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Praemium’s new direction

In Practice

It’s been a slow week for wealth appointments, though one can imagine that Sydney’s lockdown – and the uncertainty around when it will end (this journalist’s prediction: by Christmas) – could have something to do with what is usually a steady stream of announcements drying to a trickle.

That’s not to say there’s nothing to report. Praemium has announced that it will look to sell its international businesses, in such far-flung locales as Jersey, due to the belief they are sub-scale. The announcement follows the eyebrow-raising May departure of chief executive Michael Ohanessian, who was previously dismissed by the company’s board in 2017 before being reinstated with the support of investors including Australian Ethical and David Paradice. Non-executive director Anthony Wamsteker has since taken on the role of interim CEO, and said that the sale would “simplify the group, better serving the interests of its clients and better advancing the career opportunities of its employees”.

Deloitte Corporate Finance is handling the sale process, the announcement of which saw a spike in Praemium’s share price, which had been trading at just under a dollar and rose to a high of $1.15 before closing the day at $1.12. Acquisition-hungry Praemium – which bought Powerwrap in 2020 – has long been the subject of industry rumblings about a potential acquisition itself, with the sale of the oddly-situated but otherwise healthy international businesses likely to make it more attractive for buyers who would have had to handle the laborious task themselves. EL&C Baillieu – itself recently gobbled up by Ord Minnett – wrote in research published last year that it believes Praemium is a “potential target” for acquisition as competition in the wealth management space heats up due to the “knock-on” effects of wealth divestments by the big four.

In other news, Praemium has also bolstered its distribution team with the appointment of former Fidelity wholesale sales head Andrew Mathie and OnePath/Zurich business development manager Shannon Victor, who join as regional manager and business development manager respectively.

“With a wealth of expertise and knowledge of the adviser market, their appointments continue our quality hires within the distribution team and adds further strength to our team to service our growing client base,” Praemium said in a statement.

Elsewhere altogether, Ord Minnett has appointed former Pitcher Partners wealth management director David Lane as a senior investment adviser and state manager for Queensland. Lane began his career as a SEATS operator at Henderson Charlton in the mid-90s, and is currently an investment committee member of the John Villiers Trust and the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute.

“David will bring to Ord Minnett, a depth of wealth management and advice experience, which will serve to complement our growth trajectory in Queensland whilst maintaining our history of advice and service excellence to our private wealth clients,” said George Deva, Ord Minnett head of private wealth.

Of course, there’s one big departure that bears mentioning, though it sits well outside the cloistered adviser space and within the cloistered superannuation space instead. The impressively moustachioed Ian Silk is stepping down after fifteen years at the helm of the $225 billion AustralianSuper, with his next destination still unknown. His exit comes at an inopportune time in terms of press coverage, which has recently been coloured by controversy around AustralianSuper’s historical investment in The New Daily and its move to pass member details to that publication, currently under scrutiny from APRA and the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner. While it’s pretty much impossible that the exit has anything to do with this tiny skirmish in the super wars, one imagines that repeat grillings from the standing committee on economics – and its highly-motivated chair, Tim Wilson – would be enough to make anybody consider a long sabbatical.

AustralianSuper’s board didn’t look far for a successor (and suggested that it didn’t have to), with its search turning up chief risk officer Paul Schroder, former secretary of the Finance Sector Union and long a candidate for the top job. In line with the ancient ideological battles that are part and parcel of the superannuation sector, The Australian Financial Review’s coverage of both the departure and appointment is an impressive example of the many ways one can use “union” as a dirty word.

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