Interview: Matthew Rowe | CEO and Managing Director of CountPlus

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In this edition, we interview CountPlus Limited

Matthew Rowe | CEO & Managing Director 

We first interviewed Matthew in 2014 in his then role of Managing Partner of leading Adelaide accounting firm Hood Sweeney.

You have a long history in the accounting industry. What are some of the things you have done since resigning from Hood Sweeney in June 2015?

I have a passion for professional accounting and advice and the benefits we deliver to our clients. My time has been spent in pursuit of excellence in the field of professional financial service. I was asked to take the executive leadership (CEO) role of CountPlus last year. I also serve on the Board of the Financial Adviser Standards and Ethics Authority.

In February 2017 you took on the CEO role of CountPlus. 12 months ago, you were quoted in the Australian Financial Review as saying “It will take up to two years to fix the “challenging business model” problems of CountPlus”. What have been the challenges and what progress has been made since then?

The primary challenge is in identifying and formulating the right balance. By that I mean providing the framework, culture and focus to enable a network of professional accounting and financial advisory firms to make a decent profit, decently. A great example of this is the revised equity arrangements now in place, where CountPlus is moving from a 100% owner to a strategically aligned partner with our Partner firms. This is called the Owner, Driver- Partner model. The long-tail benefits of getting the equity balance right, incentivising firms and focusing on a high-quality end client experience is already evident.

The wealth management industry is being transformed as the large banks begin to separate their traditional banking and financial products from their advisory businesses. How is this impacting on CountPlus and forming its direction?

It is true that Australia’s financial services ecosystem is under unprecedented scrutiny and levels of stress. The banks have heard the persistent call to improve their standing with customers and rectify the unfortunate mis-selling scandals that have plagued the sector. From the point of view of CountPlus, we see great opportunity for expansion in this environment.

This is primarily because Australian small business customers will always require high-quality, professional accounting and financial advice. Add to that the transparency of being a publicly listed company, motivated to benefit the end customer, and we believe CountPlus is well-positioned for the future. We are in detailed discussions with some leading accounting and advisory firms around the country, as these professional firms looking to secure their future in an uncertain operating environment and partner with the right business for the right reasons.

At a time when others are divesting, we are taking a long-term view – one of perpetuity – as an aligned partner in accounting and advice firms.

You have recently appointed former Bentleys Chief Executive Mark Chapman as Chief Operating Officer. What does Mark bring to the mix?

Mark did a great job with Bentleys and we are well pleased to have him on our team. Aside from his leadership skills and sector experience, Mark enjoys a respected network within the professional accounting and advisory space. We will be looking to leverage Mark’s network and expand his influence as the CountPlus business also grows.

What is the 5-year vision for Countplus?

That’s a great question. We have a tagline that fits on a t-shirt, ‘Quality Partnerships, Leading Advice’.

It speaks to the fundamental drivers of professional and high-quality advice firms – get a collaborative partnership in place and deliver client-centric leading advice. We see CountPlus collaborating with leading accounting and advice firms for the long-term success of our clients, our people and our shareholders.

We get that right and we are well on our way to realising our true five-year vision which is to become Australia’s leading network of professional accounting and advice firms, aligned through shared values, mutual success and our sense of community.

If you would like your firm to be profiled in a future edition, or have a suggestion for an article that you think will be of interest to our readers, please send me an email to malcolme@feesynergy.com.au

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