Last month two of the elite dealer groups in the country, Centrestone and Berkley, combined to form Centric Wealth with the aim of becoming the advice brand for the nation’s wealthy. Roger Hancock, who headed up the Canberra Berkley practice, talks about the merger, his own practice and how to keep high net worth clients happy.

Visit Canberra: it’s lovely in Autumn. Otherwise, for non-residents at least, the nation’s pre-fabricated capital city doesn’t appear to have much going for it: it’s cold a lot of the time; it has all those politicians in one place; and, the most confusing system of roundabouts in the southern hemisphere. But Canberra is not just about political intrigue and complicated roads (the two may be related). Australia’s capital also houses a wealthy population whose need for financial advice has enabled Roger Hancock and his team to build a business which is “up there with any in the major cities” and boasts almost half a billion dollars of funds under management. Hancock’s Canberra practice is now under the Centric Wealth banner after last month’s marriage of two of the most well-connected high net worth financial planning groups in the country – Centrestone and Berkley. Hancock hails from the Berkley side of the deal but his history in the industry goes back over 25 years, starting in a banking career with the NAB before joining the famous Pembroke dealer group in 1990, which then morphed into Godfrey Pembroke in 1995. Ironically, it was when Hancock’s former employer, the NAB through its MLC subsidiary, bought Godfrey Pembroke in 2000 that he, along with a dozen or so others in the group, jumped ship to start the Berkley Group, citing the desire to maintain their independence. Through all the changes, however, Hancock says a “common vision” has sustained the group of advisers who formed Berkley – a desire to put the client first without any institutional conflict of interest. “We want to maintain the central client focus,” he says. “We are a non-institutionally aligned, fee-based business. We have always believed if the client wins the business can’t fail. That’s at the heart of every decision we make.” The merger with Centrestone, Hancock says, was only made possible because both groups shared the same vision, although in other ways the businesses were complementary rather than identical. Centrestone, for example, had a strong lending and insurance capability and attractive recruitment model and Berkley a more widely developed investment and financial planning process. And while all the details are yet to be finalised – for instance, Berkley’s badged Avanteos platform, Wraport, may or may not be rolled out to the new group – Centric Wealth, with 35 or so advisers on board, is well on the way to achieving its principal aim of ‘scale’. According to Hancock, scale brings with it: greater purchasing power, a wider range of services; more investment opportunities; and the ability to attract “quality people” to the business. Importantly too, a larger group of talent may also solve the age-old problem of building equity and succession planning. “One of the problems for successful people in this business has been how to build and sell an asset, not just create a cashflow,” Hancock says. Centric Wealth is in the process of creating equity now with its corporatisation plan – all the Berkley practices in the group are selling their businesses into a central holding company. Centrestone already had a corporatised model. The merger hasn’t been completely painless, however, with some departures for primarily individual and personal reasons. “The vast majority of the value has been retained in the new group,” Hancock says. As the dust is settling, though, it is pretty much business as usual in his own Canberra practice with only a few “basic administration” functions outsourced to central control. Hancock will continue to follow the “income-focused” investment process of the group (both for his clients and his own assets), which he says has delivered 5-6 per cent per annum above the Morningstar balanced fund index over the last one to seven years. He has a mixed client base of retirees/workers with only about half of those sourced from the public sector Canberra is famous for, the rest are mainly business and professional people. Within the practice, the emphasis is on “getting the key people involved in the decision loop”. For example, Hancock has set up a local ‘board of management’ where seven key people in the practice meet to discuss “high-level issues”. “You don’t have a business without people and I’ve tried to move away from a hierarchical approach,” he says. “Then you get a sense of it’s ‘our business’ rather than you’re just an employee.” Hancock hopes the Centric Wealth model will prove attractive to top-level financial planners who want the strength of a corporate business and still be able to give unfettered advice. “Many of the better smaller financial planning firms are now being bought by institutions, which I think is a travesty – you can still be a good adviser in an institution but your ability to give advice is compromised,” he says. “Without this restriction you can walk down the street with your head held high.” Name: Roger Hancock Business name and location: CENTRIC Wealth – Canberra practice Dealer name or self-licensed: CENTRIC Wealth Advisers Ltd Number and designation of staff:

  • Managing Principal (Roger Hancock)
  • 6 Wealth Advisers
  • Operations Manager
  • Technical Services Manager (incl Paraplanning)
  • Client Service Supervisor
  • 5 Client Service Managers
  • 8 Client Service officers (incl 4 part time)
  • 2 Reception/admin (rotation job share)
  • Advisers work in teams with dedicated support staff and manage up to 100 clients per team to ensure high personal service and relationship. Internal office Board of Management (Snr staff) who discuss and direct higher level practice issues (inclusive management approach) Office Committees (Communications, Investment, Compliance, Systems, Marketing, Technical and of course Social) These made up of representatives from each operational area of practice to ensure new initiatives, issues and current processes are reviewed and discussed with wide input and also good training and awareness initiative as 50% members must rotate each 6 months) Area of speciality: Higher average wealth clients seeking performance, total service and integrity (professionals, retirees and private sector business owners) as well as SMSFs

    1. Snr Executive Public Sector (Military & Civilian)
    2. Basically higher wealth (capital and/or cashflow) people and corporations who have identified the need to maximise and protect their financial and lifestyle positions

    Relevant qualifications (eg CFP): Dip. FP , CFP Are you a member of the FPA?: yes Number of clients: personally 60 Practice 470 Funds under management (or funds under advice):Personal $140M Practice $480M

    Method of fee collection (eg commission, flat fee-for-service, % of FUM, mixture):Fee for Service % FUM

    Investment platforms: Wraport (Avanteos) Front-end planning software: Visiplan Office management software: Combination Outlook & Microsoft Office Investment research: In house, Morningstar and broker panel (listed) Insurance research: ProPlanner Technical and legal support available: In-house and panel of external experts Ongoing education provider: In-house and Tribeca Professional Development

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