Meet the men who made $800m on Monday

If the banks looked away from their building pile of reputational rubble for a minute they’d have noted no doubt financial planning outfit Netwealth’s spectacular debut on the ASX.

The company was founded by Michael Heine, his brother Leslie Heine and Michael’s son Matt Heine. The father and son duo are now joint managing directors of the newly listed Netwealth.

They have built their business scooping up financial planners and advisers who have left the big banks in the wake of years of scandals. And the investors, they like it.

The stock was issued at $3.70 a share and pushed up to close at $5.32, an increase of almost 44 per cent on the opening day. Based on that, the company is now worth $1.26 billion and the Heine trio account for some $800 million of that thanks to their holding of more than 60 per cent.

The Heine family has enjoyed its share of ups and downs over the years. Having fled Nazi Germany, Michael and Leslie’s father Walter built a steel trading business in the middle of last century.

A profile in industry journal FS Private Wealth a few years ago describes how that was built to serious scale and allowed expansion into other areas such as the notable sale of three radio stations to Hoyts for $115 million that it had bought only recently beforehand for $90 million. Michael also built himself a funds management business, Mercantile Mutual, which he sold to ING for $115 million in 1999.

Those sorts of deals are likely to land one on the Rich List, not that that’s where the Heines want to be. Michael told the industry journal that he didn’t think that particular list was one he wanted to be on.

“While many people aspire to be on the Rich List, it can also be a curse. I did not seek to be on the list and believe that one’s private financial affairs are best kept private,” he reportedly said.

Well Michael with several hundred million dollars now in the kick courtesy of a publicly listed company CBD suggests you might need to get used to it. Michael told The Australian Financial Review on the happy listing day that the company had taken “on the banks and the big end of town” and wasn’t done yet.

Banking on it

Moving onto the banks. Even by the law of unintended consequences that seems to rule public life in Australia at the moment, the way in which we find ourselves confronting a banking inquiry with some real teeth is head-spinning.

To recap, a group of Nationals MPs led by Barry O’Sullivan, is threatening to serve the banks up to just such an inquiry in defiance of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

The impetus for their revolt is the government’s handling of the same-sex marriage postal survey, although most of the rebels are long-standing critics of the banks. It is quite a turn of events if you are in the shoes of the banks who, like other corporates, have been enjoying the glow of backing a winner in the community for once.

ANZ boss Shayne Elliott has been more vocal than some others, noting in a post on his facebook page on the day of the result that “ANZ has been a consistent supporter of marriage equality”.

“I won’t hide the fact I am also personally very pleased the result has gone this way,” he wrote.

Westpac chief Brian Hartzer wrote to staff telling them “why I’ll be voting Yes”.

Those two banks were joined by the Commonwealth Bank and NAB in officially supporting the Yes vote. They are clearly an equal opportunity oligopoly. Anyhow, to see that goodwill with 61 per cent of the population turn to ash in their mouths must feel more than a little confronting. But it wasn’t just the big banks but also regionals like Bank of Queensland who backed the Yes campaign. So too did large superannuation outfits like AustralianSuper and Hesta. They must now be wondering what they did to earn a commission of inquiry that will include industry super funds alongside the banks.

Still, Turnbull looks determined to avoid the inquiry and will nix a week of Parliament to achieve it if necessary. It’s all starting to feel more like a stormcloud coloured No than rainbow tinted Yes.

Stepping up

There were no fireworks this year for newly minted Ardent chairman Gary Weiss when he fronted shareholders in the posh, level 35, Barangaroo tower offices of law firm Gilbert + Tobin on the drizzly Monday morning in Sydney.

Having spent a fiesty few months disposing of the chairman George Venardos, Weiss was all smiles for the packed room, which included his Ariadne mates, David Baffsky and Kevin Seymour.

With an almost wry smile, he said; “Before commencing the formal business of the meeting, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of former directors Simon Kelly, George Venardos, Melanie Willis and Deborah Thomas during what has been a difficult and challenging year”.

But now he’s in the chair, he ain’t budging, saying to David Haslingden – when he conducted proceedings for Weiss’ vote – “don’t get used to it [the chairmanship]”.

Not that all investors were happy about this turn of events. A tick under 9 per cent voted against Weiss’ appointment, while 6.66 per cent voted against Haslingden’s re-election.

The remuneration report attracted something of a protest vote (again about 9 per cent) but that was not to do with Simon Kelly’s farewell handshake of 143,807 shares. The shares were awarded as part of his sign-on arrangement but carved back pro-rata in line with his rather swift departure.

Ardent’s closing price of $1.75 works out to be just over $250,000 in stock for his five months work. Investors will have to wait to next year to have their say on that.