Grant Thornton sells wealth advisory arm to Standard Life’s 1825

04 July 2019 4 min. read
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The financial planning and advice subsidiary of Standard Life has forged a deal to buy the wealth advisory business of Grant Thornton UK. Having entered into talks in June, the deal is expected to complete by the end of the year, and will create an entity with more than 100 financial planners.

Europe’s wealth and asset advisory sector has boomed in recent years. Since 2007, the sector has seen assets under management flourish, increasing by $3 trillion to hit $7 trillion in 2017. Seeking to tap into this, a number of firms have been actively seeking to acquire other industry members to boost their capabilities and attract more clients. Recently, for example, this saw publicly listed Alpha FMC acquire Axxsys, a company with around 30 consultants across offices in the UK, Denmark and Canada.

Amid this backdrop, Grant Thornton began the process of offloading its wealth division – which it valued at £30 million – earlier this year. According to claims since circulated by the British press, one source said Grant Thornton’s management was exploring the sale of the unit as part of an attempt to distance the firm from potential conflicts of interest, as well as to “streamline its focus.”

1825, a financial planning firm owned by Standard Life, was quick to enter talks, seeking to broker a move which would see it add about 100 employees and 34 individual financial advisers to its growing portfolio across the UK. Since its launch four years ago, 1825 has acquired a string of regional wealth management businesses, taking the tally to seven in March this year with the addition of the wealth management arm of BDO Northern Ireland. This boosted assets under advisement by about £230 million to £4.3 billion.

Grant Thornton sells wealth advisory arm to Standard Life’s 1825

Grant Thornton’s wealth advisory team, which is led by Neil Messenger, provides advice on all aspects of financial planning including family and business finance. As well as the UK-wide financial planning team, it has two client support centres in Belfast and Sheffield, bringing a range of specialisms and expertise that will enhance the 1825 business.

The deal for Grant Thornton’s Independent Financial Advice wing will be 1825’s largest acquisition to date, and will increase its assets under advice (AUA) by £1.7 billion to £5.8 billion, an increase of over 40%. If the purchase concludes in the fourth quarter of 2019 as expected, it will constitute a significant step toward 1825 becoming one of the leading advice providers in the UK. The commercial details of the transaction are undisclosed.

Julie Scott, CEO, 1825, said of the move, “Today’s announcement significantly accelerates 1825’s growth plans and gives us a broader UK-wide presence. Demand for high quality financial planning and advice continues to grow and with over 110 financial planners we will be well-placed to help more people access advice. I was delighted when Grant Thornton approached us with the idea. We are very much aligned with our shared desire to offer the best quality advice to our clients. We are excited about the future and look forward to welcoming the team to 1825.”

Grant Thornton's CEO for the UK, Dave Dunckley added, “As we increase our focus on our strategy to provide high quality audit, tax and advisory services to our core markets, it is clear the wealth advisory team’s growth potential would be best delivered by a business focused solely on the financial advice market. The team’s clients will undoubtedly be better served through 1825’s approach and proposition, with the businesses sharing a natural alignment in values and goals, so it makes practical sense for the team to be in an environment in which it can flourish. We wish Neil and the team continued success into the future.”