Speculation on Sesame Bankhall break-up attracts buyers

Campbell Macpherson, former human resources director of pre-merger Sesame from 2003 to 2006, claimed a break-up of the firm could “maximise value” for its parent company Friends Life.

In response to market speculation that property services firms Countrywide and LSL were in discussions to buy parts of the advisory network. He said: “This sounds like the break-up and disposal of the group. The unknown liabilities of a network could be a barrier to sale so this route, where separate parts are sold off, could be an option.”

Mr Macpherson, also former strategy director for the Openwork network between 2007 and 2010, now runs his own London-based consultancy.

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Standard Life-owned Threesixty Services has also expressed interest in buying SBG’s adviser support arm Bankhall, while SimplyBiz managing director Matt Timmins claimed his firm had “the capacity to restore Bankhall to its glory years”.

The claims come as chief executive George Higginson has announced plans to update the market in the new year. One consideration is whether the network should remain independent or become restricted.

Spokesmen for Sesame and LSL declined to comment. Countrywide was unavailable for comment.

In February parent company Friends Life announced it had appointed Barclays to undertake a strategic review of SBG. Andy Briggs, chief executive of Friends Life, said in March that IFA businesses were “best owned by entrepreneurs, not FTSE 100 companies”.

According to London-based consultancy Imas Corporate Finance the number of approved people at SBG has fallen from 2493 in September 2008 to 1627 in October 2013.

Marcus Barnard, analyst for Oriel Securities, said: “After RDR there may be more direct sales from life companies.”

Restricted v Independent

Brian Spence, managing partner of London-based adviser consultancy Harrison Spence Partnership, said: “I think that 90 per cent of the industry will become restricted in the next five years. There is nowhere else to go. The cost and risk is lower, while profits are higher under the restricted model.”