Bristol & West (B&W) has entered an agreement to purchase IFA business Willis National in a deal worth £40m.
Financed by parent company Bank of Ireland, B&W is waiting for regulatory clearance to take over the firm, which is currently worth £36m, plus £4m in assets. If the deal goes through, Willis National will move from its current joint owners, Willis Group and Abbey National, to operate under the name MoneyeXtra, B&W’s personal finance website which was acquired by the lender last year.
This latest move also follows B&W’s acquisition of IFA Chase de Vere last year and, according to the lender, it aims to expand on its independent advisory activities and build on its presence in selected markets, including specialist mortgage products.
The lender is hoping to merge Willis National and its MoneyeXtra subsidiary to create a single advice-based organisation, integrating internet, call centre and face-to-face advice.
Mike Gutsell, PR officer at B&W, said: ‘We are aiming to create an advice-based company. The first part of the plan has been fulfilled by the acquisition of MoneyeXtra, as it gave us a web presence and a brand to build on. We have since developed a call centre, so the next step is to create a sales force. Willis National has a lot of experience in the corporate market and we believe it will integrate well and hopefully form a partnership of equals. We are buying the information, but not the brand, so after six months, Willis National will operate under the MoneyeXtra brand.’
Jeremy Budden, chairman and chief executive of Willis National, said: ‘This is excellent news for the Willis National team. Following our creation in 1997, we have been well supported by Willis and Abbey National as we established a reputation for innovative products and attentive service. We look forward to the opportunities for growth which being part of the Bristol & West group will bring.’
According to Joe Plumeri, chairman and chief executive of Willis Group, the company wants to move away from the IFA market to concentrate on risk management services. ‘It is right that we reduce our presence in the IFA market. We are delighted that Willis National is joining such an excellent organisation,’ he added.
The proposed purchase is expected to be completed by the end of July 2001.Abbey National is looking to consolidate its market position in the UK