WT Financial’s Cullen on being first out of the gate on advice M&A

WT Financial Group M&A Keith Cullen Synchron Sentry insignia financial Millennium 3

24 November 2023
| By Laura Dew |
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WT Financial Group managing director, Keith Cullen, believes the current M&A activity in financial advice is long overdue, having been accused of “running into a burning building” when it embarked on its M&A strategy in 2018.

Earlier this week, the firm announced it will be acquiring 100 per cent of Millenium3 from Insignia, bringing its funds under advice to $23 billion. 

Cullen said, however, that WT Financial has actually ceased its formal M&A strategy, and the Millenium3 acquisition was a one-off opportunity where it was approached by Insignia.

“Having completed the Synchron acquisition last year, we were very comfortable and I said that M&A is no longer part of our strategy although if the right opportunity arose then we would look at them and this was one of those,” he said on an investor webinar about the acquisition.

“It’s not a driving force in our corporate strategy but we will continue to look at opportunities if they arise.”

WT Financial is far from the only licensee making M&A moves at the moment as Count is currently in discussion with Diverger and COG took a stake in Centrepoint Alliance, having failed to successfully bid against Count for Diverger. Diverger itself also tried to acquire Centrepoint Alliance last year but was unsuccessful. 

Cullen said this reflects what WT Financial has believed for several years in the benefits and opportunity for financial advice, having acquired Sentry in June 2021 and Synchron in March 2022.

Speaking to Money Management in 2021 after the Sentry acquisition, Cullen was already positing that it was the “ideal time” for the business to double the number of advice practices it had in a period of industry disruption. At the time, the firm was working with 200 advice practices, and it now works with more than 400.

Speaking this week, Cullen reflected: “What is driving this activity is everyone is recognising the opportunity that we saw back in 2018. People accused us then of being crazy as the banks were exiting the space, we got politely accused of ‘running into a burning building’ but we wanted to be counter-cyclical.

“We felt that advisers needed to see their networks return to the state they had been in previously, which is being owned and operated by people that were practitioners themselves who understood what it is like to sit in a room with clients everyday and to run a practice everyday. 

“All that corporate activity now, our own included, is people seeing the opportunity that advisers need and are looking for the right level of service and support from their network. We are delighted to see the activity and see the interest in the sector. It’s very encouraging.”

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