Can the AIG Advisor Group re-emerge stronger after a tumultuous few months in which a deal to sell the business was nixed at the 11th hour?
    
Larry Roth, the group’s chief executive officer, seems to think so.

Because of its affiliation with AIG, the advisor group, which includes Royal Alliance Associates of New York, FSC Securities of Atlanta and SagePoint Financial of Phoenix, saw much of its normal business grind to a halt. Although the three broker-dealer units and its advisors were still able to take care of their day-to-day work with clients normally, the operations that are essential to helping AIG Advisor Group grow had been stopped. There were no more national educational conferences, no more top producer education and training meetings, no more regional meetings with top advisors. And, not surprisingly, recruiting became a Herculean challenge.

“It got to the point with our advisors that they said if this is what we have to deal with we can’t be a part of AIG because we can’t do business,” Roth says in an interview that will appear in the October issue of Financial Planning. “The only reason we were willing to sell it is because the management and the advisors didn’t feel that we could operate under the circumstances that AIG found itself in January, February and March.”

That all changed when Robert Benmosche came on board on Aug. 10 as new chief executive and president of AIG. He immediately began an inventory of all the company’s imminent transactions, which included the advisor group—a business Benmosche was very familiar with from his time competing as a rival at insurance giant, MetLife. The next evening he met for dinner with Roth and about 40 other top-level executives.

“It was clear to me at dinner and the next morning that he not only understood the business, but appreciated the business and viewed it as strategically important to any company of our type, not just AIG,” says Roth. “So I was not completely shocked to get a call that Friday (Aug. 14) saying that based on conversations that week and his understanding of the business that Bob decided it didn’t make sense to sell the advisor group. When you work for any large company, if the CEO says that something doesn’t make sense—then by definition—it doesn’t make sense. And I agree with him completely.”

Benmosche is aggressively taking steps to re-energize the advisor group. Roth says the network is back in business. A national education conference is booked for the first week of October in Atlanta. A joint meeting with top advisors for Royal Alliance and SagePoint is scheduled for that same week in California. Roth believes the group will be back in the recruiting business in the next eight months or so as they roll all out of their advertising campaigns.

“Although we changed direction abruptly, I think we changed our course to the right direction,” Roth says. “I think a lot of advisors like being a part of a large financial services company and that’s why they came here in the first place.”

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