A marquee NZ financial advice brand will disappear from view this week as AMP officially switches off the Spicers sign.
After merging the back-office systems of Spicers and relative new-entrant advisory network, AdviceFirst, last year, the two groups have now formally converged under the latter label.
Mark Ennis, AdviceFirst CEO, said market research indicated clients were “confused” by the dual-brand approach, which in some cases saw a single adviser representing both brands.
Ennis said the research also showed AdviceFirst “resonated the most” with clients as the brand-of-choice.
“While neither are mass-market brands, AdviceFirst is more descriptive of what we do,” he said.
Over 50 advisers will sit under the AdviceFirst umbrella, Ennis said. According to an Investment News NZ analysis of the Authorised Financial Adviser (AFA) market last July, the combined tally of Spicers and AdviceFirst advisers stood at 76, split perfectly evenly.
At the time Spicers reported about $1.3 billion in funds under advice while AdviceFirst claimed to be the “largest financial advice business of our type”.
The latest Financial Markets Authority (FMA) figures as of this May identify 26 Advice First and 22 Spicers AFAs. However, the FMA data likely understates the true state of affairs with many AFAs not assigned a corporate home.
In conjunction with the brand unification, Ennis said AMP would spruce up the AdviceFirst image under a new logo and slogan.
“We explored how AdviceFirst should be represented in its look and feel,” he said. “And have taken the opportunity to refresh the brand.”
The strands of the AMP-owned advice business have different historical backgrounds but Ennis said with shared back-office systems – including the FNZ-backed WealthView investment platform – the group was now effectively unified.
“This is more of an evolution than a revolution,” he said. “We wanted to build a scaled, integrated advice business.”
Ennis said the change was sparked by “doing what’s best for clients” more than in preparation for upcoming changes to the financial adviser regime.
The Financial Services Legislation Amendment Bill currently before Parliament will introduce entity licensing, which is likely to foster consolidation in the advisory industry.
Spicers, or more formally Spicers Portfolio Management, was one of New Zealand’s most long-lived advice brands with its roots dating back to 1986. The group was associated with some of the stalwarts of the NZ financial services industry most notably the current head of PGC, George Kerr. Kerr famously brokered the 2001 deal that saw Axa splash out $245 million for Sterling Grace – Spicers then-parent company that also included the multi-management operation Arcus and administration platform, Assure.
Kerr netted a reported $30 million plus from the sale.
Spicers and its various components were tipped into AMP after it bought Axa Asia Pacific following a contentious sales process in 2011.
In the deal AMP also inherited the-then nascent advisory group, AdviceFirst, which was launched in 2008 under Ralph Stewart’s reign as Axa NZ chief. AMP also merged former independent advisory firm, Goldridge, with AdviceFirst after purchasing the group in 2014.