FREEHILLS ADVISED a subsidiary of HBOS Australia on its purchase of iconic Queensland-based financial planner Wittaker Macnaught Pty Ltd.
The company was sold by Noel Wittaker and Cheryl Macnaught, but they will remain in the business and work with the subsidiary, St Andrews Australia, to expand the business.
The move takes St Andrews’ funds under management from $500 million to $2.1 billion.
Lead partner on the deal, Tony Damian, said the transaction, completed last month, represented HBOS’s first “serious” acquisition of a financial planning business.
HBOS is a major UK bank formed after the Bank of Scotland and Halifax merged in 2001.
“From our perspective [we] needed to understand the commercial imperatives between maintaining the client base and allowing for the change of ownership,” he said.
“Financial planning is about happy customers, so it’s managing what will be a transition from this iconic business in its current state to ownership by HBOS in a way that preserves the commerce for HBOS.”
He said there is an “art” to buying a financial planning business.
“It’s not like buying a coal mine or a building. In each of those cases you buy it and you move on,” Damian said. “There are two principals here that have been in this business for decades, so it’s about maintaining the commercial value for them, which means you need to take a thoughtful approach.”
Damian worked with solicitor Fiona Scattergood on the deal, along with HBOS Australia deputy general counsel Martine Forrester and in-house counsel Babette Shelswell.