Hi folks, it’s new cat, Rich Mayor here serving up food for thinking during my third week with this rabble. Rather rudely, the world didn’t stop turning while I’ve been settling in, but that does mean there’s a fair bit to chew on in the runup to #langcatlive next week. We’re down to our last few ‘live’ tickets for that, which have the bonus of real-life humans that you can see, hear and smell. You can snap them up here, or join us from the comfort of your laptop.

IS IT FINALLY TIME TO TALK ABOUT VANGUARD?

Vanguard has quietly gone about its work in the UK. Its low-cost yet restricted proposition is gobbling up market share, especially since the launch of its low-cost Sipp and restricted advice offering. Just how quickly Vanguard has grown is pretty astonishing, at the end of last year it confirmed a whopping 361,000 clients and £11.8bn in assets.

That means it’s quickly gaining ground on the established players like Hargreaves Lansdown (HL) and interactive investor (ii). In the third quarter last year, it added more customers than HL despite being less than a tenth of its size. Vanguard serves nearly as many customers as ii (400k+), but while ii’s rise was helped through acquisitions, Vanguard’s growth is all organic. Evidently, the high cost of client acquisition in the D2C market isn’t so much of a big deal when part of a company looking after US$7trn.

Vanguard’s now confirmed it is offering at-retirement advice, as it sharpens its focus on the chunkier, stickier pension business in the UK. Its advice service, available to >£50k clients, is growing, and while some quick and crude arithmetic makes Vanguard’s average case size just over £30k, it’s safe to say plenty are above that £50k threshold.

Clearly, what Vanguard is offering is not independent, holistic advice. But it’s probably not thinking of hoovering up lots of lower balance clients, doing its bit to close the advice gap on the way, to simply lose them to a holistic financial adviser when its little fish become big whoppers. It’s not unreasonable to suggest it’ll follow the trend of its US advice business, which offers wealth management, tax planning and all that sort of lark to its larger clients, and to see it make similar moves in the UK. What’s certain is that it won’t sit still.

EMBARK/LLOYDS DEAL COMPLETES

The acquisition received its rubber stamping on 1 February, which is some time since the initial announcement in July last year. But in case we’d all forgotten about it, Embark announced it’s looking to double its market share in the advised space and sees its white-labelling as a key component to doing so. The platform also will be launching a robo-advice proposition, as it seems most banking groups intend to do too.

The latter is an interesting one as Embark is already active in the robo-advice market, as it provides various technological services to other digital propositions. Some of these are competitors to Lloyds, and while the bank has been quick to say it’ll maintain the relationships, how and for how long seems a bit unclear. But perhaps the biggest question is how many letters it will remove from its robo-brand to attract those young, fashionable investors? #marketing

IT’S DANGEROUS TO GO ALONE

  • We’d love to hear what you think about the platforms you use: thankfully we’ve got a survey for that.
  • Mic check… Tickets here, entertaining link to man that forgot his was on.
  • If you missed last week’s HomeGames v2.0 on technology you can stream it here. It’s a goodie, with our very own Natalie joined by Tony Vail (Wealth Wizards), Nick Eatock (intelliflo), Emma Napier (Bravura) and Lena Patel (ISJ Financial Planning). Together they discuss issues such as whether tech is really making advisers more efficient.
  • Music choice for this week provided by yours truly. Spoiler, I’m a big DIY punk, thrash, melodic hardcore fan, so here’s some o’ that from Manchester from Fair Do’s. The track is their new one and it’s a belter, if you like that sort of thing.

All of the best, and none of the worst.

Rich