Big changes ahead in adviser charging — report
By KATIE EARL
We can expect huge changes to the way that UK financial advice and planning firms charge for advice and for asset management, a new study claims.
The report by the Edinburgh-based consultancy The Lang Cat is entitled Serenity, Courage, Wisdom – disruption and innovation in retail investment pricing, referring to the multi-faceted approach it has taken to the findings of recent research. It examines four key areas of the industry to conclude that drastic price reductions in the next five years are not just possible, but inevitable.
Change, disruption, and innovation: which is which?
The report makes a careful distinction between the terms change, disruption and innovation. The nuances of these terms, it explains, are important to clarify. “For an industry which has seen so much change in the last decade, everything remains remarkably similar” the authors assert, “So what gives?” Their answer: “we haven’t experienced disruption at all. We’re not using the right words”.
And herein lie the foundations of the report’s findings. There are parts of the industry that require disrupting or innovating. Others, though, either don’t need changing, or simply cannot be changed with certainty of benefit or with ease.
It’s up to advisers to learn the difference, and to accept these truths.
The changes to expect
The crux of the report focuses on how fees could be reduced across the industry.
In total, 13 innovations or disruptions are suggested, each given a score for their impact, doability [sic], and likelihood. These included:
Tiering, capping and collaring, or smarter versions thereof, for advisory firms
Capped fees and modular pricing of platforms
Discretionary fund manager fees tiered with a cap
Performance fees for fund managers
The scores for each suggestion varied significantly, but the common denominator was an emphasis on serving clients across the board.
Accepting the things we cannot change
The authors, though, found certain caveats that cannot, or should not, be cut down.
Advisors are the most expensive link in the retail investment chain. However, their proximity to the client and subsequent ability to drive client-focused innovation defends that position.
Percentage-based charging is currently the favoured method by a clear mile. While not perfect, this does allow for lower net worth clients to invest alongside those of higher net worth. To move to a fixed pricing model would disrupt this for all the wrong reasons.
The importance of regulation will increase with the implementation of some innovations. This is because they will require advisory firms to venture into new, uncharted territory. Therefore, innovation and disruption must be done with care and must be well planned and resourced.
The market must remain diverse if it is to serve clients deeply and sustainably. Innovation must balance what is good for clients with incentives to entering the market. Therefore, fees cannot be pushed down beyond a certain point or risk diminishing the diversity of the market.
Within five years’ time, the report predicts ongoing charges of 1% for core/satellite portfolios, including advice and custody.
Sponsors of the report
The editorial of the report was, as always, driven solely by the Lang Cat. Three sponsors funded the project, selected because of the steps they have taken to innovate pricing within their own space.
Sparrows Capital, a specialist evidence-based asset manager, caps pricing for the end client at £20 per month regardless of portfolio size. They commented “Charging asset-based fees for model portfolios is unfair on clients and ultimately unjustifiable. Clear and predictable pricing enables advisers to deliver better outcomes while addressing regulatory concerns over the provision of value.”
Multrees offers modular platform pricing, taking a stand against the one-size-fits-all approach offered by many traditional platform providers.
Orbis write of the view that their investors are partners, and explain that their fees are based on outperformance: “fees charged in good times are also subject to a refund mechanism during bad times.”.
The bigger picture
Serenity, Courage, Wisdom is just the most recent of three publications by the Lang Cat this year. For further reading to cement your understanding, you can read their reports on due diligence and centralised investment propositions here.
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