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AXA plus four in new advisory JV

AXA's new joint venture advisory group, AdviceFirst will deliver a business model “often talked about but seldom achieved”, according to AXA New Zealand CEO, Ralph Stewart.

Thursday, April 2nd 2009, 5:01AM

by David Chaplin

Stewart said AdviceFirst, which is skewed to insurance-based advisers, differed from aggregator groups in that “it is clearly based around equity”.

“This is a group of like-minded advisers who will collectively own the revenue,” he said.

The group is also developing common franchise, reporting and marketing strategies.

Under the AdviceFirst structure, AXA owns 51% of the company with the remainder currently split between four firms: two Wellington-based practices, Cameron Chote Financial Services and Charter Financial Planning; The McKibbins Group of Hamilton, and; Auckland's Financial Solutions (owned by ASC Financial Services).

Rangiora firm Canterbury Financial Services was also in the original AdviceFirst line-up but recently pulled out of the group.

After AXA, Cameron Chote retains the largest shareholding in the firm with one of its advisers, Jeff Franks, named as general manager of the combined group, which claimed some 9,000 clients, 33 advisers and 49 staff.

In statement AdviceFirst said that its new “one-stop-shop” arrangement would provide clients with “better access to financial advice, life and property insurance packages and investment programs from AXA and other leading investment, insurance and banking organisations”.

Stewart said AXA has not imposed any sales quotas for its own products on the group.

While AdviceFirst went public with the news yesterday, Stewart has been working on the project for at least two years, first under the 'Newco' working title and later as 'Charter Financial Solutions'.

AXA Australia also operates an unrelated financial advisory group under the Charter brand.

The New Zealand firm changed its name to AdviceFirst at the end of February this year.

“It's taken longer than I thought it would to put together,” Stewart said.

He said the group would not be a logical fit with the 100% AXA-owned Spicers advisory firm, which is heavily focused on investments.

Stewart is currently touring the country with Gould Wealth Management (GWM) executives meeting clients of that group to explain its merger with Spicers.

“The feedback has been very good so far,” he said.

Last month, Gould Holding – which bought the rump of the former MFS-owned Vestar group mid 2008 - confirmed it would sell-out GWM to AXA.

Gould executives, Richard Austin and Jeff Staniland, resigned as GWM directors two weeks ago.

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