Embark mulls tech migration for Advance

Embark mulls tech migration for Advance

Embark is weighing up a tech migration for its adviser platform Advance, which it bought from Zurich back in 2019.

The deal saw £11bn of platform assets under administration and £600m of multi-asset funds flow into Embark, along with 130,000 advised clients.

The digital retirement solution provider is now considering whether to migrate the technology these assets sit on to a new version of FNZ, the investment platform technology Embark already uses.

But even that move carries the risk of disruption for clients and advisers. 

“Embark’s technology provider is FNZ, so there wasn't a need to move the technology at the time,” Sara Wilson, Embark’s head of platform proposition, told FTAdviser.

“It was easy to bring that technology into the partnership because it was within our existing partner.

“So then, the decision will be: what's in the best interests of both the business - but also the [end] customer and the advisers - to ensure an ongoing proposition for them?”

Wilson added: “If that [Advance] were moved, it's still a full scale migration.”

Embark also bought Alliance Trust Savings in 2019. This saw it move £7bn of advised assets and 41,000 clients over to its platform in two migrations during the lockdown, completing in February 2021.

Unlike the Zurich deal, ATS was using completely different technology - hence this technology migration was prioritised.

Wilson said the past 12 months at Embark have remained focused on operating smoothly and keeping services running as normal with “minimal disruption”.

But IFAs have told FTAdviser they still feel Embark has struggled to provide a good service to platform clients since it bought the ATS platform and are hoping Lloyds’ £390m buyout of the firm will improve these service levels.

Looking forward, Wilson said “it’s about growing the intermediary channel”. She added: “We’re developing features alongside FNZ.”

Wilson could not disclose much detail around Embark’s intermediary strategy, due to the fact the group has just been bought by Lloyds.

“Part of that strategy is obviously intertwined with the Lloyds strategy which is not concluded yet, so I can't comment too much on that.

“But it's very much about really working together. They [Lloyds] will continue to support us in driving our Embark proposition forward. We will also support them in their strategic aims to reach [the] mass market.”

Currently, Embark has a number of white-label relationships with financial services brands, such as Wealthify, Nutmeg and Coutts, as well as intermediary firms.

On the adviser side, Embark’s white-label business focuses on IFA firms which already have a tech offering, but need it to work better for their clients.

Wilson said Embark has seen “good account growth” this year with existing clients. Ahead of its Q3 results, which are due “soon” according to Wilson, the group has seen positive net flows quarter-on-quarter this year.