Tilney targets Smith & Williamson for merger

The board of Tilney has confirmed that it is in exclusive discussions with Smith & Williamson about a potential combination of the two businesses.

In a statement Tilney said: ‘A merger of Tilney and Smith & Williamson would create a market-leading, integrated UK wealth management and professional services group with over £45bn of assets under management.

‘These discussions are ongoing and there can be no certainty that a transaction will proceed. A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate.’

Smith & Williamson confirmed that talks are underway and that the accounting arm of the firm is part of the ongoing talks.

In a statement, Smith & Williamson said: ‘Further to the announcement by AGF Management Ltd to the Toronto Stock Exchange yesterday (18 August) regarding its shareholding in Smith & Williamson, the board of Smith & Williamson confirms that it has received an approach and is in exclusive discussions about a combination of its business with Tilney Group.

‘The respective boards believe that a merger of Smith & Williamson and Tilney has the potential to deliver significant benefits to the clients, employees, partners and shareholders of both businesses and create a market-leading, integrated, UK wealth management and professional services firm. Discussions remain ongoing and at this stage there is no certainty that a transaction will proceed. A further announcement will be made in due course.’

Smith & Williamson, founded in Glasgow in 1881, is ranked at number eight in the Accountancy Daily Top 75 Firms annual survey. The firm’s business model is based on a mix of financial and professional services, with a significant managed funds business. Its financial results, released in July, showed operating income increased 4.3% year-on-year to £278.1m while adjusted operating profit increased by 4.8% to £48.4m.

Professional services income, including revenue from tax and business services was up 6.5% to £104.7m, although the firm changed its reporting lines this year.

The funds under management and advice service line increased by 6.5% year-on-year to £21.4bn.

Tilney, which was bought by private equity firm Permira in 2014 from Deutsche Bank, manages some £24bn of client assets. It acquired competitor Towry in 2016 and also runs the online service Bestinvest.

The bid from Tilney, reported in the Sunday Times, comes two years after listed wealth manager Rathbones tried to buy Smith & Williamson. In August 2017 Rathbones, which manages over £32bn of client funds through Rathbone Investment Management proposed a merger, but talks were called off the following month.

At the time, Smith & Williamson said it intend to pursue a public listing and confirmed this view on publication of its latest results.

Andrew Sykes, non-executive chairman of Smith & Williamson, said in the firm’s annual report: ‘We continue to plan for a listing to take place at some juncture in 2020, subject to market conditions.’

If the deal goes ahead, the combined business would have about 250 financial planners, 240 investment managers and more than 100 partners in professional services.

There has been a flurry of mergers and acquisitions among wealth management firms in recent years, driven partly by increased regulatory supervision and the need for economies of scale.

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