A new title and a restructure has given a Perth-based boutique the boost it wanted to seek expansion on a national scale. Murray Hills reveals how his newly-named dealer group has found its place.

Platinum might be one of the rarest of metals but as Murray Hills found out it is also a very common name in financial services circles. The Perth-based dealer group Hills heads up could probably lay claim to being one of the first in the industry to adopt the Platinum title, having first launched in 1994, but when the business reformed in July last year it discovered the competition had increased. “We’ve used Platinum a long time but we became aware that many others are now using the name,” Hills says. “There has been some confusion.” Earlier this month the business dropped Platinum and rebranded itself as Sentry Group and also embarked on a reorganisation to extract some efficiencies. Hills has come a long way with the business. He was there when it formed in 1994 and again when Pacific Rim Investments (which later morphed in to Deakin Financial Services and then the listed DKN group following a merger with Austchoice) bought Platinum and rolled the business into its advisory arm. Following the buy-out in 2000 Hills became managing director of the broader Deakin group and remained there until February last year. “To be honest when I left last year I contemplated retiring,” he says. However, some of his former colleagues at Platinum had decided to leave the DKN fold and resurrect the old dealer group and they persuaded Hills to give it another go. “Some of those people are the same ones I’ve been working with for the last 20 years,” he says. Just months after the Platinum planners split from DKN, the listed group announced it was quitting the advice business and told its 120 or so advisers to find another home. Platinum, meanwhile, was rapidly growing and now over 50 financial planners operate under the renamed Sentry banner across three states – WA, Victoria and Queensland. “We don’t have advisers in NSW or South Australia yet but we will be opening a South Australia office in a month,” Hills says. As well, Sentry is focusing hard on recruiting for the next three months and has set a target of 40 per cent growth by the end of October this year. “Since July 1 this year we’ve already taken on five more advisers,” Hills says. While some pundits have predicted a tightening recruitment market for financial planners he says Sentry has found a great deal of interest from advisers wanting to join the group. Hills says planners are attracted to Sentry because of its non-aligned status and also because of its significant geographical spread. But another drawcard is its no-strings contract. “Our attitude is advisers are free to come and go as they please,” he says. “There are some restrictive contracts out there which can be a stumbling block to recruitment.” For example, advisers wanting to leave Sentry only have to give only 30 days notice while some dealers demand 90 days notice and the right to direct contact with the departing advisers’ clients. But Hills is not expecting a mass exodus from Sentry. He says its offers a broad range of dealer services at a “very competitive price” and doesn’t need a contract filled with fine-print to keep planners tied to the group. As well as supplying the necessaries of life for financial advisers in a post-FSR world – compliance, research, technology, etc – Sentry does incentivise its advisers by sharing any of its bulk product discounts 50/50 with its planners. “Of course it’s all disclosed but we have a profit-sharing arrangement with advisers where we pay them 50 per cent of any margins we have negotiated on platforms, for example,” Hills says. Along with its name change Sentry also divided its management structure into three lines: investments; insurance, and; finance. The move was designed to make it easier for Sentry advisers to find the right point of contact with management, in the interests of efficiency. And despite the greater load of financial advisers Hills says the businesses within the group are running more efficiently than ever, “Advisers are better equipped than before with software tools and so on. Their businesses are more efficient but the advice process is also much longer now,” he says. But planners are getting used to the burdens of compliance and regulation, according to Hills, and he has seen a very practical outcome of that trend. “It was very difficult for advisers during the transition [to FSR] and we used to have PD days monthly to keep up with compliance,” he says. “Now we have PD days quarterly and the focus is much more on marketing and getting back to business.” Name: Murray Hills, Managing Director Business name and location: Sentry Group, 2 Brook St, East Perth WA, T 08 9325 4999, F 08 9325 4499, [email protected] Dealer name: Sentry Financial Services Pty Ltd AFSL 286786 & Life Insurance Broker Number and designation of staff: Over 50 advisers in the group. Head office staff – Vas Nikola, Compliance Manager, Colin Scott, National Business Development Manager & Marketing Manager, Investments, Bryan Hills, Adviser Services Manager & Marketing Manager, Insurance, Jef Morphett, Administration Manager & Marketing Manager, Finance + 4 PA’s/clerical/secretarial staff Area of speciality: Pre retirement accumulation & risk protection; 65% investment /35% risk Are you a member of the FPA?: Sentry is not a Principal Member Funds under management/advice: Approx $600m FUA & $5m IFP (in-force premiums) Method of fee collection: 90% commission, 10% fee for service Investment platforms: Asgard; Macquarie; Skandia; Synergy Front-end planning software: PlanTech 4 Cast Office management software: ACT Investment research: Van Eyk IRATE Insurance research: ProPlanner Technical and legal support: Adviser Solutions; Brett Davies Lawyers; Halsey Lawyers Ongoing education provider: Tribeca

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