Life is harder now (in investment outsourcing, anyway)

Earlier this week the lang cat and CWC Research launched Never Mind the Quality, Feel the Width, a new, in-depth study of the outsourced centralised investment proposition (CIP) marketplace.

The report is made up of qualitative adviser and industry interviews by CWC Research, alongside quantitative analysis by the lang cat of a range of discretionary fund manager (DFM), multi-manager (MM) and multi-asset (MA) portfolios.

You can read the abbreviated version of the report yourself for free (see link below), but in a nutshell, it uncovered concerns over both due diligence, with no real sense of advisers using a definite rationale in portfolio selection, and demonstrating relative suitability of the various outsourcing options, with very little variation between MM/MAs and DFMs in terms of cost, outperformance and holdings.

But probably the most important point to come out of the whole exercise was the difficulty we had in getting any sort of comparable data at all. Although fund managers are arguably more transparent than DFMs, different ways of reporting information meant it took forever to wrangle the data to a stage where we could pin down consistent like-for-like comparisons. If it’s that difficult for us, what hope is there for an adviser, with all the other demands on their time?

It’s maybe not a surprise that advisers don’t display consistent usage patterns when they can’t access the data they need to make informed decisions. This is one area where providers of outsourced investment solutions really do need to step up.

At the launch, a couple of providers, quite sensibly, asked what they can do about it. The answer is obvious. Buy the report, which alongside the in-depth, detailed, no holds barred, data analysis sets out clear action points for fund managers, DFMs and platforms.

But apart from that, as an industry, clearly we all need to agree how we can disclose information in a consistent way before we are compelled to do so by the regulator. After all, making life easier for advisers isn’t a totally selfless activity for a provider, is it?

The free, downloadable abbreviated version of the report is available here.


Nothing to do with buses

Hello again. You know what they say; platform pricing changes are like buses. You wait ages for one to come along and then…

Actually, no-one says that. It’s a rubbish analogy. And the buses around here are pretty good.

Anyway. Yes, only a week ago we were digesting the pricing changes made by Ascentric, and now Transact has come along and given us more to think about with a tweak of its own. Some corners of the trade press got in a bit of a fankle trying to articulate the complexity of the charges so let’s have a bash at laying it out:

  • Previously, Transact charged 0.325% for the first £600k, 0.2% for the next £600k and 0.075% for the balance above.
  • That was unless your portfolio was lower than £300k, in which case the first £60k was charged at 0.5%.
  • This £300k threshold is changing to £180k on 1st April.

That wasn’t so bad, right? The net effect of this is that mid-market portfolios will be seeing a bit of an annual saving. Specifically, £105 per year for everyone between £180k and £299k. Because maths.

Also reducing – on 1st March – are dealing costs:

  • The buy commission on fund dealing is halving to 0.05% for portfolio values up to £1 million. Portfolios above this will see no charge as the tranche for free trading is reducing from £2m to £1m
  • Equity trading costs are reducing too. Deals will now cost £3.75, £1 and 50p for standard, phased and regular transactions respectively. (Down from £7.50, £1.25 and 75p)

So, how do these changes affect our heatmaps? Usual house rules apply. We assume ongoing platform and wrapper charges only, investment in funds and the cost of 10 switches for those who unbundle and charge explicitly.

Remember too that our blogs show a subset of providers and portfolio levels. Subscribers to our annual Advised Platform Guide will get the full whack in our next round of updates.

SIPP first:




Given that the change to core pricing is a tweak at a very specific tranche as opposed to a wholesale change, it’s no surprise that this has a minimal effect on our tables. Just the one cell of each in fact, with 5 basis points coming off both tables at the £200k mark.

So, it’s not the most exciting change for our heatmaps but we know that Transact will be just fine with that. Transact unapologetically holds a premium price position, differentiating on high quality service (we do hear many good things, particularly about the quality of the people) and holding no truck with racing to the bottom of pricing tables. What it does do from time to time though, like here, is apply some of its profit into reducing customer charges.

Transact, unlike many of its peers, has a clear narrative and knows exactly what it does for its price. More power to it.


A bus in Leith. Probably on time too.

Cards on the table: Ascentric goes all-in

It’s been ages since I’ve blogged, mainly as it’s been a while since a provider made a big pricing shift. Most of the activity on that front in recent times has understandably focused on changes to SIPP and drawdown fees following the budget. Quite a number have trimmed charges, with some removing them altogether. Which is good. At the lang cat we firmly believe that customers should be able to GYMBOA[1] with the minimum of fuss.

So, it was good to see AXA Elevate get its ducks in line and make the announcement recently that it was waving goodbye to its £48 SIPP fee. A change that is reflected in the tables you’ll see in a bit.

But that’s not why we’re here today. No, our blog focuses on Ascentric, as it is the first advised platform for a while to make a full-tilt price move. Not content with successfully dodging an avian rebrand last year (we’re imagining the Ascentric management, the Benny Hill theme tune and a pelican. Please make this happen.) the platform arm of Royal London has made a pretty big adjustment to its pricing strategy. A move that includes a Brand. New. Shape. Ooft.

Let’s look at the changes;

  • Gone is the clunky mix of fixed fee and bps charge in the first tier. Customers now pay 0.25% for the first £1 million with a £60 minimum. Not a massive change, but a simpler structure.
  • Standard trading charges have been trimmed from £12.50 to £9.50.
  • As previously announced, annual SIPP admin is reducing from £150 to £100. (Remember VAT on top)
  • Perhaps the biggest change though is the introduction of a bundled pricing shape. With this, you’re all-in on the fund side for 0.30% for the first £1 million, with any funds above being charged at 0.10%.

So, how do these changes affect our heatmaps? Remember that for our blogs we only show a highly scientific (chortle) subset of providers and fund values here. Fully paid up subscribers to our Platform Guide will get more detail in our next quarterly update.

Usual assumptions of ongoing platform and wrapper charges plus the cost of 10 switches apply.

SIPP first:



Straight off the bat we can see that the new shapes are keener than the old, with the new all-in shape in particular shaving a fair few basis points off at the lower end. (34bps in SIPP at £50k is a big difference)

The AXA Elevate SIPP fee removal is reflected here too, with the stepped platform fee being the only charge applicable so what you see now is a mirror image of charges in both tables.

There’s no denying that Ascentric has struggled a bit of late in our tables, mainly due to our 10-trade assumption highlighting that its £12.50 charge for funds was a big blind. So the all-in shape makes a big difference and advisers have a pretty full house (we’ll stop the poker references now) of choice depending on how your trading mileage varies.

In the standard option, trimming trading charges to £9.50 is a welcome move, but still pricey on the fund side. For equities, it’s broadly in line with the rest of the market bar some renegades like AJ Bell. Ascentric is proud of its ETP trading, which it says is getting better spot prices than others manage, but we haven’t tested this out, so if that’s your thing then take a closer look.

The £100 SIPP fee still hurts at the lower end, but it’s good to see Ascentric following the momentum of the market and reducing this from £150. It will be even better if it can follow this up with more cuts. Zero is now the market norm for additional costs for an on-platform SIPP.

We’ll go into more details in our subscriber update but for now we conclude that this is a good move overall. We’ve shoed Ascentric in the past about the complexity of its structure  but these changes – particularly the all-in shape – will probably mean we have to shut up.

And finally, good luck to Hugo Thorman as he moves onto whatever’s next. All the best from everyone at the lang cat.

[1] Get Your Money Back Out Again. See The Value of Nothing for more.

The freedom to get screwed

We measure out our lives by different things. J Alfred Prufrock measured his out by coffee spoons. For many of us our lives are marked out by Christmases, Hogmanays, birthdays and anniversaries.

But in financial services, our lives are marked out by two things: politicians dicking around with pensions, and mis-selling scandals.

This being an election year, it seems inevitable that we’ll see a considerable amount of the former, at least some of which will lead to the latter.

Such an instance of said dicking may be found in the pronouncements of the usually-sensible Steve Webb, who has suggested that it might be a whizzo jape to extend the new retirement freedoms enjoyed by those who haven’t yet crystallised, or ‘taken’, their pensions to those who have already annuitised.

Says Steve, “…given that we now accept that individuals should be given more control over their retirement savings, I would be concerned if we were to exclude up to five million people who are currently receiving annuity income”.

Webb’s new gambit is annoying on a number of counts, not least the fact that it neatly demonstrates the ‘thin end of the wedge’ argument, which is beloved of conspiracy theorists, UKIP and my wife when I open a bottle of whisky. This is not helpful.

I’m on record as loving the other freedoms that have been opened up, and encouraging the industry to trust savers with their own money. So why buck and kick against these freedoms being extended to current annuitants?

There are two reasons.

Firstly, on a micro level, it’s going to be terrible value for those who participate. If we accept the mighty Ned Cazalet’s recent figures that up to 20% of the purchase price of an annuity is snaffled in charges, then annuitants have already borne significant pain.

Do we really believe those that purchase second-hand annuities will be doing so pro bono? Of course not. We don’t know how the figures might look, but the purchase has to be profitable for those putting up the capital, and that’s just another way of saying that the annuitant will receive what we like to call a ‘secondary screwing’.

For sure we won’t be multiplying monthly payments left to the actuarial cohort’s expected age of death and paying that to the individual. And you can expect medical underwriting and postcoding to work in reverse.

As Cazalet’s 129-page blockbuster proves, annuities are anything but simple, and unwinding them will be even worse – think Ginger Rogers’ famous quote that she did everything Fred Astaire did, except backwards and in heels.

Can we expect the industry to behave itself and not give annuitants looking to flee a worse-than-usual screwing? No, we can’t. And it is for this reason – the supply side, not the demand side – that at an individual level this proposal shouldn’t go ahead.

Freedom to get re-screwed by an industry hell-bent on loading the decks against you is no freedom at all.

At a macro level it gets even worse. Purchasers of second-hand annuities will only make it work by pooling – that is, by buying lots and lots of them to spread mortality risk. Once we’re in that world, we’ll start profiling those pools.

We might have ‘A’ pools, with healthy folk in good postcodes, ‘D’ pools for people who didn’t listen to their wives about the bottle of whisky and all that.

Once that’s happening, it’s only a matter of time before we have second-hand annuity funds in the life settlement/second-hand endowment fund style, and we know how well those went. And am I the only one who can see packages of annuities being bundled up, collateralised and sold on on what I suppose would be a tertiary market? CAOs anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

Any policymaker will tell you that you aim for the line of best fit and try to hurt as few people as possible along the way.

I don’t doubt that Steve Webb is the best pensions minister we’ve had for a long time. I don’t doubt his populist instinct. But I also don’t doubt his electioneering instincts, and in this case a short-term vote winner will, I fear, turn into something quite unpleasant in the medium and long-term.

Maybe he doesn’t care. But he should, and this omni-screwing proposal should be put down humanely before it has a chance to breed.


This blog first appeared in Professional Adviser.

The lang cat’s albums of 2014

Another year passes, another trip around the sun, another year closer to our eternal reward, another blog about music that no-one will read.

Time, as you know, is an artificial construct designed to explain the otherwise random passing of events, and an attempt to place order on a pointless and terrifying universe. 365 days is no more meaningful than any other number of days.

All that said, here are the records that eased our (well, my) path through 2014.

Machine Head – Bloodstone And Diamonds – probably the metal record of the year. Sounds exactly like a Machine Head record should, which is to say brilliant.

Hector Bizerk – Nobody Seen Nothing – this is hip-hop from the back streets of Glasgow. Louie, the MC, is the Weedgie Eminem, except funnier and better. I saw them live a couple of times this year – fantastic, and I don’t even listen to hip-hop very much.

Arctic Monkeys – AM – this got heavy rotation in the lang cat office, along with Mark L’s disco treats and Linda’s 90’s indie fetish. We’re fans of clever words here, and there are lots on AM.

ExodusBlood In, Blood Out – for those who liked their thrash Bay Area style back in the 80s, Exodus’ 10th album is like a warm (very violent) hug. Steve Souza is back and yelping. Salt The Wound features Kirk Hammett doing something worthwhile for a change.

GodfleshA World Lit Only By Fire – very, very nasty. And great.

Anaal Nathrakh – Desideratum – see Godflesh. AN is almost becoming camp, but it’s for the best.

Taylor Swift – 1989 – a deeply misunderstood post-modern…no, not really.

Mogwai – Rave Tapes – if you know Mogwai, then there’s lots here to like. If you don’t then it’s actually not a bad place to start before jumping into Young Team and The Hawk Is Howling.

Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence – I’ve said before that the distaff Chris Isaak shouldn’t be to our taste at the lang cat, but it is, and this is great. Linda hates it, mind.

And album of the year…

James Yorkston – The Cellardyke Recording And Wassailing Society (CRAWS) – truly as braw as a craw, how could JY, the man who gave the lang cat its name, not top our list? CRAWS is a JY classic, low-key and introspective, but gorgeous throughout. Listen to Broken Wave (A Blues For Doogie), written about the premature death of sometime JY bassist Doogie Paul in 2012 and keep a dry eye, I dare you.


Those ‘OMG… I’m going to get fired!’ moments in the life of a PR are actually quite rare. Thankfully. But they are moments that stay with you for ever. My biggest OMG moment came on 17 January 2008 when a relative non-story (I would say that, wouldn’t I?) around the temporary closure of a property fund made the front page splash of the Guardian with a screaming “Northern Rock style run on fund” narrative (on the same day a plane crash landed at Heathrow, by the way).

It was entirely my fault. I didn’t think the story was that big, the journalist I pre-briefed did.

Things really kicked into ‘Crisis Management’ mode the day that story broke. I dragged my sorry self into the office and sheepishly apologised to the CEO and Director of Comms, who were remarkably understanding under the circumstances. I dusted off the Emergency Response manual and got to work drafting reactive statements, taking and making calls and tried to kill the story before it got out of hand. And it worked, more-or-less. The following stories were all balanced and fair and it all blew over relatively quickly. And I wasn’t fired.

But it only worked because there was a process in place to manage a crisis scenario. Everyone around me pulled together. Everyone followed the plan and there was no blame or recrimination.

I only mention this because when I was reading the Davis report of the inquiry into the events relating to the press briefing of information in the FCAs 2014/15 business plan this morning – admittedly with a certain amount of Schadenfreude – something struck me as a bit bizarre.

Actually, a few things struck me as bizarre, but this above all others:

4.94 – When the events unfolded on 28 March 2014, the FCA was taken by surprise. There was no emergency action plan in place to deal with an adverse market reaction to a story which appeared to have originated with the FCA.

There was no Crisis Management plan in place! That’s frankly unbelievable and unforgivable given the size and influence of the FCA.

If there had been a proper action plan in place, I’m sure that something could have been done to lessen the impact of the story. Instead, it looks like a bunch of people ran around panicking whilst simultaneously donning Teflon suits, rather than just manning-up, taking responsibility and knuckling down quickly to minimise the damage to the industry.

And there’s the lesson for all of us in communications and PR. Stuff happens. Mistakes are made from time to time. But when things go wrong, if you don’t have a plan to put it right, quickly, events will take over and you’ll be left looking a little bit useless.

It really is this simple. Plan for the worst* and hope for the best.

*We can help you do this by the way. And it won’t cost you £4m.

Pensions: we’ve got your best interests at heart


That’s the sound from the pensions industry and a good part of the advice profession in respect of the idea that pension savers might take their pots and run.

And harrumphing turned to apoplexy the other day when some upstarts from a firm called Wise Pensions noised things up with talk of a pensions credit card.

I don’t know anything about Wise Pensions other than they are part of the Wise Group and they have a name that’s asking for trouble if something goes wrong.

But I do know a guy called Steve Bee (@pensionsguru) who I used to work with at a company called Scottish Life (shortly not to be called that any more; a sad day).

Steve used to tour a lot and from time to time I would go with him and present to IFAs. You had to sit through me banging on about whatever before the guy in the dark glasses with the overhead projector came on (those of you who know Steve will get that).

I remember on a tour in (I think) 2004 or 2005 that he talked about the idea of having a pensions cashcard. Sometimes you’d put money into the hole in the wall, and sometimes you’d get money out. It would move pensions from being ‘far’ money to something people could relate to, and it would cross that bridge of making the intangible tangible. Something as simple as a bit of plastic can do that. It would rehabilitate pensions in a single stroke and make them sexy in a way they’d never been.

Steve was right. It took 10 years or so, but we’re here.

The patrician elements of our industry have been quick to condemn this as irresponsible. “You can’t be trusted!” they say. “You can’t get your hands on your pension money until you prove to us you won’t do anything silly with it!”

This is as logical as not allowing your toddler to play with the ball until they prove they can share it nicely with their sister. And it’s just as patronising.

Treat people like children and they’ll act like children. Whether it’s the IMA saying that people can’t deal with transparency on fund charges because they don’t know how their car’s engine works (grrrrr), or the pensions industry saying that people mustn’t take money in the way they want to, it’s like we are asking for a toddler tantrum and thrown food. With pension reform, savers are being offered a chance to never have to interact with pension companies ever again. That sounds good to a lot of folk, I’d suggest.

Another wise man, John Lappin of Mindful Money, said a brilliant thing to me the other day – that pension savers with a decent amount in their pot will be prudent in retirement – because they have been already. They’ve done their bit. They’ve proved they can play nicely with the ball. They should be trusted.

And if people with smaller pots (maybe above triviality but not enough to buy a decent annuity or get into drawdown) decide to take the money, pay off debt or go on holiday or whatever, why not? It’s their money. At the lang cat we call this phase GYMBOAGetting Your Money Back Out Again. It’s our name for decumulation. The key being it’s the client’s money, not ours as an industry.

People doing this are acting rationally, despite protestations to the contrary. They’re acting in accordance with one of the most fundamental economic principles – that of utility. They are saying they will derive more utility or enjoyment from using their money in that way than having an extra £25 a week or so for the rest of their life (which is about right for a £25k pot for a male, age 65, good health, 50% spouse’s pension with a 5-year differential, G5, no escalation) . They get to decide that.

And if that’s the sum of their pension provision, then they’re depending on either working in retirement or state benefits or both anyway. All they were doing was replacing some or all of their own means-tested benefits. Those of us paying tax would probably rather they didn’t do that, but you know what? The country will stand.

Everything’s up in the air at the moment. Guidance, pension freedom, sunset clause, adviser charging – it’s not a time to bet everything on knowing how it’ll all turn out. But we do know that people like control. We do know that most people are sensible most of the time. We do know that there are dafties out there. But dafties will be dafties.

So where do we start as the pensions world breaks apart in a way which suggests we might not get assets to hang onto for as long as we had planned? No-one’s sure.

But trusting people isn’t a bad place to begin.

No, you can’t have it. You’ll only spend it on Octonauts figures.

Innovation or indecision. We decide.

Reading the FCA’s Project Innovate feedback statement over a cup of tea this morning triggered some lively debate at lang cat port authority about life, the universe and how financial services has changed (or not, depending on your point of view) in the past couple of decades.

Just pop an ISA in the basket whilst you're at it. Thanks!

Just pop an ISA in the basket whilst you’re at it. Thanks!

We were quite excited to see Amazon, along with several venture capital and crowdfunding types in the list of non-confidential responders to the FCA. And – trade associations to one side – a bit depressed by the relative lack of representation from the ‘traditional’ life and pensions sector. Don’t the established players care about innovation anymore? Are they capable of it?

Existential angst hung in the air …

Two memories from my early career sprang to mind. One, of a respected lifeco senior manager saying he didn’t think open architecture investment products/platforms could ever catch on (ha ha). The other, the story of how a well-known airline had to outsource creating a seat that could convert to a proper, flat bed to a luxury yacht manufacturer. Because the airline engineers where too flummoxed by technicalities and established development processes to do it themselves.

Paralysis by analysis is a pretty easy trap to fall into.

In our industry, whether you’ll receive a kicking from the regulator for daring to be different gives an added frisson of danger when it comes to stepping into the unknown. So we’re all for Project Innovate if it gives people the confidence to push the boundaries more.

The Innovate feedback statement reflected the usual tension between people wanting the FCA to tell them what to do and hold their hand (Daddy FCA, please make this world safe for us) and people wanting the FCA to back off, stop wasting levy payers money and just let them get on with it (Do you think we’re stupid? We know what we’re doing. Treat us like adults, please.)

But in reality the FCA can only ever do so much. To some extent they will always be running to catch up: group personal pensions, Alternative Trading Systems in the wholesale market, platform service providers – all things that emerged as square pegs to the regulatory round hole until policy makers caught up. For my money, industry indecision – risk, risk, rabbits, headlights – is the real enemy here.

How prepared are we to commit to change – to blow the whistle and go over the top in the name of properly ‘out there’ ideas? Or are we still too worried about the potential consequences? Are we still prone to take refuge in endless information gathering and finger pointing at the regulator?

The presence of a giant internet business like Amazon on an FCA Project Innovate list should be a wake-up call. Better make up our minds and innovate if we’re going to embrace the changing face of financial services and live to fight another day. Or stand by and suffer death by wilful indecision.

Only we can decide.

Guest blog from Rob Bray

Rob Bray is a Wealth Architect, which is probably some kind of a financial planner or something, with Imperious Capital. He’s also a loose cannon and a great writer, all of which makes him someone we’re chuffed to have doing a guest blog on the site. Rob sent me this note after reading The Value of Nothing and I bent his arm up behind his back to let me publish it. This is just as Rob wrote it, minus a couple of swears and stuff. Over to Rob.

You know, I’ve been trying to get platforms and advisers to get this for 5 or 6 years now. But it is REALLY hard to push an industry that has spent a lifetime on being given sweeties from providers to advisers to understand the bleedin’ obvious.

  •  the value relationship is between the adviser and client
  • and NOT between the client and provider

Stuff like smart rebalancing (reduces client tax = better client returns which is as good as reductions in costs), tax calculations etc are better than back office integrations which make the adviser’s life easier but do not necessarily add value to the client. Well, they might do if the IFA reduces her fees as a result or provides a better service…. but good luck articulating the latter.

I’ve been using a (ropey) analogy for all these years

  • clients are passengers seeking to cross the Atlantic
  • IFAs are travel agents
  • platforms are the ocean liners

Clearly, not all passengers will see value in the same way. Some want the lowest price and are happy to go steerage. Others want to sit at the Captain’s table. Some want to get there quickly and don’t care about the discomfort of a cat (ahem…. different sort of cat). Whatever. The key point is they can make a value judgement based on a visible aspect of service.

What drives me potty is when the ocean liners want to spend money on, say, better uniforms for their staff. Or, let’s say, better working conditions for the guys in the boiler room. Passengers don’t give a monkey’s. Try selling a higher priced ticket on the basis of “well, we provide better aircon for our stokers”.  You might find a few, socially conscious passengers who will buy into that along with cheap wool for some more badly made, home-knitted uniforms – and that’s okay if that’s a proposition you want to promote as a niche.

My pea brain rationalises that if I can get passengers there quicker, or cheaper, or in better luxury for the same cost: I’ll get more or better clients and make more money. If that puts a strain on my back office, I’ll pay more monkeys (lots of simians in this story) to bash away on typewriters to get the work done. I want the margin on the table between the client and me so we can decide what to do with it rather than any spare margin being spent by the platforms to provide something that I then have to work out how to justify to the client. Of course, I can’t: because rather like corporate hospitality, golf days and trips to Paris, many of these things are the new inducements to IFAs to use the provider rather than a reason for clients to be placed with a provider.

[/ End of sermon]

It's really not.

It’s really not.


Orchestrated Maneouvres in the Wealth


Yeah, sorry about that.

So it’s been a while since I wrote here, which is daft, but no-one said I was smart. Anyway, I wanted to rekindle the blog a bit, so you’ll have to put up with it, unless you stop reading here, when you won’t. So that’s all good.

Skandia Old Mutual Wealth (OMW; which my phone insists on auto-correcting to a jaunty ‘On My Way!’ – grrrrr) yesterday got freaky with the tweaky and announced two new tweaks to its charging structure, just too late for our new advised platform guide, The Value of Nothing, which is available etc etc. Here’s what it did:

  1. a removal of the £100 (well, £99 and change) annual minimum charge
  2. a removal of all drawdown charges.

We’ll do them in order. The removal of the minimum charge is more a symbolic thing than anything else. It only kicked in below assets of £20k or so, and that’s not enough to trouble most clients of advisers. However, the principle of a provider making their proposition so punitively expensive for smaller investors on the basis it didn’t suit them commercially never sat well with me, or with many others, and really if SkandiaOldMutualInvestmentWealthSolutions didn’t want smaller investors it should have set a minimum investment size and have done with it. So this is a welcome correction to an anomalous structure and should, I expect, remove a couple of red lines on a TCF report somewhere. On My Way! – dammit – OMW is still a relatively expensive place to put a £10k ISA, so I shouldn’t imagine there will be many regrets.

We’d normally publish new heatmaps when there’s a change with a big provider like this, but there’s no point really as our ‘maps start at £20k and it’s only below this that it makes a difference. So if you’ve got the new Guide – and if not then shame on you, go here to sort that out – it’s as you were in terms of the competitive position.

Much more interesting is the removal of drawdown charges. Again, we’ve got an in-depth analysis of drawdown in the Guide, but one of the points we make is that the new price benchmark for getting your money back out again (GYMBOA, you’ll be reading it everywhere soon) is zero. Zero is what Aviva and FundsNetwork charge. It’s what Nucleus has always charged. And now it’s what OMW charges too.

This is good. Generally speaking, it’s normal practice in providers to soak those with the most money (those in later life who’ve accumulated wealth) for the most in charges, either on a percentage basis or through fixed activity fees like drawdown. But the technology behind platforms, even the more bare-bones efforts, is generally capable of paying out income on an an automated basis. Additional admin is generally down to inefficiency or user error (some complex cases aside) and, of course, it’s the client’s money anyway and why should they pay more to get it back out a bit at a time?

Behind the scenes somewhere is a spreadsheet postulating that although there will be a loss in drawdown revenue, this will be more than made up for by increased persistency (keeping money on the platform longer) because advisers will not transfer clients away just pre-retirement to access lower charges, especially for multiple crystallisation scenarios.

I don’t know if that spreadsheet is right: it doesn’t matter, really. A decent whack of the market now allows investors to access their own money without paying extra for the privilege, and that’s to be applauded.

If we must put up with ad valorem charges, then the least the providers charging them can do is to be gracious enough to treat them as an all-included feast. And that means resisting the temptation to bilk those in their third age.

Ooooh, that looks nice

Oooh, that looks like an excellent platform guide. What happens if I click the image?