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Moola sale: a confused client's perspective

I have never had to think about M&A from a client’s perspective until today.

Moola sale: a confused client's perspective

As a journalist I have written many stories about mergers and acquisitions, analysing who the shareholders are, what it would mean for the business and how the branding might change.

I have never had to think about it from a client’s perspective, however, until today.

The news of the sale of Moola, the robo-adviser founded by Gemma Godfrey and where I have £1,500 invested, changed that. My journalist persona was the first to find out, through a press release that was sent announcing that it had been bought by insurance company JLT Employee Benefits.

Which made me think. Is this how most companies do things? Are clients normally the last to find out?

About 40 minutes after I received the press release, I got an email from Moola reassuring me that the company does not ‘expect this acquisition to change the Moola service that you use today’.

The message was simple and positive: that this is good news because it will allow Moola to ‘accelerate’ its plans for future growth and help it deliver clients a better service. I am all for that, but was Moola finding it a problem that it didn't have a big backer, even though its shareholder list included a number of City big hitters?

I guess we’ll now see what changes take place, with more money behind it.

What does it mean?

I have been going over the press release and client letter, but I still don’t understand one thing. What does this all mean?

Can anyone please decipher for me what ‘the acquisition of Moola is aligned to JLT’s strategy of helping UK businesses deliver better performance through the improved financial, emotional and physical wellness of its people. Moola complements this strategy by enhancing the financial wellbeing of its customers,’ really means?

Is Benpal, JLT’s rewards and benefits platform, offering its clients an investment service? While it will remain accessible through its normal website, will Moola still be open to new clients through moo.la? Or will new clients need to be on Benpal? 

Will the charges I pay stay the same? 

Speaking of JLT, who are they actually? Covering wealth and fund managers, pensions and employee benefits is beyond my remit.

It's great to know that it is quoted on the London Stock Exchange and has over 10,000 employees, but it would have been better if I could have a comment from Godfrey or people at JLT that explains the deal and company in plain language, without the fluff.

Maybe there are things that the company does not want to share with journalists, but as a client I wish I got a more detailed explanation and reassurance.

So I wondered, how do other wealth firms deal with communications related to acquisitions?

Here are the answers I received:

Dominic Rose, director at Old Mutual Wealth Private Client Advisers:

‘The way we communicate with clients after an acquisition is key to ensuring the new relationship starts on the right foot.

‘Our processes differs slightly depending on whether advisers join us, or are retiring. In our experience, the most effective way to do this is for a business owner to call clients before they send a letter, informing the client (who may well have been a client for 30 years plus) as to why the transaction is taking place.

‘Once the selling business have sent a letter, we follow up with an introductory letter within 24 hours.  We accompany these with phone calls to the clients to arrange face to face meetings.

‘Old Mutual Wealth Private Client Advisers only make press announcements once all of the above steps have been followed to ensure that a client has a full understanding of what is happening and how it will impact them.

‘We aim to meet all acquired clients face to face within three months of an acquisition completing.’

Graham Coxell, executive chairman, Rowan Dartington:

‘The order of notification to clients would normally be after the acquisition has been “signed off”, therefore completion only being subject to regulatory approval.

‘If customers don’t know what’s happening or anything about the acquirer then it can be unsettling.

‘However, you should receive a letter/email within a matter of hours or days depending upon the channel you use outlining why they have chosen to sell, some background on who the acquirer is, and what it may mean for you as a client.’

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