You know that bit in Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels where Dog’s crew are ripping off Snow White and the Three Little Chemists, and they’re defending themselves with an air rifle and as the second guy in the crew gets shot with the air rifle, Dog says “I don’t believe it. Can everyone stop getting shot?”
That’s sort of how I felt on Thursday last week when Octopus announced its intended acquisition of Seccl. I mean, that’s prime Top Class Wednesday Update fodder, and you announce on a Thursday? Some people have no consideration.
Anyway, I want to return to the subject of corporate activity: murders and executions as Patrick Bateman calls it. There definitely is something in the water – after Octopus, GBST, Zurich rumours and all the others from earlier in the year, we’re now blessed with the potential merger of Tilney and Smith & Williamson. This would create a £45bn wealth management giant, which would rival Brewin and Rathbone, both of whom have between £40bn and £50bn AUM.
Over in asset management, Martin Flanagan of Invesco reckons the global asset management sector is about to hit a long period of consolidation, with about 1/3 of firms set to disappear. I don’t know if he’s right, but he runs a global asset management business and I don’t, so it feels like we should at least take him seriously.
While I take Adrian Grace seriously, I’m not sure this claim is quite so serious. Standard Life said the same thing in 2015 except with zombies (which is cooler), predicting that the platform market would halve by the end of 2018. What I’m doing right now is looking at my big table of platforms from 2015 and now the one from 2019 and…nope. Maybe these guys have a deal where they take it in turns to say this stuff and eventually one of them will be right and everyone else has to buy them a drink.
It’s all good fun. But all this, alongside the constant thrum of adviser acquisitions, does point at something in the water. If I’m not mistaken, there’s been more deal-making in the last year than in the three before it in our sector. You can work out why you think that might be happening, but for my money it’s an acknowledgement that between regulatory intervention, top-line fee pressure and the fallout from the thing that’s happening at the end of October that we aren’t talking about, a hard rain is gonna fall. And when it does, the bet is that bigger operations can survive better than medium size ones.
The good news in all that is that most adviser firms are (comparatively) small businesses – and absolutely boss level at surviving all sorts. The advice sector will be fine – but while some of the above predictions may not come to pass, the landscape you look out onto in a few years may well look very different to now.
FOUR SMOKING LINKS
- A little-discussed fallout of HL losing its rebate court case with HMRC is that it looks like superclean share classes will be the main method of discounting from now on. Mike’s a bit sad about that and wrote about it here. Single folk: find someone who looks at you the way Mike looks at rebates and you’ll be all set.
- A very tall man is joining us on our 20 Mile CatWalk for the Samaritans and we’re very honoured. Support us, and him, here. We’re doing training walks and everything. We’re at 63% of target as I type this.
- In non HL-related news, here’s an interesting bit on SM&CR, a subject to which we will be returning before December, you can be sure. Some challenges ahead for big and small firms alike.
- And your music choice? In honour of our quote at the top, please enjoy Iggy and the Stooges with the peerless I Wanna Be Your Dog. This song is off brand for us, but I’ll allow it on the basis of it being ridiculously good.
See you next week