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CountPlus says growth strategy back on track

Matthew Rowe, CountPlus

Accounting and financial planning group CountPlus has completed its acquisition of 40 per cent of O’Brien Accountants & Advisors Group, extending its network of member firms to 17 and signaling that its renewed expansion program was on track.

CountPlus paid $1.2 million for its interest in O’Brien, whose four principals will remain with the firm. Headed by Mark O’Brien, Chris Mullins, Nellie Fung and Daniel Vogelpoel, the firm has revenue of around $4 million.

CountPlus chief executive Matthew Rowe says he expects to undertake more M&A activity as the company pursues its goal of becoming the leading network of professional accounting and advice firms in the Australian market.

Rowe says many financial advice firms are not ready for change. Only 30 per cent have a documented business plan.

CountPlus is promoting its ‘Owner, Driver – Partner’ model, which it says allows individual firm principals to own and manage their firms without loss of identity, while partnering with CountPlus using agreed rules, shared processes and controls, improved funding and economies of scale.

In mid-2017 CountPlus released the results of a strategic review. It had a recently appointed chief executive and a new chair and was setting about a business transformation by selling member firms with no strategic value, and merging others. It reduced its debt and sold most of its holding in the investment software company Class.

The company says it is well advanced with its turnaround program and is focused on the future. That is yet to show up in its financial performance, however. Net profit fell from $13.9 million in 2015/16 to $875,000 in 2016/17 and $847,000 in 2017/18.

CountPlus is indirectly involved in Commonwealth Bank’s plans to demerge its wealth management and mortgage broking business units. CBA owns Count Financial, which in turn owns 35.8 per cent of CountPlus. CBA intends to include this shareholding as part of a proposed new entity.