After a 39-day investigation the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has cleared the $48 million sale of IWL’s financial planning software business, Visiplan, to rival firm IRESS.

Following the deal, completed late in April, IRESS, which already owned Visiplan’s major competitor Xplan, assumed clear market leadership in the financial advisory software sector. Combined Visiplan/Xplan would have up to 12,500 licensed users out of an estimated market size of 15-20,000 users. However, in a statement last week the ACCC said “the acquisition is unlikely to substantially lessen competition in the supply of financial planning software products to financial planners in Australia.” According to the ACCC, the market would remain competitive despite IRESS’ dominant position because: • the Macquarie-owned Coin was an effective competitor and other smaller firms also existed; • wrap providers were moving into the front-end software market; • financial planning groups can and do create their own software systems; • the market “is characterised by growth, technological change and innovation” and this looks likely to continue. The investigation marked the first time the financial planning industry had come under the official scrutiny of the competition watchdog and Melanie Hughes, ACCC investigator who worked on the Visiplan project, said it provided an interesting insight into the market. It is understood the investigation was sparked by a tip-off from an industry insider, however, Hughes would not confirm this or how many submissions the ACCC received. “We don’t reveal that information to the public,” Hughes said.

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