Embark has reiterated its commitment to the platform agreement it shares with adviser network The Openwork Partnership but said it will look to form other strategic relationships.
Speaking to FTAdviser, Jackie Leiper, chief executive of the Embark Group, said the firm was “fully committed” to the Openwork relationship after its takeover by Lloyds completed this morning (February 1).
Embark took over an existing agreement between Openwork and the Zurich intermediary platform when it acquired the platform in late 2019.
Leiper said Openwork had been a “massive part” of the retail Zurich platform business and that the relationship remained strong.
Openwork’s members mainly use Advance by Embark, formerly the Zurich platform. 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 last year Openwork and Embark confirmed they would extend their existing platform agreement to 2026.
But this was before Lloyds acquired the business, and then in August 2021, Openwork said it was considering its options for the future.
Leiper said Embark was working with the adviser network to see how it can support Openwork’s growth plans.
She said: “I think it's fair to say [Openwork] would like to see what improvements there will be on the platform and they're keen to see the investments we're making.”
A spokesperson for Openwork said: “We continue to engage with the Lloyds Banking Group to understand their long-term strategy for 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 Covid-19 pandemic has 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."
When asked whether Embark would look to other adviser networks, Leiper said it was an area of opportunity.
She said these big strategic relationships would allow Embark to prioritise and drive the right investment into the platform.
“You can build really good two way relationships,” Leiper said. “I see it as a proper partnership when you do these things.”
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