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IOOF gains access to 400,000 customers

The sale of Credit Union Australia’s financial planning arm will create a distribution avenue of hundreds of thousands of consumers for Bridges Financial Services and parent company IOOF.

Speaking to ifa about the strategic thinking behind the takeover of CUA Financial Planning, Bridges general manager, alliances and distribution, Jason Kriss, said the deal was no accident.

“Aligning ourselves to a large mutual like CUA with 400,000 customers brings a lot of strategic benefits to us,” Mr Kriss said. “While we already have 80 partners in the [customer-owned and mutual] space, one of our gaps was one of the bigger partners that already had a financial planning strategy.”

With 16 full-fledged advisers set to join Bridges under the deal – and an additional 11 support staff – Mr Kriss anticipates the new recruits will have little trouble making the cultural shift.

“Bridges was owned by the credit union association and was borne out of that space – a lot of our planners are entrenched in that philosophy,” he said. “The attractive part with these planners is that they have a strong customer service ethic because of their background in working for a mutual and we think we have that cultural alignment.”

Bridges will now begin a dialogue with the 16 advisers to determine contract arrangements including the possibility of equity stakes in the dealer group for those interested in having “skin in the game”, Mr Kriss said.

CUA chief executive Chris Whitehead is equally optimistic about the deal, anticipating a smooth transition for his former staff members.

“One of the key criteria and reasons for picking Bridges was their familiarity and empathy for the customer-owned environment,” Mr Whitehead told ifa.

“While they are part of IOOF, they have a good understanding, good processes and we don’t really foresee any problems with our customers or staff in that regard.”