Like Theresa May's calling of a snap election last month, news that two high-profile financial industry bodies were poised to merge had not been ruminated on for months in the pages of the business press.
Last summer’s preliminary talks between the Wealth Management Association (WMA) and adviser representative Association of Professional Advisers (Apfa) meant that the deal had been in the works for almost a year without the usual round of gossip around the water cooler or over Friday night drinks. Instead the announcement was left to a letter to each body’s membership base to announce the two bodies were merging to create the Investment Management and Financial Advice Association (Imfa).
Although mainly running at a profit, Apfa had been struck with mixed financial returns – somewhat ironic for a body representing financial specialists. The merger announcement came two years after the trade body posted a £30,080 loss for the year to the end of June 2015.
While Apfa managed to turn it around and report a £126,917 profit for the year to the end of June 2016, for the year to the end of June 2014, the trade body only managed to post a profit of £29,253 and for the year ending June 2013 posted a profit of £117,337.
Instead of a combined management approach from the WMA’s Liz Field and Apfa’s Chris Hannant the responsibility of heading the combined organisation will fall to Ms Field with Mr Hannant remaining as a “strategic advisor”
Ms Field said: “[Chris] is staying on for up to a year. Obviously, I can not speak for his personal aspirations or thoughts, but certainly we would want him to stay so he can help with the transition and that is certainly the discussion that we’ve had with him.”
Mr Hannant himself said that when discussing the deal his bottom line was always to ask if the deal made sense for his membership.
“The conclusion we reached was that it would, and then everything sort of flowed from that,” he said. “You obviously work out the list of things, like the name, how everything gets structured and the legal nitty gritty, but the bottom line is, will it improve things?”
Apfa was established in 1999, and was originally called the Association of Independent Financial Advisers (Aifa). It rebranded in 2012 after the regulator introduced changes to the definition of independent and restricted advice.
The WMA was set up in 1990 and was initially called Association of Private Client Investment Managers & Stockbrokers before rebranding in 2013.
The official line is that the deal between the WMA and Apfa’s is a “merger” and the WMA has made it clear that no money changed hands as part of any form of management buyout. Management speak was also carefully worded on launch with insubstantial phrases such as “merger synergies”.
However, Ms Field was quick to clarify: “Three or four times [the WMA is] in and out of the FCA a week and Apfa is also at the FCA on its issues, so we end up going to quite a lot of the same meetings, particularlyFSCS levy, the Financial Advice Market Review and we thought, you know what, we can save some resources here with instead of two people attending, only one needs to.”