Platforms maintain cash rate on RBA cut

Netwealth and HUB24 have kept interest rates on cash accounts at 0%, following the Reserve Bank of Australia's rate cut of 25bps on Thursday.

Both platforms confirmed the decision to maintain rates at 0%.

"Nothing has changed since last week for our cash accounts - clients are receiving zero," a HUB24 spokesperson said.

"Following the RBA rate cut of 25bps, Netwealth... will absorb this reduction in respect to our client's cash transaction accounts," Netwealth said.

HUB24 would not reveal if the RBA rate cut would impact its revenue, however Netwealth amended its outlook for the full year to be between $116-120 million.

Netwealth joint managing director Matt Heine told Financial Standard maintaining the cash rate at 0% would ensure the platform remains competitive.

"Netwealth made the decision not to reduce cash rates based on a range of factors; to ensure we remain competitive and in line with the industry and other transactional accounts," he said.

Netwealth and HUB24 previously cut their cash rates to zero following the Reserve Bank's rate cut to 0.50% on March 3.

At the time, WealthO2 co-founder and managing director Shannon Bernasconi said the likes of Netwealth and HUB24 have some explaining to do.

"Platforms did not get any scrutiny during the Royal Commission," Bernasconi told Financial Standard.

"I feel that platform providers and everyone in the value chain have the obligation to clean up their act and stop charging cash fees.

"I believe the trustees should be obligated to provide members with, at the minimum, RBA cash rate."

She called for a regulatory shake up among the platform providers.

"With regards to the many other areas of regulatory focus, fee for service (or lack thereof) in my mind should be reviewed across the board," Bernasconi said.

A spokesperson for Colonial First State told Financial Standard members of its FirstWrap platform receive the RBA rate.

"Currently the pooled cash account on FirstWrap is paying interest at the RBA cash rate," she said.

"In line with the RBA announcements, the rate offered on the pooled cash account will drop to 25bps early next week."

She has seen an increase in cash holdings on WealthO2 amid the current market volatility.

"In the recent months, a sell down of assets has increased cash levels. On WealthO2, cash levels have increased by 50% in the past few weeks," she said.

Pre-coronavirus sparked market volatility, members may have already had significant cash holdings on their platform, Bernasconi said.

"Other members may maintain higher levels of cash to support monthly pension payments," she said.

"The other factor to consider is when a separately managed account or investment manager of a managed account decides to increase cash allocation. This substantially increases the levels of cash held by the investor."

Bernasconi called out minimum cash holdings, arguing they leave the client worse off.

"In some cases the client is forced by the platform to hold up to 1% in cash," she said.

"In these cases the adviser is recommending a product platform that is forcing sells to maintain this minimum cash level, but now the client will not only not get interest income but will also be paying administration fees on those balances."

Responding, a HUB24 spokesperson said: "Given we are now operating in an environment where cash rates are at historical lows, similar to transactional bank accounts with the recent decrease in the cash rate most of our clients are earning zero on their cash account."

However, the spokesperson maintained cash accounts on the platform were not intended to be used as an investment option.

"The cash account is the transaction hub used to facilitate activity on the platform, for example withdrawals, deposits, pension payments and investment trading, it includes features like automatic investment plans and regular withdrawals," the spokesperson said.

"It is not intended to be used as a cash investment option."

Heine reiterated that cash accounts on platforms are not intended to be used as an investment.

"Given the recent reduction in the RBA rate, Netwealth now pays 0% on our cash account," he said.

"The cash held in a client's account can be invested into a range of other cash products (term deposits, cash funds, ETFs etc) and we do not require them to hold a surplus above our minimum.

"If a client chooses to hold extra 'at call cash' it is at their direction and discretion for a variety of reasons which are in their control."

But Bernasconi is adamant her competitors are charging unfair cash fees.

"Be open and transparent about the service you're offering and the fee that comes with it," she said.

"Don't make money hidden behind the scenes to subsidise the fact that you're actually not charging it upfront."

Read more: cashNetwealthHUB24Financial StandardReserve Bank of AustraliaMatt HeineRoyal CommissionShannon Bernasconi
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