Ameriprise Weighs Adding Advisers as Regulation Squeezes Rivals

  • Labor Department regulation opens up opportunities, CEO says
  • Firm has devoted about 400 people to deal with rule's impact

Ameriprise Financial Inc. Chief Executive Officer Jim Cracchiolo is looking for chances to add financial advisers as new government regulation on retirement products pressures smaller rivals.

“During this period of disruption, we see potential opportunities,” Cracchiolo said Thursday during a conference call discussing first-quarter results. “The regulatory environment will likely lead to consolidation within the industry, which we already see. Independent advisers or independent broker-dealers may lack the resources or the scale to navigate the changes required, and seek a strong partner like Ameriprise.”

The Department of Labor announced new rules on April 6 that are designed to protect savers from conflicted investment advice. Companies including American International Group Inc. and MetLife Inc. have been exiting advisory operations ahead of implementation of the rules, which will require additional compliance costs and could increase the risk of lawsuits. The changes could be even more burdensome to independent firms.

“Ameriprise is well positioned to take advantage of likely industry consolidation, given the lack of ability for smaller players to handle incremental costs associated with DOL compliance,” John Nadel, an analyst at Piper Jaffray Cos., said Thursday in a note to clients.

Ameriprise has about 400 people devoted to handling the rule and will increase training for staff, the CEO said. The asset manager had 9,766 advisers at the end of the first quarter, after hiring 70 in the period, the company said Wednesday in a statement.

Rivals Face Squeeze

“The financial foundation we’ve built allows us to remain opportunistic while also making the necessary investments to comply with the rule,” Cracchiolo said during the call. “We’re devoting and re-channeling our resources, so that we redeploy to get this done appropriately. And I would just say, it will squeeze others in the industry unless they have those capabilities and the means.”

First-quarter net income slipped 7.4 percent from a year earlier to $364 million as market volatility pressured results, according to the Minneapolis-based company’s statement Wednesday. Ameriprise slipped 1.2 percent to $99.85 at 1:01 p.m. in New York, extending its decline for the year to 6.2 percent.

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