Insurors Are Dumping Broker-Dealers Based On Economic Factors And Conflicts Of Interest

Friday, March 23, 2012 10:22
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Insurors Are Dumping Broker-Dealers Based On Economic Factors And Conflicts Of Interest

Tags: annuities | broker-dealers | enterprise value

The Hartford announced this week that it may sell off its broker-dealer, Woodbury Financial Services. This is being interpreted as fallout from lower interest rates and a more educated investing public about conflicts of interest. Large insurance companies have found it harder to make money on annuities with interest rates so low. They also are feeling the increased scrutiny about manufactures owning distribution channels for their products.

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Investors have become more educated and experienced. They value independence and unbiased recommendations over one-stop-shop convenience. Woodbury had just become more aggressive in its recruiting and making the announcement of a possible sale with no specific buyer basically shuts that process down. It also makes advisors restless with uncertainty about their futures.
 
Investors in the company are also balking against the higher fees being charged for insurance products to make up for losses on the broker-dealer side. Hedge funds want to be invested in profit centers. The breakup of the company would unbundle services and throw both the broker-dealer and the insurance company back into focusing on their core businesses—life insurance and property and casualty insurance. Each would also be focused on its respective distribution channels and business strategies.

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