Aussie group buys into Mortgage Express

[UPDATED] Australian dealer group Astute Financial has taken a 50% stake in Mortgage Express.

Mortgage Express, the financial services arm of real estate business Harcourts NZ, has been in talks with its Australian counterpart for at least the past month. The discussions are said to focus on a formal partnership agreement rather than a takeover by the Australian group.

Astute has been on the lookout for a Kiwi partner in recent months, industry sources said. The deal between Mortgage Express and Astute was signed last week. 

TMM understands that Astute plans to establish a new group in New Zealand which will be run by current Mortgage Express chief executive Sarah Johnston. Mortgage Express will remain its branded model and it will be headed by David Gopperth. Gopperth joined Mortgage Express last year, and before that was head of third party distribution for Westpac.

Astute is a fast-growing Australian mortgage adviser group founded in 2000 as a single mortgage business. It now has about 500 members, in the finance, insurance, and financial planning sectors. Astute has a loan book of more than A$20 billion. Talks are said to have been led by director Brad Wood.

Over the past year, sources said Mortgage Express had spoken to other advisers about partnership deals.

The scrutiny on Australian advisers from the Royal Commission, and the threat of additional regulation on both sides of the Tasman, are likely to be key reasons behind the partnership talks. Adviser groups are likely to seek out merger partners and partnership deals to cope with the additional regulatory burden.

Mortgage Express and Astute have been asked for comment.

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