Tucker Says Future of Advice is Independent

04 Jun 2014

“The theme of independence is emerging very strongly.”

Former MLC veteran Steve Tucker has re-emerged in his first financial services industry role since departing National Australia Bank more than a year ago – and has declared: “It probably won’t be the last.”

Listed broker Euroz said on Tuesday that Mr Tucker, who ran NAB’s wealth operations at MLC for a decade before leaving in March 2013 after a restructure, would be joining the business to expand its funds management operations.

In an interview on Tuesday, Mr Tucker said his time on the market sidelines had revealed the extent to which consumers of financial advice wanted independence even though the final form of the government’s Future of Financial Advice reforms is uncertain.

“I think that regardless of the implementation detail of the FoFA changes that have been discussed at length, they are signalling a change in the way the market and consumers are expecting to receive advice,” Mr Tucker said.

“The theme of independence is emerging very strongly.”

Mr Tucker refused to comment on the FoFA reform process itself, saying it was hard to predict what the final law would look like. But investors wanted “good advisers and businesses operating in the way the reforms intended – which is transparency, no trailing commissions, fee for service, and more and more awareness of how and who the adviser is working for”.

“As people get more funds available to invest and face more complexity in the systems they are playing in, they need better quality advice – and probably that lends itself to independent advice the other way around,” he said.

New opportunities

Mr Tucker said he was exploring new business opportunities in financial advice. “I do feel there is an opportunity, particularly at the high net worth end [of the market], to offer people a truly independent advice service.”

During his long tenure at MLC, Mr Tucker was instrumental in leading the bank away from opaque commissions to upfront fees. However, NAB struggled to make these reforms pay, losing ground to big bank competitors who continued to charge trailing commissions for financial advice under their vertically integrated wealth models. (FoFA banned financial advisers charging commissions on personal advice.)

Since departing NAB, Mr Tucker has taken up a role as non-executive director of Vocation, a professional training business which floated in December.

Under arrangements with Euroz announced to the Australian Securities Exchange on Tuesday, Mr Tucker has taken a 20 per cent stake in a new subsidiary, Westoz Investment Management, with Euroz holding the other 80 per cent. The funds management business will work for two existing listed investment companies, Westoz Investment Company and Ozgrowth.

“Having had the chance to sit back and look at the industry, I’ve been able to choose the areas which are going to be the fastest growing and most interesting in terms of where I’d like to spend some time,” he said.

The FoFA reforms would increase the attractiveness of LIC structures to investors, Mr Tucker said, given they were transparent, tradable, liquid, accessible to managed funds and therefore of interest to self-managed super funds. Westoz would work to develop new LICs, he said, using Euroz’s expertise in mining and resources.

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