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Plan for Uber of financial advice

Former Lifetime boss Warren Stephens says he hopes his newly-launched financial services firm will help him achieve his vision of “Uber-ising” financial services.

Friday, April 29th 2016, 6:00AM

by Susan Edmunds

Warren Stephens

Uber is the online transport network that has shaken up the taxi industry by allowing passengers to get in touch directly with people willing to drive them.

Stephens, who was chief executive of Lifetime, has left to set up financial advice firm Centastone.

His retirement from the role took effect from the end of March. Stephens said his decision to retire rather than resign was to enable him to exercise a protocol in the shareholders’ agreement that was more advantageous for him. He was able to liquidate 25% of his holding but retains 5.6m shares in Lifetime.

“I have a vision that is yet to be fulfilled and I no longer felt I could fulfil this while also continuing to lead the big team Lifetime has become,” Stephens said. “I am now embarking on launching that vision into the market which in a nutshell is aiming at ‘Uberising’ financial services through smart technology. Unfortunately due to commercial sensitivity, I can’t elaborate at this stage, needless to say a significant investment has been committed.”

He said Centastone was developing technology that would be the first of its kind in New Zealand. The eventual plan would be to take it to global markets.

Centastone launched on April 1. Stephens struck a deal with insurance advice firm Stone and Associates to purchase their business. Two Lifetime advisers have also joined Centastone:  Cameron Bryant and Guri Sandhu.

“I have a number of other discussion and negotiation under way with high-performance advisers in the wider market that are looking to come on board,” Stephens said.

“The power of LinkedIn and other social media has meant we are being flooded with opportunities and I’m receiving a lot of inquiries on a weekly basis from advisers that are not completely satisfied with their current arrangements. And while we have a completely different value proposition to the aggregator/dealer groups, I believe advisers are really starting to reassess their futures and the brave are making changes.

“So yes we are recruiting but only in the three main cities -  Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Advisers can trade as they wish under their own brand or by contracting into Centastone, and can elect the level of engagement they wish to utilise from full back office services through to just qualified client inquiry and everything in between.”

He said the firm’s technology would allow it to run a full customer care strategy on a contract basis, which would satisfy regulatory requirements and simplify the adviser’s involvement, “without losing control but enabling them to focus on areas that are far more profitable for them and they wish to specialise in”.

Tags: Centastone Lifetime

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