MINNEAPOLIS - A move by American Express Financial Advisors to change the structure of its financial adviser relationships has spawned a trade group of the firm's adviser affiliates.

Beginning March 22, financial advisers - currently independent contractors - can choose to be salaried Amex employees, franchisees, or independent affiliates of the Amex subsidiary Securities America Inc. The idea is to increase the ranks of Amex-affiliated advisers by offering greater independence and higher pay, a spokesman said.

But by becoming franchisees, advisers will lose benefits - such as health insurance and payroll support - currently provided by Amex to its independent contractors, said Kristin Highland, a financial adviser in Indianapolis who is president of the trade group. The group, called the Association of Financial Planning Professionals, will try to provide such benefits and services to its members, Ms. Highland said. She stressed that there was no adversarial relationship between Amex and the association, which has about 700 members.

American Express Financial Advisors, a subsidiary of Minneapolis-based American Express Corp., had over 11,000 financial advisers at the end of 1999 and wants to boost that number to 20,000 by 2007 or 2008, the spokesman said.

So far, about 60% of the financial advisers have opted to become franchisees, and about 30% have chosen to be Amex employees, he said.

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