Listing is still off the agenda for the fast-growing trust company roll-up Complectus, according to founder and managing director, Andrew Barnes.
Barnes said, contrary to market speculation, incoming Complectus CEO, Grant Kemble, was not hired to prepare the company for an IPO.
“Although we are a statutory supervisor and have all the accoutrements of a listed entity, we have no listing plans,” Barnes said. “It would be useful if we go to the market at some point but we’re not ready yet. The market should not read [that a listing is imminent] because we appointed Grant – that’s not why we hired him.”
He said the appointment would allow him to concentrate on his philanthropic and digital business ventures as Kemble took over the day-to-day responsibilities for Complectus.
“Increasingly, I’m spending my time looking at acquisitions and working on digital initiatives and philanthropy,” Barnes said. “I’ve felt for some time [Complectus] needed a full-time CEO who could drive the company forward.”
It is understood that he has had discussions with several small Australian-based financial services firms in the funds management administration space in recent months, after leaving the Australian market, at least temporarily, last year.
Barnes resigned as chair of AWI last November after a troubled period for the ASX-listed business, which involved the purchase of a big stake in van Eyk Research, which was subsequently placed into liquidation, and control of the NZ Perpetual trusts operation.
The Complectus group, owned by the Barnes-controlled investment vehicle Bath Street Capital, includes Perpetual Guardian, Guardian Trust, Covenant Trustee Services and the recently-purchased Foundation Corporate Trust (an earlier spin-off from Perpetual Trust).
Bath Street Capital could be up for a multi-million payout to former Perpetual Trust owner, Pyne Gould Corporation (PGC), if Complectus lists.
In May this year, PGC demanded payment of $22.2 million (plus interest and costs) from Bath Street Capital in relation to the sale of Perpetual Trust.
“A deferred payment would be due to PGC when we go to market,” Barnes said.
In the interim, he said the group would probably evolve into two units with a merged Foundation/Covenant focusing on the retirement village and agricultural sectors while a combined Perpetual/Guardian concentrated on areas such as KiwiSaver, managed investment schemes and personal trustee services.
However, he said a full Perpetual/Guardian merger was still some way off, as an act of Parliament was required to effect the change.
“We’ve started the process,” Barnes said, with work on a Private Member’s Bill proposing the merger already underway.
“In reality its makes sense [to merge Perpetual and Guardian] – under the Financial Markets Conduct Act, trustee companies need scale.”
Meanwhile, Barnes is planning to scale up his online wills business, Kowhiri, scoping out international markets for growth and expanding the range of online services.
“We need to have digital witness, wills and EPAs [enduring power of attorney],” he said. “That will revolutionalise the legal industry. And we can take those processes globally.”
Barnes said he would also launch a business under the Kowhiri Ventures brand, that would help fund innovation in the ‘fintech’ world, such as ‘robo-advice’.
“Personally, I think robo-advice has got to come to New Zealand,” he said.
Barnes was a candidate in the EY NZ ‘Entrepreneur of the year award’ but missed out on a spot at the finals night (due to be held in October) following the latest round of judging last week.