The country’s 20th-largest independent broker has a new name and a new pitch to independent advisors.

John Hancock Financial Network has rebranded under the name Signator Investors, as a sign to advisors of its commitment to grow the advisory side of its business. “The change in the brand was really to support the advisors’ perception of our distribution in the independent B-D space,” says Brian Heapps, president of the renamed organization.

Signator is owned by Canadian insurance company and financial services giant ManuLife Financial, which has a total of $547 billion in assets under management; in the U.S., the John Hancock brand is best known for insurance products.

The change appears to be a work in progress. Although it was announced last month, and a new website was launched, the "For Advisers" link on Hancock's website still points to a Hancock-branded page.

But the B-D’s marketing materials will now be branded as "Signator Investors Inc., powered by John Hancock Financial Network." Its advisors can brand their practice using Signator’s name or any business name they choose.


The financial strength of the parent company is a main selling point, says Heapps, arguing that advisors want to know that the B-D they are affiliated with can survive in the increasingly competitive and price-sensitive independent B-D space.

“It all starts with the power of the John Hancock brand name,” according to Heapps, adding that John Hancock has a high recognition rate in the U.S. market as a manufacturer of life insurance, long-term care insurance and other investment products. Its products are distributed through banks, wirehouses and independent B-Ds.

Yet the rebranding emphasizes the company's flexibility, Heapps says: Signator advisors have an open product architecture and John Hancock products are not always top sellers.

“We do due diligence on all products,” he says. “They don’t have to be John Hancock products and, more often than not, are not.”

Over the last five years, the independent B-D has seen its sales grow and shift toward wealth product sales, he says. Back in 2007, the company's insurance-to-wealth product ratio was roughly 80:20, Heapps says; the mix has now flipped to about 65% percent wealth and 35% percent insurance.


Signator currently has about 1,600 advisors nationwide. In June it added another 280 advisors with the acquisition of Symetra Investment Services, in a deal still pending regulatory approval. The firm also has an RIA and about 450 of its current 1,600 advisors offer financial planning, according to Heapps.

The firm has been preparing itself to make acquisitions over the past several years, Heapps says, adding that he anticipates that it will seek to acquire other independent B-Ds with $50 million in revenues or more.

“We feel very comfortable that we have a lot of capacity to take on additional advisors,” he said. “We are looking for a product mix that would be similar to our product mix today. If a B-D did a high percentage of alternatives investment products, for example, we would not be interested.”

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