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Zurich ends 25% stake in Openwork

Zurich ends 25% stake in Openwork

Openwork and Zurich have signed an agreement that will see the global insurer divest its 25 per cent shareholding in the network within the next four years.

Under the agreement, Zurich will dispose of its shares in Openwork by March 2020, by transferring them to Openwork’s other main shareholder, Openwork Partnership LLP, which represents the network of some 600 adviser firms and 3,000 advisers.

This will mark the culmination of a strategy set out by Zurich when Openwork was created in 2005.

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Openwork will continue to distribute Zurich’s product lines in the UK, offering them to its advisers through the network’s best-of-breed panels.

Mark Duckworth, Openwork’s chief executive, said advisers can now see a clear path to collectively owning the network that provides the infrastructure behind their own businesses.

He said: “The agreement also demonstrates that Openwork has a clear ability to grow and create value, and we look forward to continuing to work closely with Zurich which has long been an integral part of our proposition.”

David White, managing director for retail at Zurich UK Life, said: “The bonds between the two businesses remain very strong and, while Zurich will no longer be a shareholder as a result of this agreement, we will continue to provide our market-leading platform and protection propositions to Openwork’s advisers and their clients.”

Openwork made an operating profit of £5.5m in 2014, up more than 230 per cent on the £1.7m profit achieved in 2013.

A “radical” restructure of its distribution business was announced last summer, as the network sought to build on its profitability. This saw the distribution business divided into three business units – wealth, mortgage and protection.

peter.walker@ft.com