Where could the next licensee M&A come from?

centrepoint alliance insignia financial insignia Countplus Diverger Sequoia WT Financial Group

28 February 2024
| By Laura Dew |
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The trend for M&A is continuing apace in 2024 as multiple licensee chief executives indicate a desire to grow their business via inorganic growth.

In their half-year financial results, the CEOs of Count, Sequoia and Centrepoint Alliance all flagged M&A activity in their future plans. 

Read below for what licensees are looking at in the year ahead.

Count

Count is set to acquire Diverger next week, but CEO Hugh Humphrey said this is not the end of its activity, with 2024 to be a transformative year. The growth has meant the firm is set to become Australia’s second-largest licensee once the Diverger merger is complete.  

“Undoubtedly, FY24 will be a transformative year for Count, especially with the scale and depth of the businesses that Diverger transaction brings. Even without the Diverger transaction, Count is expected to exceed the number of business-as-usual acquisitions compared to prior years in the form of equity, tuck-ins and services acquisitions,” he said.

“We’re very deliberate in how we target businesses for transactions that make sense strategically, that have the right cultural fit and comply with our disciplined approach around risk and capital management.”

Sequoia

One of the most active licensees in the M&A space with a 20 per cent stake in Euree Asset Management, the acquisition of a national paraplanning service and a legal services provider Australia Business Structures.

The firm is targeting 500 advisers by 2026 which will be achieved by acquiring adviser licensing services from subscale AFSL providers. 

“We will consider bolt-on acquisitions in InterPrac where we are acquiring customer books from financial planners in our network and outside the network. Typically, those are someone who is looking to retire in three to five years and doesn’t have a natural person to transition that book too. We will definitely look to do many of those,” said CEO Garry Crole. 

However, unlike other licensees, he ruled out acquiring a rival firm. 

“It’s unlikely we’d buy another licensee, it just opens up opportunities for competitors. Some of the licensees that have been acquired over the period, the advisers there didn’t want to be acquired and started looking for new homes, and we have been a beneficiary of that. 

Centrepoint Alliance

Chief executive, John Shuttleworth, is looking to its own existing licensee network to grow the business. It currently has 536 licensed and self-licensed firms in the Centrepoint network.

“The type of firms we are looking for are corporatised practices with high-integrity advisers and those with genuine succession plans. We will be looking at additional acquisitions if we find the right business.

“A core part of our business is around growing our adviser network via organic growth and M&A opportunity if we can find the right business that we can harmonise into the network.”

However, he flagged in August last year that the firm will also look at services adjacent to financial advice where it feels it can provide a competitive edge or a new service for advisers to use. 

WT Financial

With three acquisitions under its belt over the past three years, WT Financial has now shifted focus from its formal M&A strategy to consolidating its organic growth.

Most recently, the firm acquired Millennium3 (M3) from Insignia Financial in December 2023. Prior to this, WT Financial acquired Synchron in March 2022 and Perth-based Sentry Group in June 2021.

Despite ceasing its inorganic growth strategy, the company will still consider corporate opportunities when they arise.

Insignia 

In a reversal from other licensees, Insignia’s half-year results focused on divestment rather than future acquisitions. 

The firm divested Godfrey Pembroke in February 2024 and sold Millennium3 to WT Financial Group in December 2023 both exits causing the firm to fall from first place as Australia’s largest licensee. It also flagged further divestments from the business on the horizon, although this may not necessarily be in the advice division.

Referencing the Godfrey Pembroke exit, which it had acquired as part of MLC Wealth, chief executive Renato Mota said: “We have had a good working relationship with the group. What we looked to do was work with the financial advisers and create an environment for them to prosper which has led to the divestment.”

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