IOOF head of advice, Darren Whereat (Image: TS)

He’s running what will be the biggest network of advisers in the country, but Darren Whereat downplays his involvement in the $1.4 billion deal that brought MLC Wealth into the IOOF fold.

“I don’t want to overplay my role,” Whereat says, deferring to the work of CEO Renato Mota, COO Frank Lombardo and and chief legal officer Lawrence Hastings in securing the deal.

Whereat’s role moving forward, however, is a large one. As head of advice, the industry veteran is charged with making the acquisition of its longstanding arch-rival worthwhile, which means getting as many of the 500 or so Garvan, Apogee, Meritum and Godfrey Pembroke advisers to come across as possible.

To make things easier, he’s armed himself with a simple strategy. “Don’t guild the lily and don’t put any fluff around it,” he says, “Tell it like it is.”

Getting buy-in

For those outside the negotiation room (or zoom room, as it were) Whereat says the MLC deal would have come as a surprise. In order to convince as many of the MLC-licensed advisers to come across, he knows he has to do some explaining.

“Until the last 48 hours we probably haven’t been on many of their radars,’ he tells Professional Planner.

There is a lot on the line for IOOF, who will take over from AMP as the biggest wealth manager in the country if all MLC advisers come across. In truth, AMP’s downsizing program and ongoing adviser outflows mean this was just a matter of time anyway. Far more important than sheer numbers for IOOF, however, will be the scale more advisers create; if all goes well IOOF could hit over $500 billion in advice assets under management.

According to Whereat, it’s about more than numbers. He’s looking for buy-in.

“We want the people that ultimately join us to do it for the right reasons, not because it’s part of a transaction,” he says. “We’re confident that we’ll get a good majority but we want to get them for the right reasons.”

The advice head isn’t taking the allegiance of MLC advisers for granted. He’s aware that if advisers are being forced to change their licensee – which could necessitate the rigmarole of new SoA’s, administration systems, branding, etc – many will see it as a catalyst to canvass the broader market.

At the forefront of his mind would be the Viridian deal with Westpac, which gave them inside running on the advisers cast adrift from Securitor and Magnitude. Of the 400 advisers available, Viridian nabbed about 100, while most became self-licensed or migrated to licensees like Fortnum, Centrepoint and Oreana.

“We’re not arrogant enough to think we’ll get everybody,” Whereat says. “They don’t automatically come across as part of the transaction.”

The self-employed advisers, in particular, will approach the decision ahead knowing they can easily go elsewhere. Whereat is acutely aware of this, and knows they will pose his biggest challenge. There is a nuance in the transaction that shouldn’t get lost, he reckons: “Self-employed advisers always control their own destiny.”