Aviva is considering selling its stake in advice network Tenet, Money Marketing understands.
Following Aviva’s merger with Friends Life, the life office will become the largest shareholder in Tenet, owning 47 per cent of the firm.
Standard Life owns 25 per cent of the network, while Aegon owns 22 per cent and the remainder is owned by independent shareholders.
Experts say Aviva will be reluctant to own a majority stake in Tenet following the closure of Friends Life-owned Sesame.
Friends Life is the parent company of Sesame and put the network up for sale in February 2013. Following a strategic review of the business, in March it was announced that Sesame Bankhall Group would no longer operate as a network for investment advisers.
Friends Life chief executive Andy Briggs will become chief executive of Aviva UK Life, with Aviva UK and Ireland Life chief executive David Barral exiting the business.
Threesixty managing director Phil Young says: “The stance Andy Briggs took with ownership of Sesame, a business it inherited, was pretty definitive.
“It’s hard to see how as Aviva UK chief executive he’ll take the view that owning half of a different network is something he’s keen on.”
A senior source at another network says: “It is not part of Aviva’s plan to own distribution.
“Aviva has the distribution businesses it does by accident, and it has shown with Sesame that it will take direct action on the sectors it does not want to be in. Having said that, Tenet is a fundamentally different business to Sesame.”
One regulatory consultant adds: “All of Tenet’s shareholders would like to sell if they could get any value back.”
Independent regulatory consultant Richard Hobbs says Aviva will be assessing everything it owns post-merger to judge whether it adds shareholder value.
He says: “Tenet is a non-core business which Aviva will divest itself of when the time is right – either down to its previous shareholding or completely. The fact that Aviva now has almost a controlling stake could be awkward for its relationship with Aegon and Standard Life, as their stakes will no longer be equal.
“The question then becomes who would buy Aviva’s stake, to which there is no obvious answer.”
The merger also creates uncertainty for Friends Life and Aviva’s referral arrangements to advisers.
In April Friends Life agreed a tie-up which will see customers referred to Foster Denovo if they request or require advice.
Although it has never been formally announced, Tenet says it has had an arrangement in place for the past year whereby Aviva clients without an adviser are referred to Tenet’s national appointed representative Aspire Financial Management.
A spokeswoman for Aviva says whether new customers post-merger are referred to Tenet or Foster Denovo will depend on “how the customer has come to us and their product choice”.
But Yellowtail Financial Planning managing director Dennis Hall says having a dual referral arrangement could be beneficial for the combined business.
He says: “One firm could easily turn around and say thanks for all the leads but we have changed direction and are going elsewhere. It is risky to only build a relationship with one advice firm.”
Tenet chief executive Martin Greenwood says: “The acquisition of Friends Life resulted in Aviva becoming the major shareholder but did not result in a majority shareholding in Tenet. We are confident of the continuing support of our shareholders and as far as the company is concerned, it is business as usual.
“Tenet has had a referrals arrangement in place for Aviva customers without an adviser for in excess of a year. Naturally, we are talking to other providers to offer a similar service to their orphan clients who need access to advice.”
An Aviva spokeswoman says: “Aviva is committed to ensuring that customers have access to full regulated advice when they need it.
“We have an existing referrals arrangement with Tenet, for those Aviva customers who do not have an existing adviser. We also have a referrals arrangement with Foster Denovo, which was put in place by Friends Life prior to the merger.”