The Italian-backed AZ NGA’s 130th transaction, and its 20th involving a Western Australian advice firm, will support Troy MacMillan’s The Wealth Designers to expand from its Perth base to the east coast of Australia.
As foreshadowed in Professional Planner last month, TWD plans to have a presence in every Australian capital city. The firm currently has advisers in Perth and Sydney. It has also recently joined forces with Switzerland-based former ipac adviser Patrick Canion to offer TWD clients cross-jurisdictional advice and investment services.
Prior to the AZ NGA transaction, announced on Wednesday, TWD was majority-owned by MacMillan, along with Graeme Hyland, Stephen Kostarelas and Michelle Nelson. Nelson will exit as a shareholder, as part of a deal which departs from the typical AZ NGA approach.
MacMillan, Hyland and Kostarelas will remain majority shareholders, “which is slightly different than [AZ NGA’s] previous model where they’d come in and take 51 per cent”, MacMillan says.
“The question of majority ownership by AZ NGA was “never really a discussion point”, he says. “It’s around having a minority interest to help grow the business. They really believed in the vision and what we could do and wanted to be a part of it. So that was music to my ears.”
The transaction provides TWD with the capital and the support it will need to pursue MacMillan’s growth plans for the business.
“Our vision is that we want to grow the east coast out as quickly as possible,” he says.
“And we’re really, really ready to get that going. By the end of 2024 we would like to at least double the size of our Sydney presence, but also have another major presence somewhere on the east coast.”
MacMillan says TWD is already in discussions with potential advisers in Brisbane.
“There are opportunities in Melbourne too, but it seems more [likely] for us in Brisbane,” he says.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we’d have Sydney and Brisbane, offices in both cities, and already be in early discussions with either Melbourne or Adelaide as well. We really do feel that within about 18 months, we can progress a lot quicker than what we’ve done the last five or six, seven years.”
TWD is structured as a series of advice pods, which draw on shared support services located in Perth and work to the same documented advice process, but are dedicated to servicing their own groups of clients.
Expanding into other cities simply involves establishing new pods, albeit operating at a distance. They will follow the same advice process, and draw on the same support services, but the advisers will be in different cities. TWD already runs a pod in Albany, south-west of Perth, in a similar way.
For his part, MacMillan says he feels rejuvenated by the AZ NGA investment.
“You’re trying to grow this model, which I’ve talked to you about since back in the day – 2013, so 13 years now,” he says.
“But when you’re trying to do it yourself and you’re just using bank finance, it’s just so hard. You do a lot of work sometimes, and you go backwards. There’s a lot of things that you spend months and months on, which you think are a great thing for the business. And then the bank says no, or doesn’t agree, and then you wait. The rate of growth for me hasn’t been as fast as I would like. So I’m really keen now.”
McMillan says TWD has the right structure and the right people in place, but to date has lacked the financial resources and a partner to help them make the most of that.
“We’ve adopted great technology, we’ve got a great structure,” he says.
“We’ve got really great heads of areas to help run different parts and different facets of the business. All we needed was just a bigger player who could help us and open the door for us to be able to move forward – without the computer-says-no mentality.”
McMillan says the opportunity he saw for TWD 13 years ago is even greater today than it was then, which was to offer “boutique-type advice offering…to people around the country”.
“But what I’ve noticed, probably since the banking royal commission and what’s happened with educational requirements, is that that [opportunity] really widened,” he says.
“Now I see a quite a large opportunity for a medium-sized type business that does advice completely different, is based on what’s of value to the client, and has a really documented approach that delivers outcomes for clients.
“It’s not just about money, it’s about meaning, and people really get it, and they can trust that approach.”