Trevor Bransdon

At the end of June it will be 100 days since the Godfrey Pembroke licensee extracted itself from the institutional ownership of Insignia Financial, and director Trevor Bransdon says the licensee and the advisers and practices it authorises are buzzing.

Bransdon, an adviser with the Sydney-based firm Much More Than Money, says now the licensee is back in advisers’ hands, there are “lots of little things that will make a big difference” to how it works and how it supports its advisers.

As part of the transition, the longstanding Practice Development Group will be disbanded.

“The structure we’ve got in place is a unit trust, and the that will be really the main board; and the unit trust will own the shares in Godfrey Pembroke and also then in a service entity,” Bransdon tells Professional Planner.

The business will be led by former Securitor managing director Mark Fisher as chief executive, and the licensee responsible managers will be Bransdon, Fisher, and Lighthouse Capital founder Bernard Schortinghuis.

“What we were wanting to do is improve the ability of the businesses using the [Godfrey Pembroke] license to better serve their clients, or for the businesses to be more efficient for the businesses to generate the profit they’re looking for; but also, for the businesses to have the capacity to help Australians with financial advice,” Bransdon says.

“Whenever we make a decision, or whenever Mark and his team are putting things in place, there’s got to be that consideration or that lens to look through: how does this help the businesses? And why is it going to help businesses?”

Bransdon says some of the changes helps remove the perception of conflict. “We’re not beholden to anyone,” he says.

Some are more substantive, such as “we can negotiate directly with product providers around rate cards and those sorts of things without there being a mothership that might have already negotiated something different, which hamstrings our ability to get better outcomes for our clients”.

Clear benefits

While there are a range of clear benefits to being owned by an institution, Bransdon says Godfrey Pembroke and its advisers are adamant that being owned and run by advisers has some clear benefits.

“It allows us to be commercial and pragmatic, without having numerous lawyers jump in and provide their view on things which can be overkill [and] also means that the ability to be agile is hampered,” he says.

“We can now be much more agile. We want to be pragmatic when it [comes to] things like licensee standards, always making sure we’re keeping the businesses and the clients safe, but making sure that they’re workable standards and they make sense. We’ll have a good view of the risk that we’ll be looking to either mitigate or avoid.”

Godfrey Pembroke currently authorises around 65 advisers and Bransdon says there’s a longer-term plan to increase that number to help capture some further economies of scale.

“We do want to get a little bit bigger, but we don’t want to get too big – something around maybe 200 advisers,” he says.

“But it’s not in three years’ time. We’re happy just to take our time to get there. The business stands up as it is now.

“We definitely want to grow, but it will be the right growth. We will be selective in that growth as well.”

Bransdon says the group is “still working through exactly what the ideal practice looks like [but] we’ve got a fair idea”.

“Essentially, it’s going to be one that likes to advise in the high-net-wealth space, to a degree,” he says. “But in saying that, for a lot of us, a client that is paying fees of $7000 to $10,000 a year is a great client.”