Bellatore Financial, Inc. announced this week it reached an agreement with Nationwide Investment Advisors, LLC that, in essence, gives it first crack at gaining access to the financial advisors participating in Nationwide's soon-to-be shuttered advisory business. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

   Nationwide Investment Advisors, a division of insurance giant Nationwide, has told its partner firms it plans to close its advisory program--the Best of America Advisory Services Program--by December 31. The service is a managed-account platform comprised of mutual fund portfolios with allocation models designed by Ibbotson Associates Advisors and research for the underlying funds provided by Morningstar Associates. The program has more than 500 financial advisor relationships and more than $540 million assets under management.

   "Nationwide is closing its Advisory Services Program and Bellatore is starting a similar business," says Nationwide spokesperson Erica Lewis. "The transaction is an agreement for Nationwide to introduce Bellatore to the firms within our Advisory Services Program, as we want to provide our clients with another option. Ultimately, the financial professional and client must decide if they want to move their assets over to Bellatore."

   Lewis said Nationwide determined that the Best of America advisory program was no longer a strategic fit for the company.

   Based in San Jose, Calif., Bellatore provides practice management services to both financial institutions and independent financial advisors. Regarding the latter, its Bellatore Investment Counsel division is aimed at RIAs that manage between $30 million to $250 million in assets. Its services range from technology and back office support to consultation and succession strategies.

    "All we've bought is the right to have a preferred relationship with these advisors," says Al Steele, Bellatore's president and CEO. "We've got to earn them by proving that what we offer is compelling and meaningful."

   Bellatore's offering includes its Altius Select Investment Portfolios, a managed money program. Steele says one of Bellatore's main focus areas is developing portfolios based on modern portfolio theory.

   Bellatore also announced this week it created Legion Portfolio Services, its second asset management offering for advisors and one that expands the offerings available under Bellatore Investment Counsel.

   "Legion competes more with the AssetMarks and SEIs of the world," Steele says.

   The company launched its asset management business in late 2007, and Steele says the Nationwide acquisition is the first of three or four deals Bellatore hopes to make to grow to roughly $4 billion in assets by year-end 2009.

   "We're not a roll-up firm just buying for buying's sake," Steele says. "Other opportunities won't just be about financial advisors; it may be about acquiring certain expertise. We're looking at a couple of firms in the separate account space."