Since it was founded last year, benefits and pension advisory firm Groupworks Financial Corp. has purchased Buffett Taylor and The Investment Guild, gone public and recently acquired Gallivan & Associates. CEO Derrick March speaks about the company’s future.

What are Groupworks’ goals?

DM: We want to be the leading consolidator of the independent pension and benefit advisers in Canada. [We want to] partner with well-managed, profitable businesses so as to double the size of our business during the next year. And [we want to] be the best service-oriented advisory and administration firm in the country.

Are you currently looking at acquisitions?

DM: We are actively looking to close a number of partnership deals, beyond that I can’t comment. Our strength right now is Ontario. We are Ontario-based [and] have clients that we manage nationally. Our plan will be to become a nationally based pension and benefits operation, so that will happen over time.

What do you look for in a firm before acquiring it?

DM: We are looking to partner with high quality, successful benefits and pension advisory and administration operations whose principals share the same commitment to excellence and client service as Groupworks. We offer solutions to all sizes of operations, whether it be a small adviser who is feeling the pressure of an increasingly complex marketplace where the need for additional expertise and support is obvious, or a larger organization looking for an attractive transition strategy or to become part of a dynamic, high-growth company [that] can provide a platform for growth and help them take their business to the next level.

Does Groupworks plan to use different brand names or consolidate them under one name?

DM: As a consolidator, branding is very important to us. Equally important is that we not dilute the value of the brands that all these independent advisers have created within their local communities and clients. While we will look to create a long-term national brand and footprint under the Groupworks label, we will not do so at the expense of diluting the brands that have been created.

Why did you go public?

DM: We are well sponsored in the capital markets, our directors have a keen understanding of the appropriate capital structure for our firm, and the public markets provide us with both access to capital and a cost of capital that is unmatched in our industry. Capital markets also provide appropriate levels of liquidity for our partners— allowing for easy and effective estate planning. The capital markets also enforce rigorous financial and accounting standards, which provide our partners, investors and stakeholders [with] complete and full disclosure—this makes us transparent.

What makes your company different than the competition?

DM: We think we’re very unique in the marketplace, providing a business model that allows owners to realize a value for their business and become part of something larger until they decide they really want out.

What prompted you to jump into the pension and benefits consulting space?

DM: Having spent the previous 12 years at a major carrier, I was in a unique position to see the changing landscape of the marketplace. It became apparent to me that there has been a significant shift in the demographics of the industry, with no attractive succession/transition planning opportunities available to these successful business owners who need to make plans but are not ready to stop working altogether.

How would you describe the third-party administrator(TPA) landscape right now?

DM: I believe the TPA landscape is poised for significant growth. With the increased complexity of our business and the continued pressure within organizations to cut costs and drive value for their employees, clients and shareholders, the outsourcing of non-core HR services such as benefits and pension administration is increasingly being seen as a way to accomplish these goals.

Craig Sebastiano is associate editor, news and websites, of Benefits Canada.

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© Copyright 2007 Rogers Publishing Ltd. This article first appeared in the August 2007 edition of BENEFITS CANADA magazine.