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Limited licensing driving accounting firm acquisitions

Jonathan Hoyle
Sarah Kendell
09 October 2019 — 1 minute read

Licensing restrictions around accountants giving SMSF advice are driving more accounting firms to consider the sale of their business to financial planning groups, according to a high-net-worth advice firm.

Addressing a media lunch in Sydney on Wednesday, Stanford Brown director of private wealth Vincent O’Neill said the margin pressure created by the loss of the accountants’ exemption and transition to the limited licensing regime for accountants had played a key role in the recent increase in convergence of financial planning and accounting firms.

“Accountants are more restricted from what they used to do in terms of advice regulations, so that is forcing them to consider the financial planning perspective,” Mr O’Neill said.

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“The advice they once gave regarding super contributions and SMSFs now has to be done under a financial services licence, so they are being pushed to either partner with a financial planning firm or get a licence themselves.”

Stanford Brown chief executive Jonathan Hoyle said the convergence trend tended to be in financial planning firms’ favour, as they searched for more acquisitive growth due to flatter customer acquisition following the royal commission.

“A trend we are seeing is planning firms buying accounting businesses, not the other way around,” Mr Hoyle said.

“A lot of planning firms look at accounting books and think there’s some potential clients for us — no question that has been a factor because organic growth for financial planning firms has been declining to negligible rates.

“The royal commission has scared a lot of people off who need advice and would like to take advice, but now don’t trust any of the industry.”

He added that the trend was also increasingly driven by time-poor, high-net-worth clients wanting a single service provider for all of their financial needs.

“Working clients are very time-poor, so they come to us and say, ‘You’ve got all my financial data, can you file my tax return as well?” Mr Hoyle said.

“It’s [also] driven by data security — clients increasingly don’t want to give their sensitive financial data to two firms because it doubles the risk of being hacked.”

Limited licensing driving accounting firm acquisitions
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