what Parm is about. A big change, then, and one which should make a big difference on the asset flow front, but not one without risk.
If we could now leaf a few pages back to N, it’s Nucleus’s turn in the spotlight. Two bits of news here – first, a wee price cut of 2bps down to 0.33% for portfolios up to £500k. A modest change, but hey ho. Transact’s been salami-slicing its pricing for years and no-one moans about that.
More interesting for our purposes, though, is the change to how Nucleus manages cash. Now, we’ve written about cash on platforms many times, and generally speaking it’s not great. Either platforms hang on to interest, or pass it back but charge custody on it. And while rates have been super low both options have, frankly, sucked.
Rates are on the rise, of course. So Nucleus’ announcement that it is going to actively manage platform cash to try and get a better return, and then split the interest (you can find the details in Katey Pigden’s excellent piece here) is an interesting one. The thinking is that if you work the banks harder you can get better rates, but that effort needs paid for and so a split is fair. The logical extension of that is that if a platform isn’t managing its banking relationships hard then margin is being lost, and it’s better split between the platform and the client rather than remaining in the bank.
This will come down to rates in the end. I think this is a gutsy move from Nucleus, especially as it requires radical transparency and will come under some scrutiny. It sort of reminds me of the old Malcolm Murray newsletters from Transact days passim, when he’d say “we made xx%, and this has been credited to investor accounts”. You need to know where you stand, and most of the time when it comes to operational cash on platforms, you don’t. Again, that hasn’t mattered too much while rates are laughable, but it’s going to matter soon. Anyway, there’s an underpin to stop anyone being worse off for a while, and while it all beds in I suspect a number of competitors will be keeping a very close eye on how all this works out.
So there we have it – two big developments to watch, and I hope you liked reading about them. MOAR PLATFORM CHANGE say I.
- Australians are obviously enormously hard work, not least when they bang on about ‘supers’, but despite being a confirmed Australian this piece from Fitz in NMA on potential changes to supers is well worth a shot.
- Tim Sargisson of Sandringham has done a cracking piece on Consumer Duty here.
- If you’re interested in ESG and fraud prevention, then Tom’s new podcat with Caroline Hopper of comms consultancy Quietroom is well worth a listen.
- The good folk of the Initiative for Financial Wellbeing are gathering in Bristol next week to debate the weighty topics of wellbeing, money and happiness. Tickets and more info here.
- And your music choice – well, I said you’d be getting the metal this week, but it’s late as I’m writing this and I’m feeling reflective, so here’s one of my very favourite songs by James Yorkston, the man who gave the lang cat its name. Enjoy Hotel from 2004’s Just Beyond The River, a record which never fails me.
See you next week