Insignia Financial CEO Scott Hartley. Photo: Arsineh Houspian.

Less than six months into the top job at Insignia Financial, chief executive Scott Hartley has overhauled the executive team and installed a CEO for its $180 billion superannuation arm. 

The ASX-listed wealth conglomerate currently has four funds – MLC Master Key, Plum Super, OneAnswer and Smart Choice – and Hartley says bringing them under a single operating platform is “unfinished business”. 

“Arguably, [the consolidation] has been progressing slowly, but the back-office stuff we haven’t made a lot of traction on that, so that’s a big focus of mine,” he tells Investment Magazine.  

“The plan is to bring all that together and build a low-cost scalable operating platform for our members and our shareholders going forward, so that we continue to be competitive in that space.” 

Hartley is aiming to achieve that ambition within two to three years, and the executive directly responsible will be the newly hired chief operating offer Jason Sommer, to be supported by the yet unnamed superannuation CEO. 

Hartley is tight-lipped about the new super head but says they are “particularly known for leading substantial growth” and will bring “digital-direct model experience”. 

Chief investment officer Dan Farmer will continue to oversee a significant part of the super assets’ investment management, reporting to CEO of MLC Asset Management Garry Mulcahy.  

The comprehensive restructure came after Hartley said candidly at the Professional Planner Licensee Summit that Insignia’s super business “is a mess”.  

“That’s the heavy lifting yet to be done, but to be fair, a lot has been done,” he told the summit in June. 

Other retail funds such as AMP have been through a similar process. In fact, a key leader in that process, Sharon Suan, has been installed as Insignia’s new chief member officer by the latter’s RSE board and reports directly to its chair. Suan led the reduction of AMP’s two trustee boards into one, seven super funds to two, and significant product and investment option consolidation. 

Having now split Insignia into four streams – asset management, superannuation (master trust), wrap platform and advice – Hartley says the executive teams will be able to better focus on individual market segments. 

“We’re running four quite different businesses that have very different markets, very different customers, and very different competitors,” he says. 

“In the master trust or the super fund part of the business, we need to compete with ART, we need to compete with AussieSuper, Aware, those sorts of funds.  

“As advised businesses have fallen away, the influence of corporate super wanes. What’s the largest churn in the market is actually individuals choosing directly themselves which super fund to join.  

Stapling has an impact on that as well…you’ve got to convince individuals to change their choice [of super funds].” 

A former AMP and Sunsuper executive, Hartley took over the top gig at Insignia following Renato Mota’s departure last year.  

Three out of the four newly announced hires had worked with AMP in some capacity within the last year, according to their LinkedIn profiles. Apart from Suan and Sommer, AMP’s current chief marketing officer Renee Howie will join as Insignia’s chief customer officer. 

However, Hatley makes it clear that he is “not inclined to be wanting to take people out of AMP”. 

“Let’s deal with the elephant in the room, that’s not my shtick,” he says.  

“I’d like to see AMP continue to do well. I’m still a shareholder, of course.” 

As a part of the structure, current chief operating and technology officer Frank Lombardo, chief distribution officer Mark Oliver and chief client officer Chris Weldon will leave the business in the coming months. Recruitment for a chief technology officer is underway.  

The group reportedly received takeover interest from various private equity firms this week, according to the AFR, but Hartley says the company doesn’t comment on market speculation. Insignia also denied engaging Citi to field offers in an ASX announcement. 

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