Invest Blue’s MD on its growth strategy post-Ironbark merger

Invest Blue Ironbark Asset Management mergers and acquisitions holistic advice

16 November 2023
| By Jasmine Siljic |
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Invest Blue and Ironbark Asset Management have reached the final stage of their merger, as the holistic advice firm “ramps up” its advice proposition.

The two firms first announced their plans to merge on 14 September and create one of Australia’s largest diversified financial services firms.

The merged entity has $64 billion in funds under management, trusteeship and advice, and more than 500 staff across 35 locations. 

While the merger was originally expected to finalise by September’s end, David Stephen, Invest Blue’s managing director, shared with Money Management that the transaction’s settlement was completed on 15 November.

“It’s a complex transaction, there’s a lot of moving parts in a deal this big. I’m pleased to say we are at the finish line and have our first board meeting tomorrow (15 November),” he said. 

Stephen confirmed that the two firms will retain their individual brand identities and will operate as separate wholly owned and fully integrated businesses. 

“The concept of the merger was always to come together under what we call a ‘house of brands’. Invest Blue continues to run independently under my watch, and the Ironbark team stays in place and runs their businesses under Chris Larsen as CEO.

“That was the original conversation between Chris and I: let’s come together to pull capital and resources that enable us to achieve scale, but let’s keep all of the things that make us who we are and each individual business what it is today.”

Aside from a handful of representatives of both firms on the board and joint payroll systems, the day-to-day operation of the business has been largely uninterrupted, the managing director added.

Enhancing the advice proposition

Harnessing the additional capital, scale and expertise of Ironbark has enabled Invest Blue to set its sights on new investments.

Most recently, the advice firm invested in life insurance provider LifeBid as a part of a $1.45 million equity funding round from more than 140 investors.

“Invest Blue is focused on investing in partnerships that enable us to provide great advice to Australians,” Steve Sewell, Invest Blue’s head of strategic partnerships and business development, said on 6 November.

“We see the protection of wealth through quality risk advice and solutions as fundamental to empowering our clients to live their best possible lives.”

Stephen told Money Management that the funding represents an investment towards creating a better risk insurance capability at Invest Blue.

The holistic advice business has also launched two new separately managed account (SMA) offerings with Drummond Capital Partners and Evidentia Group.

The managing director remarked: “That’s been really positive in terms of enhancing our value proposition.”

In addition, Invest Blue has been rolling out a new retirement advice offering alongside an online, low-cost base offering for younger clients in the accumulation stage.

“We are right in the process of ramping up what we define as great advice and that vision to be a trusted home of advice.”

Growing one of Australia’s largest diversified financial services firms

The advice firm’s mission remains focused on finding innovative ways to provide effective advice and rebuild trust in the industry post-royal commission.

“To rebuild some big trusted advice brands is going to require continued investment in actually delivering great advice,” Stephen said.

“Any opportunities that we come across that can help us invest in a better client experience, something that provides a broader set of advice strategies or a unique product offering, we will look at.”

The managing director specifically recognised the lack of an accountancy model in the business, which he hopes to build out as a service to its client base in the future. 

“We want to be more holistic and end-to-end. Our purpose is empowering people to live their best possible life, but we can’t partially empower them. It’s about holistic advice and working with clients on every level to make sure that we’re really maximising their chance of doing that.”

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