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Openwork 'considering options' after Lloyds-Embark deal

Openwork 'considering options' after Lloyds-Embark deal

The Openwork Partnership is in talks with Embark and Lloyds Banking Group to see whether their acquisition deal will have any impact on its distribution agreement with the Embark platform going forward.

In an email, seen by FTAdviser, Mike Morrow, chief commercial officer at the Openwork Partnership, said the firm was in discussions with both parties to understand what Lloyds Banking Group’s ambitions and aspirations were for the development of the Embark platform.

Openwork's 3,900 members mainly use Advance by Embark, formerly the Zurich platform, which was sold to Embark in 2019.

This is a legacy of when Zurich owned Openwork - though the provider sold its stake in 2018 and entered into an agreement that the network would distribute its products. It also agreed to help Openwork build a custom platform.

And in March this year Openwork and Embark confirmed they will extend their existing platform agreement to 2026.

But last week (July 29) it emerged that Lloyds had acquired the Embark business and its subsidiary brands, which includes the adviser platform but not the Rowanmoor business, in a deal worth £390m.

Since then Morrow said Openwork was “evaluating the full implications of the deal, and considering our options for the future”.

This includes current joint plans to introduce Openwork’s own advised platform in 2022 and a proposed robo-advice development.

Morrow said: “Naturally we have the best interests of our advisers and our clients at heart, and how we can secure the future success of the Partnership.

“In the meantime, the platform remains central to our wealth proposition and we should continue with business as usual.”

A spokesperson for the Openwork Partnership confirmed: “The Openwork Partnership is looking at the implications of Lloyds Banking Group’s acquisition of Embark and what the ambitions and aspirations are for the development of the Embark Platform.

“We remain focused on opening up market access to the next generation of clients and further enhancing the experience for existing clients.

“The last 18 months during the Covid-19 pandemic have underlined the importance of engaging and intuitive digital propositions. Further innovation and investment at Embark is vital to meet the expectations of our advisers and their clients.”

Embark also said the partnership remained important going forward.

An Embark spokesperson said: “Embark will continue to operate as an independent company within Lloyds' multi-brand portfolio, offering all of the services provided today and Openwork remains an important partner.”

amy.austin@ft.com

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