Keith Cullen

Listed licensee group WT Financial Group has acquired the Millennium3 Australian financial service licensee from Insignia for $2 million.  

The deal will be funded from cash, adding 75 advice practices and 140 advisers to the WTFG, along with $5 billion of funds under advice and about $150 of in-force premiums. 

WTFG chief executive Keith Cullen tells Professional Planner the deal was opportunistic after Insignia signalled its intention to sell M3 about five months ago and Cullen believes it is a snug strategic fit. 

“It’s a broad network, there’s a lot of wealth management in the network, but it has a proud history and a proud lineage in risk insurance,” Cullen says. 

“I’m on the record publicly, with our advisers and the profession generally, saying that people haven’t been paying enough attention to [risk advice]. They need to get refocused on it. It’s something that we’re very focused on in the network.” 

Cullen is referring to comments made earlier this year where he outlined plans to expand risk advice access in the WTFG network. 

“Those risk specialists in [M3] will find a very good home with a with a lot of people, a lot of their peers, that can provide them support and a good collegiate spirit around it,” Cullen says. 

Cullen says WTFG will retain M3’s frontline staff and regional managers, and M3 chief executive Helen Blackford will stay on to assist with the transition, and possibly post-transition. 

Cullen has led WTFG through a period of expansion by acquisition, having added the Synchron and Sentry AFSLs to the group, expanding its adviser footprint to around 430, based on data as of October 19 supplied by Adviser Ratings. 

The M3 acquisition lifts the group’s funds under advice to $23 billion, in-force premiums to close to half a billion dollars and adviser numbers to approximately 560, making it the third-largest licensee group in the country, behind AMP (872 advisers) and Insignia (815 advisers post-M3 sale). 

“I’d be surprised if anyone had more in-force premium are accounted for more risk annual new risk premium than what we do,” Cullen says. 

Insignia invited bids for M3 and Cullen says WTFG’s existing relationship with Insignia was a key factor in getting the deal over the line. 

“Our advisers have got a fair amount of client money both on their platforms and in their investment management mandates, and Insignia support all of our educational events their staff are regular attendees at all of our events,” Cullen says. 

“Insignia really cared about where the group went, which is sensible. Sensible, because you don’t want to make enemies. You definitely don’t want advisers to just think you’ve sold them off for money and not really cared about where they landed. It was really important to insignia that they got the counterparty right. We’re just pleased that we’ve built the business into such a shape that were regarded as a viable counterparty for a very large business like Insignia.” 

In a statement to the ASX, Insignia’s outgoing chief executive Renato Mota said the sale of M3 is part of the group’s strategy to “reset its financial advice operating model through the creation of a new advice services partnership model”. 

Insignia said M3 contributed about $6.3 million of net revenue to the group and posted a pre-tax loss of $2.3 million in the year to 30 June 2023. 

WTFG’s acquisition of M3 follows Count’s acquisition of the risk-focused Affinia licensee for $3.3 million from life insurer TAL and is the latest move in a flurry of activity among ASX-listed licensee businesses. 

Listed finance group GOG has acquired a 19.9 per cent stake in the listed Centrepoint Alliance, and Count has a recently improved bid on-foot for Diverger, which includes the GPS Wealth licensee and which values Diverger at around $51 million. 

Count has seen off one potential counter-bid for Diverger, from COG, which valued Diverger at slightly more but was not regarded by the Diverger board as a superior offer. 

Off-market things are just as fluid, with Australian Unity last week announcing it had sold the Australian Unity Personal Financial Services AFSL – with 150 self-empoyed advisers – to Fortnum, and its 18-employed adviser business to Nestworth Financial Strategists (formerly Henderson Matusch), which is backed by AZ NGA. 

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