In a quest to compete in a market dominated by institutions, 11 indepen­dently-owned financial planning firms are merging.

The groups have signed a participation agreement to form the Best Advice Project, a loose collective designed to share strategic information, streamline back office processes and compliance and seek out lower cost structures for the individual firms through bulk-buying.

Ex-Tynan Mackenzie chief Tony Fenning will be heading the project man­agement company, Project East West.

The Best Advice mem­bers are Sydney-based firms Arnheim Gillard & Partners and Guest McLeod; Melbourne-based firms Heraud Harrison, Keysbrook Financial Services, Haintz Financial Services and The Money Managers; Brisbane firms Douglas Wenck, Ellwood Barry McPherson, Kilk­enny Rose and Associ­ates, and Tasmanian firm Shadforths.

The combined worth of the independently-owned firms is some $10 billion in funds under advice, spread between over 100 financial planners, with offices in five capital cities and other regional centres.

According to Fenning, the driving force behind the initiative is an aware­ness of just how much money institutions – which are criticised as regard­ing financial advice as a ‘distribution’ channel for products – are throwing at the advice industry and the need to compete on that level.

The new entity will have a different name but each of the firms will retain their respective brands. “There would be an overall brand, but it would be very inten­tional on our part not to disturb the existing brands because each of them are well recognised in their own communities as cen­tres of excellence in advice, so to put a big corporate brand over the top would destroy a lot more value than it would add,” Fenning said. 

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