Embark: White labelling ‘as important’ as growing retail arm

Embark: White labelling ‘as important’ as growing retail arm
Embark's chief executive Jackie Leiper

Embark has big plans for its white-label platform service as it looks to build scale through the uptick in mergers and acquisitions happening across the IFA profession.

Since the Lloyds takeover last year, the focus has been - and will remain for now - on growing the bank’s direct-to-consumer arm. 

But Embark's chief executive Jackie Leiper told FTAdviser what her team builds on the retail side will be “reusable” on the white-label side of the business to ensure “advisers get the best of both worlds”.

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“One of the things that we're excited about following the bank acquisition is the ability to white-label and create more personal models for those strategic partnerships [such as Openwork],” said Leiper.

Currently, adviser members of Openwork mainly use Advance by Embark, the Zurich intermediary platform Embark bought in late 2019. The partnership sees Openwork distribute Embark’s products, and includes the promise that Embark will build Openwork a custom platform.

In March last year, the two confirmed they would extend their existing platform agreement to 2026.

“While that isn’t actually the main reason that we [Lloyds] bought the business [Embark], since I've been onboard just over six months now white labelling is the area I can see huge potential for growth,” said Leiper.

“If you have a look at what's happening in the intermediary market with the consolidation activity, I think we can all see there’s going to be less firms, and bigger firms, because these bigger firms will continue to buy out advisers.

“The model Openwork has gives you a bit of a blueprint on how you provide those services elsewhere.”

Leiper admitted Embark’s change in ownership last year, followed by the announcement of plans such as its intention to launch a direct to consumer investment platform, did initially rattle Openwork and lead the network to worry their support might be threatened.

Dispelling these worries, Leiper said Embark is currently working on a roadmap of improvements for Openwork alongside the network’s own investments in its technology.

“Equally, we’re starting to work with some other opportunities now that will develop along a similar line. The white-label deals have a longer gestation period, but it’s a really exciting area for us,” said Leiper.

Embark also supports consumer platforms such as Wealthify and Nutmeg with its technology. The company is open to how its platform partnerships operate - whether a company wants to simply use the core technology, wants to host Embark’s investment products as well, or wants all of that plus support and management provided by its staff.

“I can see that the white-label business to business channel is going to be just as important [as the retail channel] because a lot of the retail intermediaries will actually come into us through that route, because of the consolidation activity that's happening in the intermediary space,” Leiper explained.