Adviser and Godfrey Pembroke PDG director Harry Mantzouratos

The vast majority of Godfrey Pembroke (GPL) advisers will transition to IOOF under a newly configured license after five out of six members of GPL’s internal representative committee, the Practice Development Group (PDG), endorsed the move.

The PDG board, which was tasked by Godfrey Pembroke members with assessing the IOOF offer to come across after it purchased MLC in late August, presented findings to members after an “exhausting due diligence process”.

“Following a survey of member firms we can advise that the vast majority of PDG members, including all members of the PDG board bar one, have indicated their intention to transition to a new Godfrey Pembroke branded license under IOOF,” Godfrey Pembroke state.

GPL will now move onto one of the three small licensees being disbanded and ‘reskinned’ as part of IOOF’s advice 2.0 program.

The decision is a significant victory for IOOF in its effort to build scale. To get full value out of the $1.44 MLC acquisition it needs as many of the 500 Garvan, Apogee, Meritum and Godfrey Pembroke advisers to come across as possible.

For IOOF, convincing these advisers to join means not only a validation of the hefty price tag, but with the group hurtling towards $500 billion in FUM IOOF will soon overtake AMP as the largest wealth manager in the country.

In September IOOF head of advice Darren Whereat said while he “wasn’t arrogant enough” to believe IOOF would get all the advisers across, he was confident they’d get “a good majority”.

IOOF haven’t been alone in their pursuit, however; within days of the MLC acquisition several other growing mid-tier licensees, including CountPlus and Fortnum, were in discussions with the MLC cohort.

While a handful of advisers bolted, most waited on word from the PDG. These advisers still have free reign to leave GPL, but the brand – and the majority of its advisers – will transition to the new IOOF template.

It is understood the lone dissenting PDG board member joined rival CountPlus during the due diligence process.

Piece by piece approach

According to Sydney adviser and PDG director Harry Mantzouratos, IOOF’s ability to help Godfrey Pembroke grow by attracting other advisers was a deciding factor in the PDG’s endorsement.

Despite its high standing in the advice community and reputation for being one of the better advisory groups servicing high-net-worth clients, Godfrey Pembroke’s adviser numbers have shrunk from 134 in 2018 to around 80 today.

“Our numbers have dropped over the last few years so we wanted an arrangement that would be attractive to the marketplace,” Mantzouratos tells Professional Planner. “We look at this as an opportunity because there’s going to be a number of high growth businesses that will be attracted to the GP brand.”

The PDG’s consultation with IOOF and subsequent decision-making process, he says, involved a fair bit of back and forth. Mantzouratos says IOOF’s Whereat helped facilitate the discourse.

“As the concept developed we’d go to IOOF and ask for an additional matter and Darren, to his credit, was always very open about how to make it work,” he reveals. “Piece by piece the offer developed and they were able to tick most of the boxes.”

Part of that approach meant an early discussion about conflicts and IOOF’s vision for a clean licensing model. In September Whereat revealed IOOF would have all product subsidies and grandfathered commissions off its books by the end of 2020, and last week IOOF’s head of research, Matt Olsen, said there was “not one skerrick of pressure” within the group to promote internal products.

“The concept of a clean model was one of the considerations, and early on we had a talk addressing any elephants in the room,” Mantzouratos says. “We dealt with that, and there aren’t any arrangements influenced by distribution.”

Getting to know each other

Mantzouratos says IOOF’s promise to not only retain the PDG structure within Godfrey Pembroke, but to award the PDG a seat within the licensee board, was also a factor in their endorsement.

“For me that was a game changer,” Mantzouratos says. “There was a genuine desire for the group to stay together, but for the concept of an advice led licensing arrangement to work we needed to get a seat on the board of the license.”

Godfrey Pembroke’s PDG is a powerful voice in the dealer group. Every GPL-licensed adviser becomes a member and its six board members – after being voted in by the advisers – become directors of the PDG corporatised body. “The role of the PDG has been embedded in Godfrey Pembroke from day one,” he says.

For the Godfrey Pembroke transition to work, the PDG, its board and the IOOF team will need to mesh well.

“We’re not exactly married to IOOF but getting to know each other layer by layer,” Mantzouratos says.

Tahn Sharpe is a Sydney-based financial services journalist with a background in financial planning. He writes on advice, superannuation, investment, banking and insurance issues, is a certified SMSF Adviser and holds an Advanced Diploma of Financial Planning. Contact at [email protected]
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