Sunflower seeds, sweets and chewing gum! Insurance, washing machines, investment funds!

Insurance companies are hunting for clients.

Manuel Moreno Capa | Banks and large stores will take advantage of any opportunity to sell habitual you an insurance policy, whether when contracting a mortgage or acquiring a robot for the kitchen. The last time that I bought a washing machine, I allowed myself to be advised by an amiable advisor that not far from the section of electro-domestic products there was a complete offer for insuring my house, my car my entire life and, of course, the washing machine that was shortly to arrive in my house. And there is no surprise that when you go to the bank branch – an act, fortunately, ever less necessary – someone tries to convince you that next time you should bring the details of the insurance policies for your house or car or whatever so that they can be improved (offering you saucepans in exchange for contracting a deposit is already less common).

But for some time it has been ever more common that your insurer not only offers you insurance policies, but also loans to buy a car and, of course, investment funds and even private banking services. Axa, Mapfre, Mutua and other big insurers have spent years settled solidly in the collective investment market, with their powerful fund managers. But today they are taking a step further: as insurers they are confronting what the experts call a structural fall in profits in their traditional business, they want to grow in others, but not only offering funds through their managers, but directly buying parts of the market, in other words other managers who bring their funds and their clients.

On many occasions, it is easier and cheaper to grow in this way, through the purchase of bits of the market which through the effort to develop their own market with new and competitive products.

This explains the constant incursions by the insurers in the hunt for investors. At the end of 2017 and not long after launching their own Wealth Management division, Mapfre brought 25% of the boutique French company La Financière Responsible. Another insurer, Surne, has entered the private banking business through the purchase of a significant percentage of Nervión AV. And one of the largest of the sector has gambled big on acquisitions: Mutua at the end of 2018 acquired 50.01% of Alantra Wealth Management (specialising in private banking with significant penetration in northern Spain) and almost 30% of the management company EDM (a percentage which could be raised to 51& at the end of this year to reinforce its presence in Catalunya). During the recent presentation of results on 7 March, the president of Mutua, Ignacio Garralda, did not rule out new purchases of wealth management firms. Something that is also happening with the banks: Andbank closed last year the purchase of Merchbanc, a historic manager well known for its funds consistent and solid results. And which, it is true, maintains its independence as a brand, well constructed after decades in the Spanish market.

Wherever you enter, whether in a bank, a supermarket or an insurer, be clear that they are going to try to sell you everything … But do not stop visiting the “corner shops”, what in the funds sector they delicately call “boutiques”, but which I prefer to call artisan managers (as in fact Merchbanc has been for years. In these establishments you will find different funds. And often more specialised and even with lower commissions. And in addition there they will not want to sell you car, home or life insurance, or insurance for washing machines or other odds and ends, including some which claim to be investment funds but which, often, are designed not for managing the investor´s money, but rather the career of the manager, and/or the corresponding commissions.

When a major entity tries at all costs to sell you whatever financial product, it is usually because it is more in its interest than yours. This does not mean, of course, that everything it offers is inadequate. However, the artisan manager only sells you what it best knows what to do. If it interests you and you know how to find it, of course. Or if you ask your assessor or your entity to put at your disposal a broad offer of third party funds.