Advisers are hopeful the takeover of Embark and its adviser platform by Lloyds Banking Group will improve service levels.
To this end they are particularly eager to see what changes, if any, Lloyds will make to the Embark platform and in what timeframe.
This morning (July 29) Lloyds said it had acquired the Embark business and its subsidiary brands, which includes the adviser platform but not the Rowanmoor business, in a deal worth £390m.
The deal followed the acquisitions of the Zurich platform announced in November 2019, and the adviser platform business of Alliance Trust Savings from Interactive Investor which was agreed in October 2019.
IFA Steve Osbiston has been around for all of these changes.
He said: “Since the Alliance Trust platform sale to Embark they have struggled to provide an appropriate service to platform clients.
“The whole process needs a lot of new investment and time to put it right. Let’s hope for the clients' sake the platform business is put right pretty quickly otherwise Lloyds may not have purchased very much by the time clients have moved to better platforms.”
Victor Sacks, independent financial adviser at VS Associates, said: “I'll be interested to see what develops and whether they are empathetic to clients who have only recently seen their platforms change from ATS/Zurich to Embark.
"Are they going to wait and make tiny changes over the coming months, or a total change?
“I'm happy to wait and see what happens before looking at re-platforming existing clients.”
Ricky Chan, director and chartered financial planner at IFS Wealth and Pensions, believes changes will be made to pricing and service, with Lloyds likely to restructure the platform to be suitable for its own use.
Chan said: “If history is a useful guide, generally retail products offered by banks are on the expensive side so I’d expect some price increase. I also have doubts about the intermediary support and proposition promised.
“This uncertainty also shows why it’s risky from a business point of view to use new platforms and those not proven to be committed to the intermediary market.”
Hold off for now
When being sold, the Zurich platform was split into two parts, with the retail side being sold to Embark and its workplace savings platform going to Scottish Widows.
With today’s deal the platform will now be back under one roof, under the Lloyds umbrella.
It is these crossovers which make this deal interesting, according to Mark Polson, principal of the Lang Cat.
But Polson warned advisers not to take any action on behalf of clients just yet.
He said: “Operationally we don't know what this deal means just yet. We do know that Jackie Leaper from Scottish Widows will be the chief executive, and it is great to have another female CEO at a platform.