The prospect of depolarisation saw a distribution carve-up in 2003 with companies fighting it out for IFAs although prices have fallen over the past few years. Advisers joined and left networks in droves and the networks and support services providers themselves changed shape.
Aegon UK kicked off the new year by taking a 9 per cent stake in Aurora Financial Group, formed from a merger between Jackson Batten and Advisory and Financial Planning Services. This followed a series of strategic buys by Aegon in 2002, including IFAs Advisory & Brokerage Services, Wentworth Rose and Momentum and a 60 per cent stake in Positive Solutions.
Bank of Ireland started by merging its two IFA firms Chase de Vere and MX Financial Solutions in February as part of a £95m
rationalisation programme. Around 340 jobs were axed. The move saw the departure of Chase de Vere chairman Ian Kennedy. Roy Keenan replaced Jeff Warren to become BoI UK Financial Services chief exec-utive in charge of Chase de Vere and Bristol & West.
In May, a move that marked its first acquisition since
demutualisation in 2000, Bradford & Bingley bought high-net-worth IFA Holden Meehan and rebranded it as Charcol Holden Meehan. B&B went on to buy the biggest IFA in Scotland, Aitchison &
Colegrave, in May, slotting it alongside CHM in its new wealth management arm.
After protracted negotiations with Berkeley Berry Birch, IFA RJ Temple was forced to seek another buyer or face closure. In June, listed IFA Lighthouse stepped in with a rescue deal that cost just £1m and saw it acquire 150 RJT consultants to form Temple
But Temple creditors were left owed over £1.5m. Any compensation for investors has been left for the Financial Services Compensation Scheme to sort out.
After several months of negotiations, buy-to-let lender Paragon bought specialist lender Britannic Money for £18.7m in July from life office
parent Britannic. The acquisition boosted Paragon's assets under management to £4.7bn from £2.7bn.
Later in the month, The Money Portal tried for a double acquisition, buying Bates Investment Services but failing to complete a deal with the David Aaron Partnership.
In August, the Millfield Partnership lost leading female IFA firm Finance4Women to start up IFA group M2 Financial. The four female advisers quit Millfield to move to rival M2 run by Mark Howard and his team.
Technology IFA Virtualnet signed a deal with the Eurosure network, putting it firmly on the consolidators' map in September, taking on 170 RIs to more than double its membership to 320 Ris. The deal with the Lincolnshire-based network followed Eurosure's decision not to renew its PI insurance. Eurosure had regulatory difficulties since facing fines over the pension review.
Cavanagh bought Ernst & Young Financial Management for £3m in October. Legal specialist Cavanagh bought the Scottish advisory arm of the accountancy firm with the help of a loan from support services provider Bankhall as part of its expansion plans. The deal saw Cavanagh increase its number of RIs from 40 to 76. EYFM is now rebranded as Cavanagh Financial Management
In November, supermarket Fundsdirect struck partnership deals with Etrade and Personal Pensions Management. The moves form part of the supermarket's strategy to create the UK's most comprehensive wrap platform. Etrade delivers equity dealing, settlement and admin services for Fundsdirect, enabling the platform to compete in the private client stockbroking market. PPM has been taken on to offer a full Sipp, inclusive of commercial property and a mini Sipp with funds, equities and cash.
With multi-ties set to hit the market next year, it looks likely that even from January there will be an increase in activity, with more companies seeking the best IFA firms.