NU Online News Service, May 10, 11:34 a.m. – Nationwide Financial Services, Inc., Columbus, Ohio, is targeting certified public accountants as a new distribution channel with an unusual agreement with the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, New York.

The arrangement will give Nationwide access to clients of 18 of the top 100 certified public accounting firms, says Bob Rolland, Nationwide’s vice president of strategic partnerships.

Under the agreement, CPA2Biz Inc. a for-profit company established by the AICPA, will sell Nationwide’s retirement and other financial services through its subsidiary, Capital Professional Advisors Inc. In addition to 18 of the nation’s biggest CPA firms, other interested CPA firms affiliated with Capital will also have access to Nationwide’s 401k plans and other retirement and life insurance products, Rolland says.

“Each [of Capital's] CPA firms has licensed insurance professionals, and through this relationship, we gain access to probably close to 100 licensed reps,” Rolland says.

Rolland contends that working with accountants represents a tremendous opportunity to reach small-business owners and wealthy clients with insurance-related products.

“They have a trusted relationship with clients and are looked to by many of those clients as the advisors most qualified to offer them financial planning,” Rolland says. “We see CPAs as a significant distribution channel.”

Along with employee benefits, Nationwide expects Capital’s affiliated firms to sell its nonqualified plans for executives, Rolland says.

Capital began selling annuities and other insurance products through its own broker-dealer operation in January 2001, he notes.

He declines to predict how many products Nationwide expects to sell through the CPA avenue, pointing out that insurance products are new to many accountants.

“There is a cultural shift that CPAs need to get into, to get from accounting to financial planning,” Rolland observes. “In the short run, we expect to take awhile to ramp up. But we see a significant opportunity to add to our distribution.”

The new agreement gives Nationwide a minority interest in CPA2Biz for an undisclosed value. In return, Nationwide will offer not only products but also training and other support to CPAs in selling to their clients, says Doug Wright, president of Capital. He says his company chose Nationwide as its partner because it believes the carrier can help CPA2Biz CPAs sell payroll services, retirement plans, insurance and other financial services to their clients.