The lang cat's Mark Polson takes a closer look at a platform thriving without the bells and whistles of some of its competitors…
Welcome back. I’ll start this residency properly with a look at a platform provider who straddles the direct to consumer (D2C) and IFA spaces.
Our subject is Alliance Trust Savings, who exploded into the trade press headlines recently, topping the leaderboard with titans Hargreaves Lansdown in The Platforum’s D2C report. So how did the Dundee minnow do it, and how does its technology offering measure up?
To start with, it does it by not being a minnow. Alliance Trust has £6bn under administration, with £3bn sitting on the Alliance Trust Savings (ATS) platform. That’s scale that deserves respect. Of that £3bn, 90% is from direct investors, with the rest coming from supporting IFAs. The other £3bn is in less platform-y assets in full SIPPs; neatly, 90% of that business comes from advisers.
Mark Polson on a platform thriving without the bells and whistles of others
I spoke with Garry McLuckie, marketing director at Alliance Trust, and asked him where ATS felt its niche was in this crowded space. Garry was quick to point out Alliance Trust’s heritage – the platform evolved as a way to serve the Trust’s own shareholders and was run for their benefit. It opened out to the broader market in 2008, and assets have increased exponentially since then.
Turning our attention to the platform itself, it’s obvious why Garry is keen to explain its origins. At first glance, the web screens look a little dated and basic. Compared to some of the rich functionality available on IFA platforms or the full-on multimedia assault on your senses that is Hargreaves Lansdown, ATS seems low-key and maybe a little bit staid.
But keep going and it quickly becomes clear that this is a platform that knows exactly what it’s trying to do and who it’s trying to do it for. Everything has a function, and there is very little to distract the investor or adviser from what it is they’re there to do, which is trade assets and research investments. This platform, then, has more in common with a no-frills broking system than it does with a slick marketing machine.
In terms of look and feel, everything is bathed in a sort of corporate lilac. Whether this is meant to represent the heather that doesn’t grow in the middle of Dundee’s many roundabouts I’m not sure, but it’s clear this is not a platform that supports fripperies such as white labelling for IFAs.
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