Viridian Advisory, a boutique with longstanding ties to the Westpac/BT advice network and still among the largest clients of Panorama, has signed onto to the new platform launched this year by rival Colonial First State.
Viridian was on Monday morning announced as a “cornerstone client” of the CFS Edge platform. The Melbourne-headquartered firm was a beneficiary of Westpac’s exit from financial advice after the Hayne royal commission led to Wexit – the exit of the big four banks from the industry. In 2019, Viridian CEO Glenn Calder did a deal with Westpac to take on the bulk of its salaried advice network after it shut down its various self-employed licensee channels, hastening the bank’s exit from advice.
Though the firm operates its own licence and is free to use products of its choice, Calder said at that time that Viridian had a “shared background” with the bank and “deeply understood” the BT advice business as a longstanding commercial partner run by many former Westpac employees.
Professional Planner understands that Viridian is still one of the larger users of BT’s Panorama platform by funds under administration (FUA). CFS has also recruited many former Westpac/BT employees as the bank has downsized its wealth footprint.
Viridian advice general manager Brett Arnol tells Professional Planner the decision to sign on to the new CFS platform was helped along by some familiar faces from Westpac days now representing CFS.
“Our relationship with Colonial First State goes back to their leadership team and the BT history there with Bryce Quirk, Chris Mather and Rob Coombe,” Arnol says.
“They were all at Westpac when we were there. There was that relationship piece there, that familiarity when we spoke to them.”
Quirk joined CFS in March 2019 and is currently group executive – distribution, while Coombe (who was BT chief executive from 2004 to 2010) has been executive chair since March 2021, and Mather was poached near the end of last year.
“A lot of the advisers within Viridian have a Westpac history,” Arnol says.
“When we founded Viridian back in 2015, that came from Wesptac/BT at the time. Panorama is definitely a platform [that] a number of us use.”
Viridian has 350 staff including 120 advisers, operating in 27 locations across Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the ACT. It has a total of $7 billion in funds under administration.
Arnol says the firm uses four preferred platforms, although declined to name them specifically, but adds there’s probably FUM in eight or nine in total.
“We’ve got multiple platforms available to all our advisers including industry funds,” Arnol says. “Ultimately, Edge just slots in as another choice for our advisers to ensure there’s client choice.”
While the addition of Edge is a big deal for the former BT licensee, Arnol notes it isn’t the first foray with CFS products.
“We purchased a business give years ago now which had some First Choice on it, so we do have some funds in Colonial FirstChoice at the moment,” Arnol says.
“Ultimately what we’re looking for is ‘how do we use platforms with high technology enablement… to ensure we can try to minimise the cost of advice’. If we can do that, we can see more clients, right? We see Edge being a member of that. It fits into our technology slant as an advice business.”
Arnol says Edge was only introduced to its approved product list last week, so no client FUM is on there yet and there is no intention to migrate FirstChoice FUM.
“The advisers like to have extra choice and more choice means better outcomes for clients,” Arnol says.
“Not that we’re looking at [migrating FirstChoice to Edge]; best interest to the client comes into play here.”