Four weeks in: Q&A with Xplore Wealth CEO Michael Wright October 2019

Michael+wright

It's been almost a month since Michael Wright took the reins as CEO of Xplore Wealth and he's excited by the opportunities ahead. He tells Industry Moves about his goals and challenges in the role and what initially drew him to the firm. He also shares a little of his formative years, reflects on the industry's "immense" change of pace, where he sees the role of MDAs in an investor's portfolio, and how he learnt to reframe a crisis.

What drew you to joining Xplore Wealth?

I believe Xplore Wealth is at a very exciting period in its journey. After making several strategic purchases, some as late as December 2018, we have the opportunity to bring four strong businesses together – Managed Accounts, Linear, Aracon Superannuation and DIY Master - to become One Business, One Platform.

These strategic acquisitions enable Xplore Wealth to provide a complete Platform solution, with three core offers for retail and/or wholesale clients, creating a truly unique proposition for advisers.

"I felt my experience and knowledge was well aligned with the qualities that Xplore Wealth required to lead its expansion and growth aspirations."

The foundations of the Xplore Wealth business are strong and have been deliberately built over the last 14 years. We are in a great position to scale up the business, to compete and grow sustainably for years to come.

I felt my experience and knowledge was well aligned with the qualities that Xplore Wealth required to lead its expansion and growth aspirations.

What will be some of your biggest challenges in the role?

A challenge for most businesses expanding through acquisition is to bring everything together to realise the expected benefits for clients, the business and shareholders. Xplore Wealth is no different, we are focussing on completing our “One Platform” program to fully integrate the four businesses. It is a significant program that requires the focus of the whole organisation to deliver on budget and on time.

"...we are focussing on completing our “One Platform” program to fully integrate the four businesses."

We are looking forward to receiving ASIC’s review and providing our formal submission. This will remove the current regulatory uncertainty and we will be in a great position to finalise our business model focussed on building for long term sustainable growth.

What are you most looking forward to?

Lots of things. Mostly I am looking forward to the opportunity to lead Xplore Wealth during this formative period as the wealth management sector transforms, creating business and growth opportunities. Working with great people and great clients to really help them manage, grow and protect their client’s wealth is something that I find very meaningful. I look forward to Xplore Wealth stepping up to be a leader in the industry during this period.

What areas will you be focussing on when it comes to growing the business?

It’s early days however after an initial period of listening to our people, clients, shareholders, investors and analysts it is coming down to three things we need to do well to grow our business strongly over the medium term:

  1. Deliver on our One Platform program – to create one technology back-end, one custodian, one client portal, one team and one set of policies and procedures.

  2. Upgrading the business – creating a refreshed winning ambition, culture, values and three year strategy, all anchored to strong client experience and confidence.

  3. Drive hard on our Take to Market Plan – delivering on a distribution plan to sustainably grow our business. In doing so supporting our existing and new clients as well as our people.

What role do you think managed discretionary accounts can have in an investor's portfolio?

I believe a managed discretionary account (MDA) plays a key role in an investor’s portfolio for the right client. Using MDAs in client portfolio management offers advice businesses the potential to deliver an improved experience for each client through increased portfolio flexibility and transparency, tax-effectiveness, and the opportunity to develop deeper trusted relationships with their adviser. For the MDA investor, the ability to have a proven professional independent from the adviser make timely investment decisions with minimal paperwork or administrative burden, is extremely important.

"The pace of change isn’t slowing down either, it is exciting to imagine where we will be in another 20 years.

You've had a long history in the industry, how has it changed since you started working in financial services?

Over all the years that I have been in the industry what really stands out to me and frankly, still amazes me is the level of change the industry and our clients have undergone. Particularly over the last decade, regulation such as FOFA, BEAR, etc and technology advancements (including the internet, cloud, blockchain, mobile, digital) have been key drivers of the industry transformation.

The pace of change is immense. When you consider that today we can access portfolio data and even trade on our mobile phone while travelling the world and compare this to my excitement at getting the first fax machine, then my brick sized mobile phone and even my first internet search the contrast is vast. The pace of change isn’t slowing down either, it is exciting to imagine where we will be in another 20 years.

"“Don’t let a good crisis go to waste” was a comment Barrack Obama made in a speech during his presidency and it really resonated with me.

Where did you grow up and what was it like?

I grew up in Victoria, living in the Mornington Peninsula. It was an amazing environment to live in with so much to do. I grew up with a passion for the ocean, whether it be snorkelling or surfing as well as playing Australian Rules Football.

With the benefit of hindsight, what advice would you give to your younger self?

“Don’t let a good crisis go to waste” was a comment Barrack Obama made in a speech during his presidency and it really resonated with me. Now in any crisis, big or small, I look for the opportunity to leverage it in an appropriate way. This reframing of my attitude when a crisis occurs would have been useful for the younger me. The benefit I get from this mindset shift is I have a much more open, calm, unemotional approach when dealing with a crisis and as such I find a solution faster.

What is one thing most people wouldn’t know about you?

When I was a teenager I worked as a deck hand with my mate for an abalone diver in Cape Shank and Wilson Point. It was an incredible time, experiencing the rawness of the ocean as well as its beauty and surprises.

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