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AIG Advisor Group Buys Woodbury Financial

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The wait is over. American International Group and The Hartford announced Tuesday evening that the insurance giants had signed a definitive agreement to make Woodbury Financial Services part of AIG’s Advisor Group, which falls under AIG’s SunAmerica Financial Group. The deal is expected to close by the end of 2012, subject to regulatory approval and other customary closing conditions.

“Woodbury Financial is one of the most respected broker-dealers in the United States,” said The Hartford Chairman, President and CEO Liam McGee in a statement. “The firm will transition to a buyer who recognizes the strengths of the business and the talent of the people, and is committed to the independent financial advisor.”

The deal is a good fit, in part due to similar cultures and the fact Advisor Group head Larry Roth and Patrick McEvoy, president and CEO of Woodbury Financial Services, have known each other “for a long time,” McEvoy said in an exclusive interview with AdvisorOne.

Patrick McEvoy“Woodbury has a unique value proposition, which is a strategic skill around the distribution of life insurance and retirement income products,” McEvoy (left) added. “Our expertise on the investment side is good, but we really separate ourselves on the insurance and income side.”

According to Roth, Woodbury fills a need in this respect, as it’s a skill-set that Advisor Group currently lacks.

“We’ve worked with The Hartford for a long time on the life and annuity side,” Roth said. “We have advisors that are very well versed in that area, but they’ve traditionally done a lot of the business away from Advisor Group. With this acquisition, we’ll be better positioned to earn their business .”

Roth added that although McEvoy will report to Roth in much the same manner as the other heads of the other broker-dealers owned by AIG, “Woodbury will remain an independent entity run by the team in Minnesota.”

“What we’ve done is build this comprehensive back office system, which we’ll now deploy to them to make their business better,” Roth concluded.

On March 21, after heavy lobbying by hedge fund manager and major shareholder John Paulson, The Hartford announced it would be exiting the variable annuity and life insurance businesses to focus on its property and casualty insurance business. In addition, The Hartford said it would sell its independent broker-dealer, Woodbury Financial Services, in what was the latest in a string of cases where an insurance company parent had sold, or said it intended to sell, a subsidiary independent broker-dealer.

Both companies said the change in ownership would cause no disruption for Woodbury’s registered representatives, who can continue to operate under the Woodbury Financial brand.

Woodbury Financial Services has approximately 1,400 registered representatives, and was named Broker-Dealer of the Year in 2006, 2009 and 2011 by Investment Advisor magazine. The Advisor Group has 4,430 producing advisors.