Raymond James bolsters indexed annuities and life wholesaling with acquisition

The deal with Producers Choice, an insurance marketing organization, is expected to give the broker-dealer greater control over the way annuities are wholesaled to advisers

May 29, 2015 @ 11:23 am

By Darla Mercado

Looking to step up its indexed annuities and life wholesaling game, Raymond James Financial Inc. announced Friday it would acquire The Producers Choice, an insurance marketing organization.

The deal is expected to close mid-summer, and Producers Choice will act as part of Raymond James Insurance Group. Sixty Producers Choice employees will join the firm.

The acquisition addresses two major objectives for Raymond James, which has partnered with Producers Choice for nine years: It gives the broker-dealer greater control over the way annuities are wholesaled and marketed to Raymond James' advisers, and the firm will have the opportunity to work with Producers Choice's client base of independent insurance agents, broker-dealers and banks.

"It makes for an interesting possibility for the firms that Producers Choice works with," said Scott Stolz, senior vice president of Raymond James Private Client Group Investments & Wealth Solutions. "Our hope is that by combining the resources and expertise of Raymond James Insurance Group with the sales and marketing expertise of Producers Choice, it'll allow us to further enhance our market share in those firms and make Producers Choice a bigger player within other distributors."

After the acquisition, day-to-day business will continue as usual for the independent agents Producers Choice works with, but the broker-dealers and banks who work with the firm will notice the biggest difference.

"We'll be able to help them analyze products and position them correctly in their blocks of business," Mr. Stolz said. "What we're willing to do for our reps, we're willing to do for other firms that Producers Choice works with."

Though indexed annuities have been a huge hit for broker-dealers in the last couple years, Raymond James has been selling them for close to a decade. The firm has presented them as a product for conservative clients who prioritize capital preservation.

Insurance carriers have large wholesaling forces to promote their products and answer advisers' questions, but those wholesalers are limited in scope and only know their own company's offerings.

"Unless you represent a multitude of products, you're not talking about the right product for that particular situation," Mr. Stolz said. "Since we've been partnering with Producers Choice from the start, we know they're talking about the products the way we want them to be talked about. This gives us a great deal of comfort."

The Raymond James-Producers Choice matchup also expands the broker-dealer's force of life insurance wholesalers. Currently, Raymond James has only four wholesalers to service its team of advisers.

The acquisition will expand the life wholesaling effort and add to its life insurance case management expertise.

"We believe we can greatly expand the amount of life insurance business we do," Mr. Stolz said.

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