Most wealth management companies are preparing to tighten their belts this year, but Aviva Investors North America plans to add staff and develop additional products to increase assets and sales.
Gregory D. Boal, the Aviva PLC unit's chief executive officer, said in an interivew he wants to add 20 to 40 investment professionals to its staff of 200 in the next 12 months.
Aviva Investors North America, which has offices in New York, Toronto, Chicago, Des Moines, and Manhattan Beach, Calif., wants to add "portfolio managers, research analysts, and derivatives specialists," Mr. Boal said. "There will be more demand for these types of people as we grow."
He also wants to increase distribution not only through institutional customers, but also through third-party channels, including banks and insurance companies. "Distribution is a very important ingredient, because we can have strong products and a strong track record, but we'll just stay on the shelf if don't have more effective distribution."
Aviva Investors North America is "largely a fixed-income shop" but plans to add more equity products this year, Mr. Boal said. "We want to build a framework so that we have the capabilities to cross-sell to our existing clients and offer more products externally."
The unit is considering a variety of products that offer downside protections, he said.
Unlike annuities, these products will allow investors to participate in an equity index, but will use bonds to provide protection from market losses.
"Annuities are insurance products. We want to offer institutional investment solutions," he said. "We are strong in fixed income, and there is a tremendous opportunity for us as an organization to leverage that and bring out products that are oriented for equity investors."
Analysts said that Aviva Investors North America's greatest asset is its parent company's international operations.
Aviva PLC launched a wealth management arm, Aviva Investors, in September. That arm has six units: Aviva Investors North America, Aviva Investors Asia, Aviva Investors United Kingdom, Aviva Investors Europe, Aviva Investors Real Estate, and Aviva Global Investor Solutions.
"We wanted to create a structure to manufacture and distribute Aviva's asset management tools globally," Mr. Boal said. "Our ability to leverage our capabilities as a global organization, both in terms of importing and exporting products into other distribution channels everywhere in the world, will be the difference this year."
Burton Greenwald, an analyst with BJ Greenwald Associates in Philadelphia, said that wealth management companies need to sell products in as many markets as possible to overcome "the significant hurdle that is the economic conditions that we can expect" this year.
Mr. Boal has worked for Aviva PLC since 2003 and became the North American unit's chief executive officer in September. He said the parent company's "global footprint really separates Aviva from other organizations."
Aviva Investors North America also plans to increase sales "exponentially" through third-party asset managers over the next five to six years, Mr. Boal said.
Currently the company gets only 2% to 3% of its sales through third-party channels, but "publicly we have said we expect to grow that number to 10% to 15%," he said.
To achieve that growth, "we have to make certain that we are investing in our infrastructure, in manufacturing, and in distribution through a challenging environment," Mr. Boal said.
Aviva Investors North America will consider making acquisitions in order to add products and employees, Mr. Boal said, but nothing is imminent.
"We are in a fluid economic situation here, and we want to take advantage of opportunities that are in front of us, so that we can be a good position to offer the best products and services to our future clients," he said.
The unit had $469 billion of assets under management as of June 30. A spokeswoman for Aviva said it will not have yearend figures until the end of the month.
Mr. Boal said he could not say exactly how much he expects to add to assets under management, because of the current economic climate.
"At the end of day, in this year's economic environment, assets under management growth mean less than net profit, and we think that a key ingredient for increasing net profit is delivering stronger products and services to our clients," he said. "If we focus on delivering triple-A quality service to our customers, the assets will come, and that will mean profit growth."