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Financial institutions M&A: Sector trends - January 2019

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January 2019

We highlight the key European M&A trends in the second half of 2018, and provide our insights into the outlook for M&A in 2019


As 29 March 2019 draws closer, and the possibility of a ’no deal’ Brexit becomes ever more real, many financial services businesses across Europe are contending with operational uncertainty of monumental proportions. The same businesses are also shouldering the growing strain of market fragmentation, digital transformation, disruptive financial regulation, large-scale IT meltdowns and cybersecurity attacks.

Notwithstanding these pressures, many financial institutions have hardened their resolve that ‘the show must go on’.

Against this backdrop, we analyse M&A activity across 5 main financial services subsectors: Banks, Fintech, Asset/Wealth management, Market infrastructure and Consumer finance. In this report, we highlight the key trends across Europe and the UK in 2018, and provide our insights into the outlook for M&A in 2019 and beyond.


European financial services
M&A trends

Regional and domestic consolidation tops the agenda

Regional and domestic consolidation tops the agenda.

Smaller and medium-sized asset/wealth managers consolidate at a feverish pace

Smaller and mediumsized asset/wealth managers consolidate at a feverish pace.

The relentless march of fintech

2018 has been a transformational year for fintech M&A. Deal values and volumes have reached new heights as established financial institutions pin hopes on well‑placed bets to deliver competitive edge and market share. VC and late‑stage investment firms are also actively stoking the fintech fire.

The face of consumer finance is changing

Deal activity involving credit card businesses blooms— trade consolidators, financial sponsors and big banks see opportunities.

Market infrastructure — deal-making bucking the doom and gloom of Brexit

Payment services M&A retains its spark on the financial services landscape. Stock exchanges poise for strategically significant deals. And, brokers resort to M&A to combat the impact of disruptive regulation.


Consolidation tops the agenda

White & Case partner Patrick Sarch discusses European financial services M&A and how consolidation tops the agenda.

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The relentless march of fintech

White & Case partner Hyder Jumabhoy discusses the impact of fintech on European financial services M&A.

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What’s hot and what’s not for financial sponsors across Europe

White & Case partner Gavin Weir discusses what's hot and what’s not for financial sponsors across Europe.

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Country hotspots for financial sponsors across Europe

White & Case partner Gavin Weir discusses the key country hot spots for financial sponsors across Europe.

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Smaller and medium-sized asset/wealth managers consolidate at a feverish pace

Financial institutions M&A sector trends: asset/wealth management — H2 2018 and outlook for 2019

9 min read


Smaller and medium-sized managers are seeking scale to compete with "the trillionaires", who have enjoyed the lion's share of business inflows in 2018. Industry-wide margin squeeze, fierce market competition, eager buyers and availability of new tech solutions are all fuelling M&A.



M&A reaches the dizzy heights. Here's why:

  • Smaller and medium-sized managers: Research unbundling, rising IT costs and competition from passive options drives consolidation
  • Differing bank prerogatives: Some banks tag-out from non-core businesses, while others tag-in for stable returns and cross-selling opportunities
  • Technological embrace: Managers recognise the future‑proofing significance of robo-advisory, automation and AI

Current market

Upward, significant

We are seeing

  • High levels of market consolidation, some medium-sized but mainly smaller deals
  • Uptick in JVs and other co-operation arrangements
  • Active involvement of banks in M&A:
    • Certain banks are disposing of non-core businesses (both strategically less important business lines and in non-focus jurisdictions)
    • Other banks are keen to leverage cross-selling opportunities and new customer bases
  • "No-deal" Brexit planning—migration of activities and assets out of London (particularly to Dublin and Luxembourg)

Key drivers

Scale of itself is no panacea. Relentless pursuit and delivery of cost and customer relationship synergies are what actually define success of any M&A strategy in the asset/wealth management space.

Gavin Weir, Partner, London, Co-head of Financial Institutions M&A Group

  • Industry-wide margin squeeze across Europe:
    • Passive investment options have made customers more cognisant of spend on active options
    • Continual net outflows experienced by many market players (though there are exceptions)
    • Research unbundling—stringent fee transparency requirements imposed by MiFID II
    • Rising compliance costs and increasing cyber/technological malfunction risks requiring heavy IT investment
  • Fierce competition from:
    • Growing range of passive investment opportunities
    • Competitors reducing fees to counteract outflows resulting from market uncertainty (e.g., Brexit and "wealth tax" championed by UK's Labour party)
    • Competitors willing to slash fees to win market share (e.g., Fidelity's zero-fee campaign attracted US$6.6 billion of inflows)
  • Inorganic strategies offer:
    • Complementary product lines, capabilities and talent (though differing cultures need careful management)
    • Access to new geographical markets (e.g., China), customer bases (e.g., Shari'ah-compliant and ethical investing) and customer demographics (particularly robo-advisory and digital offerings)
    • Vertical integration to increase wallet share of the value chain
    • Cost reduction through automation
    • Enhanced utilisation of existing customer data resources (through AI and machine-learning)
    • New tools to battle rising compliance demands and cyber-attacks (e.g., deployment of blockchain)
  • Strong appetite for asset/wealth management businesses:
    • Regional/domestic strategic buyers—seeking scale
    • Foreign strategic buyers—tapping into EU markets and customer bases
    • Financial sponsors—disrupting "traditional" models and super-charging management incentivisation

Trends to watch

  • End of the capital markets bull run resulting in smaller asset/wealth managers selling out to larger ones
  • Brokers seeking to acquire scale for asset management operations
  • Increased concentration on intra-group restructurings—asset/wealth managers focusing on realising synergies from  integration of newly acquired businesses and implementation of business-wide procurement processes
  • Kick-off of business integration workstreams earlier in the deal timeline
  • Regulatory intervention to encourage:
    • Uniform interpretation and implementation of MiFID II across Europe
    • Market competition (e.g., UK FCA's proposals for customers to switch investment management services more easily)
    • Transparency on vote decision-making by asset managers—Charities Responsible Investment Network's report a possible catalyst
  • UK-based asset managers consider relocation within the EU27 to secure continued access to the European direct-lending market


Our M&A forecast

Continued high levels of deal activity in the short term—competition between regional/domestic trade buyers, foreign trade buyers, stockbrokers and financial sponsors is likely to intensify, resulting in more hot auctions. However, the overheated market is likely to cool in the longer term.


Publicly reported deals & situations

Traditional stock-picking equity and bond managers will account for >1/3 of the global asset management industry within 5 years*


Market Consolidation

Deal Highlight:

White & Case advised Muzinich & Co. on its acquisition of Springrowth, an independent Italian alternative investment fund manager


  • Wealth Management Partners: Acquisition of Julius Bär's Dutch wealth management business (December 2018)
  • Bank J. Safra Sarasin: Acquisition of Bank Hapoalim's Luxembourgian and Swiss private banking businesses (November 2018)
  • Natixis Wealth Management: Acquisition of Massena Partners (November 2018)
  • PGIM Holding: Acquisition of Wadhwani Asset Management (November 2018)
  • Natixis: Acquisition of MV Credit (November 2018)
  • Heritage Bank & Sallfort Privatbank: Merger (November 2018)
  • Tikehau Capital: Acquisition of ACE Management (October 2018)
  • Generali: Acquisition of Union Investment TFI SA (October 2018)
  • La Francaise: Acquisition of Veritas Group (September 2018)
  • Investcorp: Acquisition of minority stake in Banque Pâris Bertrand Sturdza (September 2018) 
  • Nordea Asset Management: Acquisition of 40% of Madrague Capital Partners (July 2018)
  • Gonet & Cie & MM Mourgue D'algue & Cie: Merger (July 2018)
  • Vontobel: Acquisition of Notenstein La Roche Privatbank (July 2018)
  • ALTUS Towarzystwo Funduszy: Inwestycyjnych & Esaliens TFI: Merger (June 2018)


  • Ascot Lloyd: Acquisition of Newell Palmer (December 2018)
  • Gresham House: Acquisition of Livingbridge's fund and investment management business (December 2018)
  • Quilter Private Client: Acquisitions of Eastgate Financial Management, Holdaway Johnson and Clive C Aitkenhead Financial Consultant (November 2018)
  • AFH Financial: Acquisitions of Premier Wealth Management and Core Financial Holdings (October – November 2018)
  • BNP Paribas Cardif: Acquisition of remaining 33% of Cardif Lux Vie (October 2018)
  • Merit Capital: Acquisition of Weghsteen (October 2018)
  • Muzinich & Co.: Acquisition of Springrowth (October 2018)
  • Broker Trust & Viktor Hostinsky Investments: Merger (September 2018)
  • Banca March: Acquisition of Mass Affluent (September 2018)
  • AFH Financial: Acquisition of HTH Group (August 2018)
  • JTC: Acquisition of Van Doorn (August 2018)
  • Forvest Trust: Acquisition of European Wealth (Switzerland) (August 2018)
  • Tages Group: Acquisition of 34% of VAM Investments (July 2018)
  • Progeny Group: Acquisition of Evolve Financial Planning (July 2018)
  • Alpha Growth: Acquisition of Alpha Longevity Management (July 2018)
  • Duet Group: Acquisition of majority stake in Merit Capital (July 2018)
  • Newell Palmer: Acquisition of Acumen Investment Partnership (June 2018)
  • Rathbone Brothers: Acquisition of Speirs & Jeffrey (June 2018)


Differing bank prerogatives


  • Julius Bär: Disposal of Dutch wealth management business (December 2018)
  • Nova Kreditna Banka Maribor: Disposal of 77% of KBM Infond (December 2018)
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch: Disposal of CM Investment Solutions (December 2018)
  • SEB: Disposal of Luxembourg fund services business (November 2018)
  • Catella Bank: Disposal of Luxembourg-based wealth management operations (October 2018)
  • Nordea: Disposal of part of its Luxembourg-based private banking business (October 2018)
  • BNP Paribas: Disposal of Mass Affluent (September 2018)
  • Société Générale: Disposal of Belgian private banking operations (July 2018)


  • Banca Generali: Acquisition of 90.1% of Valeur Fiduciaria (December 2018)
  • VP Bank (Luxembourg): Acquisition of Catella Bank's wealth management operations (October 2018)
  • UBS: Acquisition of part of Nordea Bank's Luxembourg-based private banking business (October 2018)
  • ABN AMRO Bank: Acquisition of Société Générale's Belgian private banking operations (July 2018)
  • Graubündner Kantonalbank: Acquisition of 51% of Albin Kistler (July 2018)


Co-operation arrangements

  • ING Bank Śląski & NN Investment Partners: Polish retail investment funds JV (December 2018)
  • Swedbank, State Street & Carne Group: Fund management JV (November 2018)
  • Nomura: Acquisition of 40% of Julius Bär Wealth Management (November 2018)
  • Lloyds Bank & Schroders: Wealth management JV (October 2018)
  • AMPLEGEST: Acquisition of 65% of OCTO Asset Management (October 2018)
  • Vontobel: Wealth management partnership with Banque Lombard Odier & Cie (October 2018)
  • Tikehau Capital: Alternative investments strategic partnership with DWS (October 2018)


High buyer appetite

Deal highlight:

White & Case advised HNA Capital on the disposal of its 25% stake in BrightSphere Investment Group to Paulson & Co.

Financial sponsors:

  • Toscafund: Led €33 million funding round for Liqid Investments (September 2018)


  • Grupo Mutua: Acquisition of 50.01% of Alantra (December 2018)


  • Fiera Capital Corp.: Acquisition of 80% of Palmer Capital Partners (December 2018)
  • Paulson & Co.: Acquisition of 24.95% of BrightSphere Investment Group (November 2018)
  • Rayliant Global Advisors: Acquisition of Henderson Rowe (July 2018)
  • Crown Dilmun: Acquisition of 40% of LJ Partners (July 2018)


New markets

Expanding into new markets:

  • Investcorp: Private equity JV with China Everbright Limited (September 2018)
  • Vanguard: UK online retail platform amassed £750 million in 12 months (June 2018)

Tapping into new capital sources:

  • Merian Chrysalis Investment: LSE Main Market IPO raised £100m (November 2018)


Surge of passive investment strategies

  • Vanguard: Establishment of Londonbased ETF research centre (October 2018)
  • J.P. Morgan: ETF business expanded to US$2.5 billion in H1 2018 (August 2018)
  • DNB: Switch of mutual funds for US and EU stocks from active management to index-tracking (August 2018)
  • Legal & General: Launch of ETFs products, following acquisition of Canvas (August 2018)


Technological embrace

Established players believe fintech hype:

  • Calastone: Migration of investment funds transaction network onto blockchain (December 2018)
  • DWS Group: Acquisition of minority interest in Skyline AI (November 2018)
  • Fidelity International: Launch of Fidelity Wealth Expert (October 2018)
  • Capgemini: Acquisition of 20% of Azqore (October 2018)
  • Aberdeen Standard Investments: Launch of Artificial Intelligence Global Equity Fund (August 2018)
  • State Street: Acquisition of BestX (August 2018)
  • Brevan Howard and Stone Milliner: Acquisition of minority stake in Quant Insight (August 2018)

Established players bowing to pressure:

  • UBS: Disposal of SmartWealth platform (August 2018)

Established players rely on fintech:

  • UBS: Cross-border fund sales compliance JV with Investment Navigator (October 2018)

Growing competition from fintechs/new entrants:

  • Moneyfarm: Acquisition of vaamo (November 2018)
  • WMD Capital: Belvoir Capital's anchor investment in the German start-up (October 2018)
  • Plum: Tech fund JV with Legal & General, ethical fund JV with Standard Life Aberdeen and emerging markets fund JV with Vanguard (September 2018)
  • Revolut: Application for ETF broker licence (September 2018)
  • SigFig: Acquisition of SmartWealth platform (August 2018)
  • Wahed Invest: Launch of Shari’ah-compliant UK robo-adviser (August 2018)


Shifting regulatory/political landscape

  • Bank of England: Encouragement for asset managers to implement voluntary FX Global Code of Conduct (December 2018)
  • UK FCA: Proposals to enable customers to switch investment management services more easily (July 2018)
  • UK FCA: Requirement for UK fund managers to comply with the Institutional Disclosure Working Group's standards for fee disclosures to pension funds (July 2018)
  • UK FCA: Probe into inconsistencies in interpretation and application of MiFID II (June 2018)


Intra-group restructurings—Brexit planning

One-third of the UK’s 40 largest asset managers have outlined contingency plans to expand operations to Dublin or Luxembourg**

  • Ashmore: Establishment of investment hub in Dublin (September 2018)
  • First State Investments: Transfer of £4.3 billion of AuM from UK to Ireland, and establishment of Dublinbased management company (September 2018)
  • M&G Investments: Transfer of £34.2 billion of AuM (impacting Euro, Swiss Franc, US Dollar and Singapore Dollar share classes) from UK to Luxembourg (September 2018)
  • Baillie Gifford: Establishment of investment hub in Dublin (August 2018)
  • Columbia Threadneedle: Transfer of assets from UK to Luxembourg, and launch of 13 new funds in Luxembourg SICAV vehicle (June 2018)


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* Source: Financial News, July 2018
** Source: Financial Times, June 2018


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