‘Stronger as a united force’: Top shareholder groups plan merger to enhance member benefits
Two of Australia’s leading investor associations have announced plans to combine in the new year, seeking to harness both organisations’ strengths and grow their membership in a changing financial landscape.
The Australian Shareholders’ Association (ASA) and the Australian Investors Association (AIA) have signed an agreement and shared details of the proposed amalgamation with their respective members and shareholders, the not-for-profit investor education and advocacy groups jointly announced last week.
“At the core of this amalgamation proposal is the goal of establishing a powerful entity that can work for the benefit of current and future investors and provide a rounded approach to investors covering strengths from both the ASA and AIA,” the ASA board said in the statement.
‘Pragmatic, forward-thinking step’
According to ASA chair Steven Mabb (pictured, right), the two groups have previously discussed a potential combination, but “the timing to bring us together now was based around two current leadership groups that are very focussed on the members and what we can do to really grow the association and its influence over the next few years”.
He noted that there are now more than 7 million people investing on the Australian Stock Exchange and about 1 million with a self-managed superannuation fund.
“Many of these self-directed investors can and would benefit from being part of a community of likeminded investors and the education and support we offer,” Mabb told The Inside Investor. “So, it simply makes a lot of sense to bring us together, as we are stronger as a united force.”
Jamie Nemtsas (pictured, left), acting chair of the AIA board, said the amalgamation plan recognises dynamic shifts in the financial industry and comes at a “critical junction” for the group, which faces the “dual challenges of a declining membership and financial constraints”.
“We firmly believe this is a pragmatic, forward-thinking step, driven by the objective of harnessing our collective strengths to elevate financial literacy nationwide, safeguard the rights of individual investors and promote the benefits of well-regulated investment markets.”
Proposed benefits get positive response
Once combined, the new organisation would benefit from an expanded membership base and reduced administrative costs, while broadening its collective expertise and ability to make a positive impact on investment issues for members, the groups said.
Under the amalgamation proposal, AIA would close its operations, and all AIA members would be transferred to ASA for the duration of their existing membership. The AIA said its discussion groups will remain an integral part of the new organisation.
The agreement also calls for a brand and name review, to be completed over the next six months, “to reflect the true objectives of the combined group”, Nemtsas said. He said there’s also a “strong possibility” of the AIA’s Gold Coast Conference returning in 2024.
Mabb said the response from ASA members has been “overwhelmingly positive”, with supportive feedback around both the concept and the proposed benefits. “They are also looking forward to meeting some new investors and having some extra options” in the combined group.
ASA CEO Rachel Waterhouse pointed to ASA’s more than 60-year history of protecting individual investors’ rights, saying both organisations have always been dedicated to financial literacy and investor education.
“So, we believe there is a pre-existing alignment between both organisations in terms of purpose, values and visions that will allow for a seamless amalgamation and see the entities emerge with a stronger voice on investor issues, as well as offering increased benefits to both organisations’ members,” she said.
According to Mabb, the new group will offer investors a “low-cost, helpful and powerful way to build your knowledge, ask questions and tap into the wisdom of a larger community of likeminded people. “Lots of existing members know this,” he added. “Our task is now to really spread the word and improve the education and advocacy we provide, so lots more people join us on the journey in the coming years.”