So it turns out that the kind of industry Update you like best is one which isn’t about the industry at all. After last week’s effort I got more reactions and messages than at any time since the very early days of the Update. Thanks to everyone that took the time to write. Maybe I should howl into the void more often.
Now, good marketing will tell you that if you happen onto something that works, you should do more of it. But great marketing – and that’s the kind that I knock out for fun before breakfast, kids – says screw that, and keep the *****rds guessing. So back we go to technical financial industry news on the grounds of sheer bloody-mindedness if nothing else.
I am available for marketing masterclasses if anyone wants one. Anyone? No? Maybe later.
Z TO THE E
I said last week I’d write a bit more about Embark’s purchase of the Zurich book once I’d had time to digest a) my lunch and b) the news, and I’ve done both now, so we might as well get to it.
First, I’ll say again that the main thing is that ZIP now has an owner (or will do when it completes) who wants it. That’s a bigger deal than it sounds in this space. We’ve seen with L&G and Zurich that when a corporate isn’t sure about its platform business, it quickly gets into stasis.
That then leads very quickly to ‘one-person-platform’ syndrome, which is something I’ve just made up but describes that situation where the adviser’s main contact, usually a BDM, runs themselves ragged trying to make up for every little deficiency, every delay, every deferred/broken promise (delete as applicable depending on who you work for). That’s exhausting for everyone, especially when it comes with multiple management changes along the way.
As I understand it, Embark will run the Zurich platform alongside its existing FNZ deployment to start with, but will gradually share the nicer bits from its (more modern) platform across. That’s good news for Zurich users, as it suggests that fun stuff like signature-free pensions, a more responsive front end and so on will turn up at some point yet to be decided.
If you’re an ATS user, you’ll go straight into that more modern architecture, which will feel very different to what you’re used to, but must surely be for the better.
I’m pleased to hear that the Zurich team will TUPE across to Embark. For a start that institutional memory of how the platform has evolved over the last ten or so years is worth having – something that is easily forgotten in these exciting days of platform mergers and acquisitions. There are good people working for Zurich who haven’t had the chance to really spread their wings for some time – very early signs are that they’ll be encouraged to do so by their new employer, and that’s great. And of course, no-one likes getting bad news in the run up to Christmas.
These two acquisitions take Embark up to about £33bn AUA, or will do when everything’s complete. That’s a significant amount (you know what they say; £33bn here, £33bn there, soon adds up to real money) for a business which not many advisers know all that well. Or if they do, it’s through the Rowanmoor or Hornbuckle back books which are obviously very particular kinds of beasts.
Embark hasn’t really been out there in the mainstream platform market that much yet, but its offer looks pretty strong and is aggressively priced. It has a strategic relationship with FNZ, who also holds a 9% stake in Embark, and is booked to keep that technology relationship until 2028. Financial strength was given a boost yesterday with the announcement of Franklin Templeton coming on board as shareholders and today with Merian increasing its stake. There’s a road yet to travel, but the rumoured IPO does feel like it’s hoving into view.
Of course, functionality, price and financial strength won’t matter if the service experience isn’t up to scratch. That’s the bit Embark has to now *cough* embark on getting right across its new labelmates.
In the round, it’s good to see less familiar names such as Embark, Seccl (with its new owner Octopus), Hubwise and Multrees all offering the financial planning / advisory market some different ways of thinking about platforms. 2020 looks like it’s going to be fun.
L TO THE INK
- Lend us a tenner, will you? You can all afford to given that your advice fees are apparently heading north of 1% a year…
- Good piece on PROD and its wily ways here.
- Anyone looking for a fun event outside London might check out Cathi Harrison’s ‘The Art Of…’ events covering compliance, admin, paraplanning and other hard things.
- And your music choice this week is primed to take care of your wellbeing with a blistering eight minutes of atmospheric folk-tinged black metal from Saor, probably Scotland’s best atmospheric folk-tinged black metal band. Please enjoy the atmospheric folk-tinged black metal song Bròn, which is in no way about anyone from Game of Thrones.
See you next week