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Sesame Bankhall’s future still ‘under review’

Sesame Bankhall’s future still remains “under review” despite a change in ownership of the business.

This morning (2 December), Aviva and Friends Life reached agreement on a £5.6bn deal to create the UK’s largest insurance, savings and asset-management company.

Following the announcement of the deal, FTAdviser asked what it meant for Sesame Bankhall, which was bought by Friends Life for £75m from software provider Misys in March 2007.

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Andy Briggs, chief executive of Friends Life, said today: “Friends Life has undertaken a strategic review of that business. That strategic review is ongoing and there is no change to that work as a result of this announcement.”

It was back in 2013 that Friends Life confirmed it had appointed Barclays Capital as part of a strategic review of the intermediary business.

This summer Stephen Gazard, managing director of Sesame Bankhall Group, spoke about the long-running sales rumours that have dogged the distribution giant over the past year and a half, describing a “disconcerting” environment for advisers and staff that is “unnecessary”.

He sought to distance the executives of Sesame Bankhall from the strategic review being conducted by parent Friends Life.

Mr Gazard said: “It doesn’t deflect the [executive team] from what we are there to do. Nothing we are doing now or not doing now is based on the strategic review.

“Sadly, it’s disconcerting for advisers and it’s disconcerting for our staff. If you’re a member of staff up in Altrincham, Huddersfield or whereever and you see the speculation going about, I think that creates a sense of a nervous nature which is just unnecessary”.

Since the review was announced more than a year ago, Sesame Bankhall has been hit with regulatory fines.

Just last month, Sesame had to pay a £1.5m fine after the Financial Conduct Authority found it promoted its own commercial interests over its clients.

The regulator found the network’s “pay-to-play” scheme meant the range of products recommended to its clients under its restricted advice service was influenced by the amount of services Sesame had sold to product providers.

emma.hughes@ft.com