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Licence hinders Aus Unity’s move into estate planning

It has been three months since Australian Unity Personal Financial Services acquired an estate planning business to broaden its services, but a launch is still on hold as the firm waits for ASIC to approve its licence.

ifa reported in June that Australian Unity PFS had entered into an agreement to acquire estate planning and administration specialists Flinders Australia, which was completed on 1 July.

The announcement mentioned the plan was to retain Flinders' operating model and expand the service into different states by having it become a licensed traditional trustee company.

However, during a media event in Sydney last week, Australian Unity PFS chief executive Steve Davis said he is still waiting for ASIC to grant Flinders that right.

"We need to get the trustee licence and because ASIC hasn't actually granted a new trustee licence since the legislation changed in 2012, it's taking a little bit longer than we'd like," Mr Davis told ifa.

"So we've got a fair bit of work to do to get all of that right, get the service delivery right, get the consistency across the states, and build out a presence in NSW and Queensland."

Nevertheless, Mr Davis is hopeful, saying he believes the licence will be granted by the end of this year.


"We're confident we'll be launching in the first quarter of the new calendar year, given we get [the licence] before Christmas," he said.

Australian Unity PFS's acquisition of Flinders Australia followed other purchases this year by the company, including Premium Wealth Management in January and Waratah Insurance Brokers in March.

Acquiring Flinders will take Australian Unity PFS into the estate planning and administration advice space, which is currently underserving many Australians, Mr Davis said.

"The current private trustees are very focused on high-net-worth individuals. If you haven't got more than $1 million investable assets, they really don't want to know you," he said.

"We think there is an enormous opportunity and need for us to fill that space."

Mr Davis added that this plan has been welcomed by Australian Unity advisers and clients.

"It's been a hugely positive [reaction]. One of the problems in the financial advice process is properly integrating estate planning advice and execution of that advice into the advice program," he said.

"Advisers are often pretty good at saying 'You need to have a will and you should have an enduring power of attorney and medical powers of attorney and all these things and then they send their client away to go and do that somewhere else and it never happens.

"So if we can make it easier for them to brief the solicitor and pass on the information that's already been collected from the client, that makes it a much better client experience and significantly increases the chance of people taking action."