US group makes play for Australian advice market

A US wealth management group has acquired three local advice practices, with plans to make further purchases off the back of its Nasdaq-listed parent company acquiring a Melbourne advice firm earlier this year.

In a statement, US wealth firm Connectus Wealth Advisers announced that it had acquired Sydney-based wealth management and accounting practice Brady & Associates, Victorian advice firm Link and Brisbane boutique practice Westwood.

Connectus is owned by the US-listed Focus Financial Partners, which has established a presence in the Australian advice market through the acquisition of specialist advice firm Mediq in February and high-net-worth advisory group Escala Partners in 2019.

Focus co-founder Rajini Kodialam told ifa that the group envisioned global expansion for Connectus, which would offer “a global network of boutique, client-centric financial advice firms that will sit side by side, share best practice and leverage their collective strengths to continue growing and supporting their clients”.

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Focus owns advice firms in the UK and Canada as well as Australia and the US, and has a strong focus on using its balance sheet to assist with funding and expansion of its partner firms, Ms Kodialam said.

She added that the structural and regulatory transformation of the Australian advice market in recent years and its transition to a profession had been a key factor in the firm’s investment.

“Following FOFA and the royal commission, the industry is moving away from vertical integration and towards a customer-centric approach,” Ms Kodialam said. 

“Meanwhile, with major institutions exiting wealth management there are more advisers moving into the boutique unaligned market. These shifts present a compelling proposition for the wealth management sector in Australia.”

Ms Kodialam said establishing a network of independent firms, rather than a licensee, was part of the group’s strategy to encourage an entrepreneurial culture in advice and allow firms the freedom to serve clients in the way that suited them best.

“We are not a dealer group. We are not distributing any products. Rather, we are a strategic investor in boutique client-centric financial advice firms that have a formula for success and a culture that works,” she said. 

“Our resources are on hand to enhance that formula, not change it, and retain the culture of these firms.”

Brady & Associates founder and managing director Paul Brady said the group had been attracted to Focus’ global reach and commitment to maintaining its partner firms’ independence.

"Connectus will enable us to maintain our highly personalised, client-centric approach while gaining access to best practices, additional client services and enhanced technology and processes,” Mr Brady said. 

“Longer-term, Connectus will help us solve for succession, and create a seamless transition for our team and our clients, while preserving the legacy of the firm we have built."

US group makes play for Australian advice market
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