Embark holds highest Fos uphold rate of major adviser platforms

Embark holds highest Fos uphold rate of major adviser platforms

Embark has the highest uphold rate of any major adviser platform in the UK from complaints filed against it with the Financial Ombudsman Service so far this year.

At 56 per cent, Embark’s uphold rate between January and November 2022 represented 23 claim resolutions. The rate has more than doubled between 2021 and 2022.

Most resolved complaints against Embark related to self-invested personal pension due diligence, provider due diligence, or 'administration or customer service'. 

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No other platforms had a significant number of Sipp due diligence complaints resolved attached to their names, according to the Fos.

Embark, which was bought by Lloyd Banking Group last year for £390mn, currently has 61 open cases, of which 50 are about Sipp provider due diligence.

Embark’s intermediary distribution director, Ranila Ravi-Burslem, said Embark was aware the platform business “has in the past not met the high standards” its new owner, Lloyds, now sets.

She added: “To resolve this, we have invested heavily over the past year in both technology and personnel to ensure a better service for our customers, and that investment continues.

"We have already seen a sustained improvement in the feedback we are receiving and look forward to continuing enhancing our service further in 2023 and beyond."

Before its acquisition by Lloyds, Embark formed part of self-invested personal pension operator Rowanmoor.

Rowanmoor is now facing a barrage of Fos claims and a compensation bill to the tune of hundreds of millions after a claim was upheld which found it failed to meet third-party due diligence requirements.

Quilter’s platform had the second highest uphold rate in the year to November, at 46 per cent with 48 resolutions, according to a Fos data request by FTAdviser.

Abrdn’s Elevate platform and James Hay came in joint third place, both with Fos uphold rates of 44 per cent. Elevate has had 18 resolutions so far this year, while James Hay has had 45.

Setting a precedent 

Mike Barrett, consulting director at the Lang Cat, said the requirement of the incoming consumer duty for providers to “avoid foreseeable harm” was currently subjective, but that it is likely the Fos will “set a precedent” to define what that means with example cases.

“The common theme between providers at the top is that they have all been through a lot of change, whether that’s ownership or a change in technology,” said Barrett.

“These changes could be interpreted as foreseeable harm that could be avoided. This extends to advisers - should I stick with a provider, or could I move the client and avoid foreseeable harm? Advisers should keep an eye on this.

“Lots of history shows technology migrations are very difficult. You can see how they will cause problems with customers and consumer duty. You can do these changes well over a number of years, but it’s really quite difficult.”