AMP Financial Planning is no longer the largest licensee in the country, with the title going to the SMSF Advisers Network in a shakeup that reveals just how markedly the licensee landscape has changed in the last 5 years.

AMP FP is now the second largest licensee with 815 advisers, while the SMSF Advisers Network tallied 839 at the end of 2020 according to HFS Consulting. The two remain the only standout licensees in terms of numbers, with independently owned Synchron (515), brokerage outfit Morgans (492) and AMP’s Charter (453) rounding out the second tier.

AMP FP’s backslide is not unexpected, with the group halfway through a three-year transformation announced by CEO Francesco De Ferrari in August 2019 aimed at shedding less profitable advisers and consolidating smaller practices.

Nevertheless, AMP FP’s narrowing adviser base is remarkable. As recently as five years ago AMP FP had 1,656 licensed advisers according to Professional Planner’s annual licensee list. That number reduced to 1,555 in 2017, 1,436 in 2018 and then 1,310 in 2019.

After losing 234 advisers to April 2020 the cohort has been whittled down another 237 advisers in nine months, setting the group up for its biggest ever annual reduction.

Top end levelled out

AMP FP is not alone in losing advisers. Every one of the top five licensees shrunk in 2020, including (in order) the table-topping SMSF Advisers Network (-87), Synchron (-14), Morgans (-19) and Charter (-128).

Reductions at the top end continue a clear trend in advice over the last five years – the levelling out of licensee landscape as institutional players eschew the formerly rich distribution channels of advice.

Specialist mid-tier providers like The SMSF Advisers Network (SMSFs), Synchron (insurance) and Morgans (investment brokerage) have largely held their ground, but a look at the dealer groups outside the top five shows that mid-tiers don’t necessarily have to be specialists to prosper; MLC’s Garvan (GWM) gained 57 advisers to come in at 6th with 411, Inteprac gained 40 to fit in at 8th with 308 advisers while Lifespan was the fastest growing licensee on the list, adding 69 adviser roles to sit in 9th spot with 268 advisers.

The levelling out of the top end is a significant trend, but a more alarming one remains; adviser numbers have dropped across the board by almost a third since the royal commission due to a confluence of higher education standards, reduced revenues and a dwindling pipeline of talent entering the industry.

Delayed owners list shakeup

Perhaps the biggest shakeup in the licensee landscape – IOOF’s acquisition of MLC from NAB – has yet to have a significant impact on the order of licensee owners, with AMP still hanging onto the number one spot.

IOOF has 1,249 advisers according to HFS Consulting, trailing AMP with 1,598.

This will likely change as a significant portion of the MLC cohort, which currently sits fourth with 676 advisers, disperses in earnest. While many MLC advisers are casting their eyes elsewhere, Godfrey Pembroke agreed to join IOOF in November and a significant number of advisers are expected to follow.

The NTAA, which owns The SMSF Advisers Network, is the third largest ownership group with 839 advisers, followed by MLC and Easton Group, which recently purchased licensee Paragem from platform provider HUB24.

The influx of MLC advisers to IOOF should position the group as the largest licensee owner at some stage during 2021, but it is unlikely to reach the kind of mass AMP achieved in 2016, when over 3,135 advisers sat under the same licensee banner.

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]
2 comments on “Top end of licensee list dwindles as AMP FP knocked off perch”
  1. Well, its probably a good time for the powers to be to investigate SMSF Advisers Network to see who this new major new player is, and how they go about things before its too late. Perhaps they should also pre-order a gurney just in case this one folds up like a cheap deck chair like some other notable former licenses did when exposed to scrutiny for the first time….

  2. When do we move on from using ‘number of planners’ as a measure of success. True professions use a basket of measures to reflect quality and growth. Shouldn’t we move to quality and profitability measures. If success is only measured by number of planners regardless of quality – then the largest is meaningless – and we have seen what that delivered to clients.

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