Zurich ponders sale of adviser platform

Zurich ponders sale of adviser platform

Zurich is contemplating the sale of its adviser platform with Aegon being the rumoured buyer.

The Zurich Intermediary platform had assets of £10.2bn at the end of March 2019, with about half of those assets accounted for by advisers in the Openwork network. 

Zurich had owned a 25 per cent stake in Openwork but sold the holding in April 2018. The sale had been anticipated as it was set out in Zurich’s plan when it helped launch the business in 2005. 

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The Sunday Times reported that Zurich is in negotiations with Aegon about the sale of the platform and was looking for a target price of £50m.

Zurich and Aegon recently launched a joint venture, whereby a range of five multi-asset funds run by Zurich would be available to Aegon and Zurich clients, but not on other platforms. 

The funds have total assets under management of £534m. 

In a statement from Zurich, responding to the media reports, a representative said: "We regularly work with third parties to review the makeup of our business to ensure it fits with our strategy, and that individual parts are best structured to serve their respective customers and our distribution partners.

"We do not comment on the specifics of these reviews or speculation around them. We remain fully committed to supporting financial advisers and their clients."

Aegon did not want to comment. 

Aileen Mathieson, who headed up the Zurich Wealth division that operates the platform, departed the firm in April 2019 to join Standard Life Aberdeen as head of strategic platform solutions. 

The Zurich platform has a 2.5 per cent market share of the adviser platform market, according to analysis by Mike Barrett of consultancy firm the LangCat.

Mr Barrett said he is not surprised that the platform might be up for sale.

He said: “Whilst functionally of their platform is very strong, they haven’t managed to gain support from advisers and grow market share.” 

Aegon has been acquisitive in recent years, purchasing the Cofunds platform for £140m in 2016.

The integration of the Cofunds clients onto the Aegon platform was beset by problems, with advisers reporting issues with accessing the platform, being able to view client data, and transfering away from the platform.

The company’s chief executive Adrian Grace apologised to advisers for the problems they experienced and pledged compensation.