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Leading platforms call on fund houses to join STAR initiative

21 September 2020

Four of the industry’s largest platforms – Aegon, Fidelity, Hargreaves Lansdown and Standard Life – have contacted their fund groups requesting they support the STAR Transfers & Re-Registration initiative.

STAR, a collaboration between Criterion and TeX, was established to shape recognised, industry-wide standards to promote good practice in transfers, thereby to improving outcomes for individuals wanting to transfer their assets, such as pensions and investments.

The initiative has 67 firms signed up and brings together platforms, ISA managers, pension companies, asset managers and transfer agents, galvanising the industry, to put in place service level agreements to ensure quick, efficient and predictable transfers and re-registration.

The four platform businesses have written to the Fund Groups on their platforms advising that they need them to support STAR, to help them improve outcomes for the end customer and to meet FCA Platform Market Study requirements.

Both the FCA and Pensions and financial inclusion minister Guy Opperman have publicly supported STAR, encouraging the industry to effect the changes – the alternative being regulatory action to improve transfer and re-registration times.

In December 2019, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) confirmed it was happy with progress made by the industry through the STAR initiative but it would continue to monitor the initiative and consider further action if necessary.

Andrew Marker, chair of the STAR Steering Group and head of Retail Pension, Vanguard Asset Management Limited said: “We are absolutely delighted that the leading platforms have shown their support for the STAR initiative. It is too early to build STAR membership into fund due diligence processes, but the weight that platforms are putting behind this initiative signposts that they expect support for STAR to become a future due diligence / Fund Manager Agreement requirement.”

Tim Orton, managing director of Investment Solutions at Aegon comments: “We welcome the FCA allowing the industry to lead on developing solutions to improve the efficiency of transfers and re-registrations and the STAR initiative has helped to shape and define good practice in this area.

“Aegon is pleased to support STAR to demonstrate our commitment to customers and is calling on fund managers to sign-up to the initiative and support its industry-wide standards. Support from across the industry will help improve the quality of service and process efficiency for individuals who transfer assets across financial institutions.”

Anne-Marie Brennan, head of Platform Products, Fidelity International comments: “As a platform, we believe it’s vital that customers are empowered to make decisions about their investments, including how and where they hold them. STAR will help to improve their experience of transferring assets between platforms, and we are fully committed to supporting the initiative.”

Nathan Long, interim head of policy at Hargreaves Lansdown added: ‘People are increasingly required to take greater control of their finances, but kinks in the plumbing behind the scenes mean transfers of their investments and pensions take far too long.”

Admitting that Hargreaves Lansdown was “by no means perfect” in this respect, he added that the platform was “committed to working with the industry to speed up transfer times, re-designing our approach to meet the high standards of practice identified by STAR.”

Jenny Davidson, head of Investment Technology Solutions at Standard Life said “As a key enabler to supporting the FCA’s Policy Statement PS19-29 on Making Transfers Simpler, the STAR initiative has Standard Life’s full support and we are actively encouraging fund providers distributing via Standard Life platforms to sign-up to deliver a cross-industry framework of good practice for improving customer experience when moving money from one financial institution to another.”

The output of the STAR initiative will be a quarterly industry index and an annual accreditation scheme of bronze, silver and gold for performance against Transfer and Re-Registration service level agreements to ensure transparency; so that customers and financial advisers can compare the performance of platforms and investment managers  ensuring performance can be evidenced and rewarded.

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