Tough market fails to dent growth at Hargreaves Lansdown

April 19, 2012

Hargreaves Lansdown, the Bristol-based independent financial services provider and asset management group, continues to buck tough economic conditions with assets under administration in the three months to March 31 topping £26bn. That was an 11% increase on the £23.4bn total in the previous three months and easily outperformed the 5.5% rise in the FTSE All-Share Index over the same period. 

Highlights included net inflows of £1bn while there were cumulative net inflows of £2.2bn over nine months with year-to-date revenue up by 16%.

"The quarter under review remained a difficult period for the retail investment market.  Investor confidence rose slightly but remains comparatively low. There remained a significant lack of innovative product or fund launches which are invariably a fillip to business," chief executive Ian Gorham told the stock market in an interim statement. 

"Despite these conditions the company has fared exceedingly well,"  he added. Although the company had indicated the potential for a slowdown of asset gathering, given economic conditions, its historically busy time leading up to the end of the tax year had been excellent, with net new business in February and March matching last year's record equivalent months.

Markets had yo-yoed in line with the ever changing outlook for Europe and, while the indebted southern European economies remain a concern, Hargreaves Lansdown has experienced an encouraging start to April, said Mr Gorham. He expects Europe to remain a prime driver of the state of investor confidence – and any short term growth in investor confidence or improvement in stock market outlook would be a surprise.

There had been much comment about increasing competition but, said Mr Gorham, "we have not seen any material impact from this.  Indeed we have enjoyed substantial inward transfers of both ISA and pension money into our SIPP for the period, assisting us to achieve our excellent level of net business inflows.  Part withdrawals of money from funds and specifically ISAs remain higher than last year (driven by client personal expenditure requirements in tough times) but we have not experienced the outflows that have been reported by other businesses in the sector."

He continued: "We keep a close eye on competitive activity but remain confident that we are competing profitably on all fronts with our dominant business model focusing on best prices, best service and best information."

The number of active Vantage clients -  the group's direct‐to‐private investor platform - increased by 17,500 over the third quarter, from 396,000 to 413,500.  The number of active accounts held by these clients increased from 608,000 to 631,000 and included an extra 7,000 SIPP accounts and 12,000 ISA accounts, taking the totals to 140,000 and 331,000 respectively. 
The value of assets held in Hargreaves Lansdown's Portfolio Management Service (PMS) and range of multi‐manager funds, increased by 9% from £2.2bn to £2.4bn. This figure includes £0.8bn of Hargreaves Lansdown multi‐manager funds administered through Vantage - up from £0.7bn a year earlier.
Meanwhile, the group received £1.5m of interest on its own cash in the nine months to March 31 compared with £1m for the same period a year earlier. This rise was mainly due to higher interest rates achieved on the group's own cash balances.
Third quarter operating revenue was up 17% at £175m – of which 80% was recurring in nature: being renewal income, management fees or interest.  The group said higher asset values and new business inflows had been the key drivers behind the rise. 
As announced in February, an interim dividend totalling £23.6m was paid. The group has remained free from debt and maintained a strong cash and balance sheet position, with a high surplus of regulatory capital.
The shares responded with a rise of 4.26% or 20.5p to 502p in early trading.

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