AJ Bell issued an impressive year-end trading update, recording a 27% increase in total customer numbers to 295,305 and an increase of 8% in assets under administration (AuA) to £56.5bn ($73.95bn).

The firm cited their platform business as the source of growth across the financial year, which ended on 30th September 2020.

Andy Bell, CEO at AJ Bell, said: “Our focus on the needs of our customers and our easy-to-use platform has fuelled a 29% increase in platform customers, with particularly strong progress in the direct-to-consumer market.”

D2C customers increased by 52,070 to 172,183, representing an increase of 43% when compared with the previous year. D2C underlying net inflows also registered a 50% increase, to £2.1bn.

Advised customer numbers increased by 11% to a total of 108,911 compared to 2019, with advised underlying net flows rising to £2bn, representing an increase of 11%.

The platform closed the year with total AuA of £49.7bn and 62,925 more customers than 2019, representing a total of 281,094.

According to Bell, a rise in inflows resulted in “a robust increase in assets under administration despite heavy falls on the UK stock market” as the FTSE All-Share Index fell by 19%, amidst the extreme market volatility of COVID-19.

Bell continued: “Our operational resilience has shone through since the coronavirus pandemic hit the UK and we were able to adapt quickly to ensure we continued to meet the needs of customers and advisers.”

As part of their growth strategy, the firm have worked to enhance the platform propositions. Bell expanded: “Our Retirement Investment Account is a new streamlined pension product which has been very popular with financial advisers. More recently we launched our Cash savings hub to help retail investors generate better returns on their cash savings at a time when NS&I and major retail banks have cut their interest rates. We have experienced a number of economic cycles during our 25-year history and have a track record of increasing AUA year after year in all market conditions. Our platform propositions remain well positioned to continue delivering strong growth in both the advised and D2C markets.”

In August, AJ Bell introduced a new service, which added model portfolio services (MPS) from rival discretionary fund managers to its platform.

According to the CoreData 2020 UK Investment Platform Study, AJ Bell was recognised as a ‘Rapid riser’ for best large platform.

Praising the staff at AJ Bell, the CEO finished: “The growth of the business that we are reporting today could not have been delivered without their resilience and outstanding work.”