Andrew Mehrtens, a former senior sales executive at Centric Wealth, a subsidiary of the accounting and planning group Findex, starts a new finance career in securities servicing this year. He joined NAB Asset Servicing, based in Sydney, last month.
Mehrtens, 42, best known for his sporting prowess as a 70-cap rugby international with the New Zealand All Blacks, spent just over two years at Centric Wealth marketing a variety of products and services to big super funds, including defence housing investments.
On the football field, until Dan Carter overtook him in 2009, Mehrtens, a prolific goal kicker, was the highest-ever scorer for the All Blacks. He retired from competitive rugby in 2010, after playing and coaching in France.
He was born in South Africa but grew up in New Zealand and was considered just as good at tennis as he was at rugby. He speaks fluent French and Italian and has a double degree from Canterbury University in New Zealand.
Mehrtens’ appointment followed news that Matt Brown, chief executive of NAB Asset Servicing, resigned and left the job just before Christmas.
Brown, who joined NAB Asset Servicing (NAS) in March last year after several years in senior roles overseas and in Australia at Citi and, before that, State Street, was the first professional custodian to be recruited to run the NAS business. He lifted morale after several years of client losses, and executed a landmark deal which replaced BNY Mellon as NAS’s global custodian of more than 20 years with Citi.
NAB’s handling of NAS in recent years could well become a text book case in how a bank should not manage a business – any business. The main problem is that, as the last Australian bank to have a custody operation – albeit the largest such operation in the country, with a big collection of blue-chip super fund clients – NAB has tried more than once to cash in its chips without success.
It has had discussions with JP Morgan over the years to either buy the US firm’s Australian domestic custody business or sell its own to JP Morgan and it has said ‘no’ to at least two offers from State Street to sell its whole master custody operation. Both deals would have involved either of the US banks retaining NAB’s global business.
The most recent attempt, which inexplicably was announced to the ASX, was in 2014 with a formal process to assess all options to do with custody. Once again, it is believed, State Street came up with a reasonable offer, rumoured to be around the $1 billion mark, but this was rebuffed. The problem is the bank wants to retain the lucrative cash and FX business which goes hand in glove with custody. So does everyone. And no-one’s going to pay a lot of money for the core custody business without the value-add services.
The net result was that clients became understandably nervous and several of the biggest went to tender, ultimately appointing another of the five majors (JP Morgan, BNP Paribas, Northern Trust, State Street and Citi). Then, NAB, with new senior management overseeing NAS, announced it would retain the business and invest in its future.
Matt Brown was recruited in March last year to fill the spot vacated by Christine Bartlett, a bank executive who had a successful background in technology. She decided to retire from full-time work to concentrate on several non-executive directorships.
Brown was the first new general manager of NAS (executive general manager, products and markets, NAB Asset Servicing) to have strong credentials in custody. He had had several senior positions at Citi over the 10 years to 2014, including overseeing securities services in the Middle East, Hong Kong and Japan. Prior to that he was a vice president at State Street in Boston head office, Tokyo and Sydney. He started his custody career with State Street in his native New Zealand.
Brown declined to comment last week. Various observers suggested his resignation reflected ongoing frustrations in dealing with the bank. Significantly, the available investment funding for technological development by NAS is understood to have been halved several months ago and was under constant pressure.
* Greg Bright is publisher of Investor Strategy News (Australia)