GPS Wealth and Affinia Financial Advisers were the major winners in researcher CoreData’s annual Licensee of the Year Awards, while not enough institutionally branded licensees qualified for an award to be given out in that category.

GPS Wealth beat other finalists Lifespan Financial Services and Sentry Financial Group to win Independent Licensee of the Year, while Affinia edged out Matrix Financial Planning Solutions and RI Advice for Institutionally Affiliated Licensee of the Year.

In an indication of how deep the institutional retreat from advice has been this year, no award was given out for Institutionally Branded Licensee of the Year. “Not awarded in 2020 due to an insufficient number of qualifying licensees,” a note on CoreData’s New Model Adviser stated.

Overall Licensee of the Year went to GPS Wealth, while RI Advice chief executive officer Peter Ornsby (pictured) pipped Affinia head of advice Marcus O’Sullivan for the Licensee Leadership Award.

The Licensee Leadership award, which was judged on adviser satisfaction and the level of understanding and empathy shown by the leader towards the advisers, was a tight tussle according to CoreData. “O’Sullivan’s and Ornsby’s ratings were statistically inseparable,” CoreData stated.

The Industry Leadership award was given to IOOF head of advice Darren Whereat, who was recently given the keys to the MLC network of advisers after it was purchased, along with MLC’s platforms and superannuation businesses, for $1.44 billion.

“The awards reflect advisers’ satisfaction with their licensees across more than a dozen aspects of their service offering, and how it is structured and delivered to advisers – including the fees they charge – and other aspects of the licensee structure and its network dynamics,” CoreData stated.

“The winners and finalists in the Licensee of the Year Awards each showed themselves to be capable of delivering a highly rated level of service and support to advisers in an extremely challenging environment,” the researcher continued. “Financial advice is grappling with the implication of thousands of advisers choosing to leave the industry as it continues a transition to a professional structure and footing.”