Willis Corroon joins Abbey in IFA venture

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The Independent Online
Willis Corroon, the insurance broking group, and Abbey National yesterday announced the creation of what is expected to be the UK's second- biggest group of independent financial advisers. The new joint venture, to be called Willis National, will have a salesforce of around 200, somewhat less than the biggest IFA group operated by the Bradford & Bingley Building Society.

The deal is partly a response to growing frustration that Abbey's existing network has been unable to mark out its independence clearly from its parent company, which itself sells Abbey National and Scottish Mutual products through tied agents within the 875-strong chain of branches. Willis National will be 51 per cent owned by Willis Corroon, further distancing the new venture from Abbey.

Charles Toner, chairman of Abbey National Independent Financial Advisers, said: "The Willis National name will provide a clear distinction between Abbey National's IFA activities and other services available through Abbey National."

However, the two businesses are also seen as complementing each other, with ANIFA having carved a niche offering advice to wealthy people with complicated financial requirements such as retirement planning, phased retirement and income draw down. This is an area which the IFA network built by Willis has found difficult to break into, having grown a corporate business concentrating on small businesses and partnerships without the benefit of an established high street name.

George Nixon, head of UK retail operations at Willis, said he believed the IFA business had tremendous growth prospects and the new company would be in a strong position to gain market share. Willis Corroon Financial Planning had revenues of pounds 10.3m last year, while ANIFA recorded sales of pounds 13.7m.

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