Financial Horizons Group has acquired ASF Beauce-Amiante. The final transaction will bring Financial Horizons Group a million dollars of premiums, concentrated for the most part in life insurance and segregated funds.The leaders of the firm felt it was time to join forces with a group that had a solid financial background. “We are gaining strength and critical mass in order to dilute the costs associated with new regulatory requirements,” says Alain Champagne, vice president of ASF Beauce-Amiante.
Diversity is another one of the factors that motivated ASF. “Our success depends on our ability to offer a full range of products and services to our advisors, and to do so over the long term,” says Champagne. The firm specializes in individual and group life insurance, and in segregated funds. It also offers mutual funds through Investia Financial Services and general insurance products under an agreement with Assurancia Groupe Tardif.
“We signed an agreement with Champagne to keep him with us for five years,” explained James McMahon, the president of Financial Horizons Group’s Quebec division, in an exclusive interview with FlashFinance.ca, a sister publication of The Insurance and Investment Journal.
Richard Watier, another of the firm’s leaders, “is going back into sales and will be one of our advisors,” he says. ASF also has offices in Saint-Joseph and East-Broughton and has a particularly strong presence in the Thetford Mines area. “So in this way we are building on our presence in these areas, where we already have a dozen advisors.”
McMahon says the transaction came about after two years of negotiations. Financial Horizons will keep ASF’s offices and employees. “ASF managers are pleased with this transaction because of our comprehensive approach that includes, among other things, life insurance, segregated funds, mutual funds (Excel Investments), mortgages, and most recently, exempt products. It is an approach that supports them against competition from banking institutions,” comments McMahon.
Financial Horizons plans to continue to acquire other firms, both in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. McMahon is currently in negotiations with firms he does not wish to name, and he believes that the source of potential candidates is not about to dry up. Commenting on how the regulatory burden was one of the motivations mentioned by Champagne, McMahon says he thinks that, unless they are working in a particular niche, agencies no longer have a choice except to bulk up in order offset compliance costs.
“Agencies are looking to merge because of both succession issues and compliance costs. When a sixty-year old manager sees things like the Canadian Life and Health Insurance Association (CLHIA) guidelines on relations between insurers and managing general agents, it makes him stop and think. These guidelines will come into force on January 1, 2015. So the head of the firm asks himself: Do I put up the extra money, or do I merge or sell?”
These CLHIA guidelines urge insurers to supervise and exercise tighter control over managing general agents, all the way down to verifying the integrity of their advisors. The guidelines stipulate that the insurer must require each managing general agent submit to an annual compliance test.