The AIG-owned Advisor Group is facing dissension within the ranks over plans to hold a joint conference in 2012 for its three broker-dealers.
Meg Green, one of the biggest producers in the Advisor Group and head of Meg Green & Associates, is one among many Royal Alliance independents who have been vigorously fighting perceived efforts to merge the New York-based BD with its two sister firms FSC Securities of Atlanta and SagePoint Financial of Phoenix. Many Royal advisors have simply left, she said in an intervew with AdvisorOne recently, while those remaining are campaigning to retain Royal Alliance’s individuality and culture as an upscale wealth management BD.
“You just saw it: AIG was moving toward merging the three broker-dealers into one. But we don’t want to swim in the public pool; we want to be with our own. We don’t want to be the AIG Advisor Group; we want to be Royal Alliance. We’re bigger and smarter and do more business than [either FSC or SagePoint],” says Green, named by Barron’s one of “America’s Top 100 Women Financial Advisors” for the past six consecutive years.
Next year, instead of holding three separate BD national education conferences, as has traditionally been the case, one joint conference has been booked for the entire group. AIG cited economies of scale and the opportunity to secure a super-big-name speaker, according to Green, who is based in Miami and manages assets of about $600 million.
Under Larry Roth, Advisor Group CEO, AIG has moved to centralize BD operations. “They were slowly dismantling each broker-dealer to merge,” Green says. “Little pieces were falling apart. Royal Alliance advisors were leaving one by one. We railed against what AIG was doing, but it was like a big locomotive that kept moving, moving, moving.”
(AdvisorOne requested a comment from Advisor Group on Wednesday but they not did respond to us before publication.)
When the BDs’ back offices were merged and relocated to Phoenix, many Royal Alliance FAs said “enough.” “They started letting people go and changing things. They were bringing in people from Phoenix and Atlanta that knew nothing about running a business. It was beyond ineptitude. It just wasn’t working,” Green says.
Now with the joint national education conference, in Washington on the agenda, AIG is “trying to equalize us even more,” she says. “Royal Alliance is about wealth management. But AIG doesn’t have the vision.”
The veteran advisor was pleased, however, when earlier this summer AIG decided to retain Royal’s long-time director of operations in New York, Jeff Planty, whom, Green says, they had been trying to force out.
“I told management, ‘If you let this guy go, you’re going to see a mess–and we’re all out of here,’ ” she recalls.
Now “we’re grateful to have been tossed an olive branch. Instead of being shut out, we’ve been allowed to keep some of what’s important to us. Royal Alliance is once more functioning on its own. They finally put Humpty-Dumpty back together again–for now. We have our own people back. We fought for a little bit of autonomy,” Green says, “and got it. Now let’s see where it goes. If Royal Alliance’s culture–highly educated, very caring–isn’t retained, nobody is going to be happy.”
When it became clear to Green that AIG was en route to merging the BDs, she secured a meeting with AIG President-CEO Robert Benmoshce asking him to halt the plan. She had just been named Royal’s top producer for 2009.
“I told him: Everybody is grumbling, but you have the capacity to fix what’s wrong,” she says.
Now, “everything seems to be kind of copasetic,” at Royal, Green says. “But let’s see what happens at the joint conference.”
AIG plans separate courses for each broker-dealer, though the three will be brought together for all general meetings, according to Green. She adds that AIG also indicated that if the merged conference doesn’t work well for the three BDs, “it won’t happen again.”