ING Sells Broker-Dealer, Remains Committed to Growing ShareBuilder
PrimeVest Financial Services, a firm with nearly a dozen credit union clients, is one of three independent broker-dealers that will be sold by ING, the company said Nov. 3.
ING said it has reached an agreement to sell three of its U.S. independent retail broker-dealer units that compose three-quarters of the ING Advisors Network to private equity firm Lightyear Capital LLC. Along with St. Cloud, Minn.-based PrimeVest, Financial Network Investment Corp. in El Segundo, Calif., and Financial Securities Corp. in Denver will be sold. The sale price was not disclosed. The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2010, according to ING.
PrimeVest serves nearly 600 financial institutions in 50 states and Guam. It recently signed $937 million Pen Air Federal Credit Union to a three-year brokerage service deal.
The Amsterdam, Netherlands-based ING said it chose to sell PrimeVest and the other two firms to simplify its structure in the U.S. so that it can focus resources and capital on its core retirement services, life insurance and rollover annuity businesses. In 2008, collectively, the three broker-dealers had more than 5,000 affiliated independent registered representatives and generated total concession revenue of approximately $600 million.
The company said it will retain ING Financial Advisers Inc. based in Windsor, Conn., and ING Financial Partners Inc. in Des Moines, Iowa, because the firms are closely affiliated with ING's strategy in the U.S.
"It is also in the best interest of the broker-dealers, their employees and the affiliated representatives and financial institutions to find a new ownership structure," said Tom McInerney, member of the management board insurance of ING Group. " We believe that Lightyear will be an outstanding owner of these broker-dealers and be able to ensure a promising future for these businesses."
Lightyear specializes in investing in financial services companies, according to ING. The New York-based company manages approximately $3 billion in committed capital. Lightyear is committed to growing PrimeVest, which is continuing its efforts to grow its credit union client roster, said Catherine Bonneau, president/CEO of the firm.
"As a result, we anticipate being even more aggressive in our efforts to increase the number of credit unions we serve-and continue to grow our level of support as well," Bonneau said. "We're very excited by this news. It's definitely a positive outcome."
The $2.5 billion Redstone Federal Credit Union is a PrimeVest client and was named one of the broker-dealer's top performers in 2008.
"It's obvious that [Lightyear] knows this business very well. Most exciting to me is the fact they want to continue to grow the business and make PrimeVest an even stronger competitor in the marketplace," said Russ Harton, senior assistant vice president of the investment and insurance division at Redstone.
Meanwhile, ING Direct is still committed to growing online brokerage firm ShareBuilder Corp., said Cathy MacFarlane, director of media relations at ING Direct. ShareBuilder offers online discount brokerages, exchanged traded funds, 401(k) plans, individual retirement accounts and mortgages. When the company bought ShareBuilder in 2007, the broker had 125 credit union clients. In January, that number had dropped to 50 as the firm made adjustments with its co-branded partnerships.
MacFarlane said over the past two years, ShareBuilder has streamlined the financial-based partnership program down to a short list of relationships. Those alliances have strong online membership in-line with ShareBuilder and ING DIRECT's online service offering and target demographic, she added.
"It's important to note however that ShareBuilder continues to honor the relationship with all the retail customers of credit unions that were previously part of the partnership program," MacFarlane said.
January also marked another month of shakeups for ING as it announced that its CEO Michel Tilmant would resign and it would have to lay off 7,000 employees. ING has 110,000 employees in 40 countries, including in the United States.
"ShareBuilder is a grow engine for the ING Direct business and our CEO, Arkadi Kuhlmann, has stated that he anticipates the business will continue to hire and expand," MacFarlane said. "Actually, having just returned from the opening of the new ShareBuilder office in Seattle, I can confirm that it is definitely business as usual."
MacFarlane said year over year, ShareBuilder has seen a 140% increase in growth of accounts transferred. The online firm has seven million accounts. Parent company ING Direct has $90 billion in assets.
"[We] look forward to that kind of growth to continue as more and more customers see the simplicity and value of investing with ShareBuilder," MacFarlane said.