September 2018 Review
Following on from the month in which Coca-Cola acquired Costa, it would be impressive for a firm in the wealth management space to try and compete with a transaction of such size, however, it seems that AFH are giving it their best shot as this month they completed on their 13th, 14thand 15thacquisitions of the year with Ashton House IFA, Emery Little Financial Services and Beaufort Securities Ltd & Beaufort Asset Clearing Services Ltd respectively. In addition to these three acquisitions, the financial advice and insurance firm Lyn Financial Services Group joined AFH providing them with 3 hub firms in the South West and over 60 staff added to their headcount. It seems AFH are showing no signs of slowing down as we head into the final quarter of the year.
Succession also had an active month with a double acquisition bringing their total AUM figure to £350m. They have had a reasonably quiet year, with this purchase being their first activity in the space since their four acquisitions back in January. According to Mark Stokes, the firms proposition and marketing director, Succession’s main focus had changed due to James Stevenson taking over as CEO in January, hence the pause in acquisitions, however it seems this recent flurry may show that they are back on track and gearing up to become active once more.
Additionally, following on from the merger of Standard Life and Aberdeen last year, Phoenix Group has now completed on the acquisition of their insurance arm for a sale price of £3.28bn. The sale has been a reaction to the withdrawal of £109bn of assets by Standard Life Aberdeen’s largest client, Scottish Widows followed by Lloyds Banking group also severing ties with the firm.
In the pensions market, XPS Pensions Group has agreed to acquire the assets of Kier Pensions Unit in order to strengthen its already reputable administration offering. Asset purchases have become an ever-increasing trend in 2018, partly owing to issues surrounding DB transfers. As a current regulatory hot spot, acquirers are keen to limit their liability for DBs, and to do so, procurers have been favouring asset purchases vs share purchases.
Overall, leading into the final quarter of the year, the past month has not strayed from the activity trend that we have seen so far in 2018. And if anything, the rate at which both national and more local firms are acquiring is continuing to escalate, it would be a huge surprise if 2018 was not another record-breaking year for M&A activity in the wealth management space.