Fifteen months into her role as general manager of the MLC-aligned dealer group, Apogee Financial Planning, and Fiona Navarro could be forgiven for looking backwards rather than forwards.

Fresh from being named research house CoreData’s Advisory Group of the Year for 2012 for the third time in the last five years, Apogee is seeing its integrated model enjoy strong growth in 2013.

In Navarro’s time as GM, Apogee has recruited 61 advisers and 30 businesses for a total of 205 advisers and 145 businesses.

Lucky inheritance

“I think I was quite fortunate to inherit Apogee because it’s a young dynamic business,” she told Professional Planner. “The average adviser age is 41, which is quite low, and we have very few retiree practices. Out of that 145, only 12 businesses are focused on retirees.”

It is this business-building culture, along with its integrated business modeling, that most differentiates Apogee Financial Planning from the other licensees under the NAB Wealth banner

“We have in excess of 50 integrated accounting firms and I’ve been proactively targeting accounting firms. Twenty of these have joined in the past 12 months as part of that recruitment number,” says Navarro. “So, our message is that if you’re running an integrated model, you’ll be right at home here.”

Building new value

However, this tweaking of strategy has not been without incident and Navarro is unapologetic if existing businesses choose to leave the fold.

“We had one business leave us in January that had been with us for about 18 months… which is unfortunate, but in many ways not unfortunate because the response was that he just didn’t fit,” she said.

“He was, as an example, an older, life insurance-focused adviser who really required a lot of handholding and support and for us that’s a lot of energy devoted where you don’t get significant value.”

Looking forward, Navarro says she has consulted Apogee’s more successful integrated accounting businesses with a view building a tangible offer for attracting similar practices.

“We’ve asked them to think back to the inception of their businesses and, with hindsight, asked what a licensee could have delivered to accelerate growth,” she said.

Navarro also notes an increasing number of own-AFSL practices approaching NAB Wealth and other institutions, a scenario that was almost unthinkable a few years ago.

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