In our first 'Why I use North' interview with leading advisers, we caught up with Darren Thomas, Director of GroupGH Financial Planning in Port Adelaide, South Australia. Darren was instrumental in establishing GroupGH's financial planning division and has been advising for over 23 years. When Darren is not working he enjoys waterskiing, cooking and spending time with his family. We asked Darren about why he chooses North. Here's what he had to say.
First experience with North?
When North first came out just over 15 years ago, I quickly realised the platform has similar characteristics to an SMSF with individually taxed accounts, in contrast to the pooled tax structure you generally saw elsewhere.
Best client outcome with North?
In pension phase when your platform is your paymaster, you need it to be pretty nimble.
North is the only platform I’m aware of where you can draw up to 80% of the value of your fund without waiting for a sell down.
I had a client with over $1m in a pension fund. They bought a new house and another investment didn’t realise in time for settlement. The agent said they were going to put the property back on the market the next day if they didn’t deposit $800,000. So I rang up North and said we needed the money transferred now.
They didn’t need to wait for T+3, they just dipped into their reserves to release the funds quickly. You may not need that every day. But that’s the power of this platform.
Favourite North feature ?
Some other platforms offer bells and whistles that don’t end up being used by more than a handful of clients. North focuses on getting the basics right.
With switches and buy/sells, you can go through each tab and show a client how we’re moving money from A to B, this is your cost differential and this is your CGT.
The way North empowers advisers is fantastic.
Top reasons you choose North ?
I’m an accountant by trade so managing tax outcomes for my clients is very important to me – as well as managing market volatility for clients in retirement.
- North’s individual tax structure. My clients get their full entitlement to all tax benefits including franking credits and foreign income tax offsets – all paid directly into their cash account to support their pension income.
- Common super and pension fund. North allows me to move money between super and pension with no time out of the market, no buy/sell spread and no CGT. This not only minimises investment risk but also allows me to manage my clients’ tax outcomes.
- Investment range. A choice of over 300 investment options gives me the scope to adjust asset allocation quickly and easily if there’s a dip in the markets.
- Cash reserving. I can park pension payments in a cash account so if markets fall away, I don’t need to sell underlying assets.
North’s biggest timesaver?
I can move money around quickly using North, which is critical in volatile markets.
If I need to change a pension payment to cover an extra expense or I’m doing a $330,000 recontribution strategy, I can lodge a form with North so it happens overnight. On other platforms it can take up to three weeks.
And let’s say a client’s on an interstate driving trip and the engine blows up and they suddenly need $5,000, I can get a two-hour transfer done straightaway.
How do North’s support team help you get things done?
If we ever have a hiccup and it’s something we can’t resolve ourselves, I can get the outcome I need in a timely manner.
I love the fact there are different avenues to get outcomes. You can send an email, get on chat, call up or speak to your BDM.
Would you recommend North?
I’ve always said the North platform is AMP’s best kept secret.
What would you like to see from North in the future?
Just continue to listen to advisers and keep us involved. The recent fee consent process was a great example of taking on adviser feedback.
How has North helped you achieve your business goals?
From a tax perspective I can get clients the best strategic outcome because the platform mimics an SMSF.
From an investment perspective I have the flexibility to mould the portfolio to my clients’ needs – complex or simple.
And transactions are so efficient compared with other platforms.
I’ve managed my North clients through the GFC in 2007, COVID in 2020 and the Ukraine crisis in 2022 by taking money out of cash without affecting their underlying investments.
What advice would you give to advisers using North for the first time?
Simply, you’ve made an excellent choice.
North’s Trustee fee arrangements are best of breed. The technology is newer than most platforms so it can adapt more to changes.
And the money spent on North makes it a market leader in transactions.
When we changed to our own AFSL a few years ago, we tested other platforms and they were pretty sub-standard compared with North. The investment isn’t always there, the experience can be clunky and there can even be conflicts of interests.
Over the years North has listened to what advisers need and put the resources in to get it delivered.
North’s inhouse portfolios awarded 'Superior’ SQM Research rating21 February 2024 Independent research house, SQM Research, has reviewed North’s inhouse Managed Portfolios, Research Choice, Index Plus, and MyNorth Sustainable ratings and awarded a 4 stars ‘Superior’ rating. Read more
Latest enhancements to Activity Management19 February 2024 North's newest Activity Management enhancement, live from February 26th, will provide an unprecedented level of transparency relating to your client’s trades, helping you better manage your clients account and their expectations. Read more
New investment options added to North – February 202413 February 2024 At North, we’re committed to providing you and your clients with more choice. That’s why we continue to expand our menu to provide you with a broad range of investment options. Read more
What you need to know
This article has been provided by NMMT Limited ABN 42 058 835 573, AFSL No. 234653 (NMMT) for professional adviser use only.. The comments expressed represent the personal views and opinions of the adviser. Any general tax information referred to is intended as illustrative only of the adviser's experience of using the platform and not to be relied upon. For more information read NMMT’s Financial Services Guide online, visit northonline.com.au or contact the North Service Centre on 1800 667 841.
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