We will continue to update these questions and answers so we encourage you to check back often.
Who are the Embark Group?
Embark is the UK’s leading independent provider of retirement solutions and the UKs fastest growing digital retirement platform.
Operating successfully in both the advised and institutional areas of the retirement market through a leading range of pension, wrap platform, research and consultancy services.
The Group trades under the brands Embark, Vested, Rowanmoor and The Adviser Centre and also operates a wide portfolio of white label services for businesses such as RBS Coutts, Standard Life, Nutmeg, BestInvest, Charles Stanley, Moneyfarm and Wealthsimple.
Businesses within the Embark Group have been established in the market for more than 40 years and have a long history of working closely with intermediary distribution partners and consumers of all levels of affluence. Independently owned we also have institutional backing from a portfolio of high-quality investors including BlackRock, FNZ, Legg Mason, Merian Chrysalis and New Star Investment Trust.
Following this acquisition, the Embark Group will have more than £30bn in assets under administration on behalf of c300,000 clients, operating across nine UK locations.
What was the reasoning behind this transaction?
The IFA and white label business of ATS is a great fit with Embark's core strengths and more importantly the strategic focus. Both Embark and ATS are leading players in the advised and B2B market and feel our views on the market, our company cultures and our commitment to client services and customer outcomes are well aligned.
We are really excited about the opportunity to combine these highly complementary businesses, accelerate our strategy and create more value for clients
How long will it take to fully integrate ATS into the Embark Group?
It’s too early to say at this stage, however Embark has successfully completed multiple growth acquisitions over the last 5 years and has a proven track record of successfully integrating businesses while delivering value to our clients, partners, employees and other stakeholders.
Most importantly, we need to do this with the minimum disruption to our clients and partners and identify where we can improve our client value proposition along the way.
We aim to have completed the move of both the Alliance Trust Savings’ advised and partner businesses to Embark by the end of 2020.
How will this affect the future products and services?
Over time, Embark will look for ways for the ATS clients to more easily access the broader services of the Embark Group and benefit from the innovation in our technology delivery and the provision of cost efficient STP-based digital services.
With fundamental demand for straight through processing, SIPP and Wrap platform services it is becoming ever more apparent that scale, skilled people across a range of disciplines are key to success and the combined expertise of the Embark and ATS teams will benefit all our clients in the long-term.
Will the business continue to operate from Dundee?
Yes, we are committed to Dundee, which will become Embark’s platform operation centre and Group headquarters. It offers an excellent opportunity to establish a centre for our operations and growth in Scotland, enabling us to access local talent and FinTech capabilities, assisted by cross-government support.
Will the ATS business be disrupted due to the transaction?
There should be minimal disruption to client service. Yes, the business is transitioning to a new ownership model, but the priority remains to focus on delivering excellent client service.
New business and business currently in flight
How long can I keep using your service for existing accounts?
You and your clients (if they have access) can keep using your ATS service as normal to manage existing accounts, right up to the last business day before the move.
What about transfers in from another provider?
If you instruct us to arrange a transfer-in from another provider at least 10 working days before the move, we will continue to process this to completion on the ATS platform. Otherwise we will contact you to explain what happens next.
Can I place new business on the Embark platform now?
What it means for your clients
How will the change affect my clients?
Your clients of the ATS advised service will see their accounts moved to the Embark platform unless you advise them otherwise. The move is scheduled to take place before the end of Q2. Until then, their service continues as usual.
The Embark platform is built on premium FNZ technology and offers a comparable choice of investments and accounts. There are also several service enhancements to those currently available through Alliance Trust Savings.
Its platform charges are a percentage of portfolio value and very competitive. For your clients who move, Embark has set a flat fee platform charge for each account. This means the majority will pay a broadly similar amount to the current ATS flat-rate platform charges.
A formal review of client charges will also be completed by Embark after a transitional period and anyone who has paid materially more than they would have done with ATS will receive a refund.
On this basis, we hope you will support the move.
How and when are you communicating with my clients on their move to Embark?
Under the ATS Terms and Conditions for Advised Clients we must write to our clients to give them notice of the upcoming move. We will inform you before this communication begins and also provide you with copies of what your clients will receive.
Will ATS clients have to move to the Embark platform?
interactive investor, the current owners of Alliance Trust Savings, will no longer be offering an advised platform. Therefore yes, your clients will need to move to the Embark platform on the agreed date (to be advised shortly) or you need to make alternative arrangements to move to another platform.
If I want to move my clients from ATS before the sale completes will ATS apply a transfer charge?
How safe are my client’s assets with Embark?
The Embark Group is a profitable business with a strong balance sheet and a resilient business model. This is evidenced by BlackRock, Legg Mason and Marian Chrysalis coming on board as new equity investers in the last year, this is in addition to existing investors which include the market leading platform technology FNZ.
To give you extra peace of mind, Embark Group have £15m of Professional Indemnity cover and £15m of Cyber Insurance Cover.
The Embark platform is rated B, strong by AKG and like all of the businesses across the Embark Group it has an excellent captial adequacy ratio. This is important to ensure that it holds the appropriate capital amounts for all of its ongoing operations and market growth.
My clients use the Stocktrade service, what does the change mean for that service?
This service will also move to be provided by Embark. We will issue further communications about how that move will work in due course. In the meantime you and your clients can continue using the service as normal.
Support for you
How will the service I receive change?
You can find out how the Embark platform compares to Alliance Trust Savings here. Other than the platform change, you will continue to work with the same team with whom you have built an existing relationship. There are no plans to change the service or relocate the business.
What training and support will I receive on the Embark platform?
You will hear from Embark about this as the move approaches. In general terms, the Embark platform is designed to make it as easy as possible for you to self-serve. Embark provides a series of handy guides to using its online service, which is backed by a team of skilled people including BDMs and implementation managers as well as a phone-based service team. Live webchat is available while you’re online too, giving you instant access to support.
Will I have to set up online access for all my clients who move to Embark?
No, this will be managed for you. All clients will be set up with view access on the Embark platform. If your client has trading access with ATS they will be set up with that on the Embark platform too. Embark will send each client a letter with login details once their account(s) have moved.
What if I don’t sign up to the Embark Terms of Business?
If you don’t sign up to the Embark Terms of Business at least 10 working days before the move, we will still move the accounts to the Embark platform. But, you will be unable to access them from day one and this will affect your ability to support your clients. Signing up is straightforward and you can do so here.
About Embark's charges
Will Embark maintain ATS' flat fees or will my clients be moved to a percentage fee basis?
Embark operates a percentage of portfolio charging model and this is very competitive compared to its peers. All new clients you add to the Embark platform will pay its standard charges.
For your clients who move from ATS, Embark has set a flat fee platform charge for each account. You can find the details here. This means the majority will pay a broadly similar amount to the current ATS flat-rate platform charges. A formal review of client charges will also be completed by Embark after a transitional period and anyone who has paid materially more than they would have done with ATS will receive a refund.
Once an ATS client has moved, can they add accounts to Embark on a flat rate basis?
Yes, any client moved from ATS to Embark will be able to add new accounts on the Embark platform on a flat rate basis. All new clients you add to the Embark platform – before or after the move - will pay its standard percentage fee charges.
Will crystallisation of SIPP funds after the move trigger a switch to percentage pricing?
No. If your client moved from ATS on the flat rate basis, crystallisation won’t trigger percentage based pricing. They will continue to pay their Embark flat rate Pension account Charge, plus an additional £100 each year.
How does Embark’s additional £100 a year charge for SIPP clients in drawdown work?
It is accrued daily, deducted monthly and starts with your client’s first request for a regular income. The charge is not affected by the number of regular drawdown payments taken.
What if my client pays their annual Inclusive account Charge close to the date of the move?
ATS will calculate a refund on a pro-rata basis and apply to the account, ahead of the move, for the account fee. Embark will be collecting its account Charges monthly in arrears and will begin doing this immediately after the move takes place. However, a formal review of client charges will be completed by Embark after a transitional period and anyone who has paid materially more than they would have done had they continued with ATS will receive a refund.
What if my client has unused inclusive trades at the point of the move?
If your client has unused trades from those included in their account Charge with ATS each year, these will not be carried over. Embark does not charge for trading in funds, so for a great many people no longer having inclusive trades will make no difference to their trading costs over the year.
When will Embark pay any refund from its formal review of client charges after the move?
This will depend on the transitional period set. More information will follow on the details of the review in future communications about the move.
In the future, will Embark review continuing with flat fees for ATS clients who moved?
Like all businesses Embark keeps its fees and charges under continual review. A formal review of client charges will be completed by Embark after a transitional period and anyone who has paid materially more than they would have done had they continued with ATS will receive a refund. Beyond this there are currently no fixed plans to review flat fees for ATS clients.
About your services during and after the move
Other than pricing structure are there any other differences between what ATS offers and Embark’s proposition?
Overall the Embark and ATS partnership and IFA businesses are very complementary and both broadly offer clients a full range of wrappers and investment options. You can find information on how our services compare here.
Going forward, we see significant opportunities for ATS clients to benefit from Embark's straight through processing, market leading SIPP and SSAS and wider product offerings.
What happens if my clients hold assets or invest in DFM model portfolios that are not currently available on the Embark platform?
The Embark platform is open architecture for investments and has a comparable range to Alliance Trust Savings. We are working on adding investments to the Embark platform to address some differences of which we are currently aware. Other than in a few exceptional cases, of which we would notify you well in advance should any of your clients be affected, we will be able to move your clients’ existing investments over.
The Embark platform currently offers model portfolios run by 15 discretionary investment managers. If your clients’ current discretionary investment manager is not currently available then we will be engaging with them shortly to get them set up on the Embark platform before your client’s accounts are moved over.
Are adviser models available on the Embark platform?
We understand that in-house model portfolios are a key part of many adviser investment propositions and are currently developing this functionality using the high-tech solution we already have in place for managing discretionary investment manager models. We expect adviser model portfolio functionality to be live on the Embark Platform by the time your client accounts move over.
What happens to regular payment instructions in and out of client accounts during the move?
To make things as easy as possible for you and your clients, regular investment and withdrawal instructions will be moved over automatically from ATS to the Embark platform. The only exception to this is for regular UFPLS payments from a SIPP as this is not a service Embark provides from its Pension account. You’ll have to instruct all UFPLS payments individually after the move.
After the move you’ll also have flexibility to change direct debit collection and regular withdrawal payment dates for the future, should you and your client wish.
Will I have to verify my client’s identity or Bank details again?
No. For ATS clients moving over, their information and instructions will move over automatically and you and your client will not need to take any additional action to verify their identity or Bank details.
What happens to any open limit orders ahead of the move?
We will automatically close any open limit orders you have for your clients on the ATS platform at 4.30pm on the afternoon 5 working days before their move happens. If you wish, you will be able to set them up again on the Embark platform from the following Monday.
How do cash accounts work on the Embark platform?
There is one cash pot for each account your client holds on the Embark platform. All cash held in the differently purposed cash pots for each account on Funds Plus (Activebank) will be merged into these single accounts when your clients move over.
Will there be any changes to the options for managing investment income?
If your client has reinvestment instructions in place for income from funds, we will move these across to the Embark platform automatically. All reinvestment instructions for listed securities will stop. After the move income from listed securities will stay in your client’s account as cash until you or they give us instructions to invest it.
Will I be able to see ATS transaction details and client documents on the Embark platform?
When we move your clients’ account(s) we will set an opening ‘book value’ for each of their investments. This will be the value at close on the Friday immediately before their move.
A closing statement for each client’s ATS account(s) will also be posted in their Embark online document store after the move. You will no longer be able to see their transaction history with ATS online, but if needed you will be able to access up to five years’ worth of ATS statements, consolidated tax certificates and contract notes by contacting the Embark platform support team.
Will I be able to link the Embark platform to back office systems after the move?
Embark is already partnered with intelliflo, so links to its back office system will be available after the move. Partnerships with other back office system providers are under consideration for the future.