The John Lewis Partnership, the owner of department and grocery stores beloved by UK middle-class professionals, is branching out into financial services, through a joint venture with Robo adviser Nutmeg Investments.
John Lewis already offered credit cards, home insurance, loans, and travel money; the latest move will help to round out that offering
Tesco’s, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer’s have all dipped a toe in the financial services space historically. However none of these ventures has achieved what might be thought of as critical mass and they have been wound down, scaled back or put up for sale as a result.
John Lewis has also been looking at consolidating its loyalty schemes, by rolling the existing My Waitrose and My John Lewis cards into one platform. The details of which provide a clue as to the size of the audience that the new investment business could address.
There were 7 million My Waitrose cardholders and 2.6 million with a My John Lewis card as of Mid September 2020, according to data from the Retail Gazette
John Lewis is rated at No 5 by YouGov in their league table of retail brands; it scores 98% for recognition and 68% for popularity among all UK adults, and scores equally highly if not slightly better, among the millennials and GenX demographics, just the kind of end customer that an aspiring investment platform would be keen to attract.
Nutmeg was founded by former Stockbroker Nick Hungerford and backed by the likes of Goldman Sachs and Schroders, however, it was acquired by JP Morgan back in June this year at that point the group had amassed £3.50 billion of assets under management and 140,000 clients.
If John Lewis can translate its customer loyalty and brand recognition into financial services sales then this could be a way for the group to develop a significant new source of income that’s not reliant on bricks and a mortar retail model. The pandemic hastened the demise of a number of weaker players in the retail sector and even John Lewis was forced to implement a program of store closures.
The joint venture between Nutmeg and John Lewis does not constitute embedded finance but it might a stepping stone towards that destination and with Nutmeg now part one of the worlds biggest banks there could well be products in the pipeline for John Lewis customers.