Squirrel’s first acquisition won’t be its last: Bolton

by Maya Breen25 Nov 2015
Mortgage and property expert Squirrel announced on Friday that they had recently bought Takapuna-based Aspire Advisors, but it won’t be their last acquisition says Squirrel’s founder.

Having also recently branched out into the person-to-person lending market with Squirrel Money, Squirrel chief John Bolton told NZ Adviser they are looking to open another branch in Auckland but then rapidly expand beyond the city throughout the areas of Waikato, Tauranga, Wellington and Christchurch.

“We think we’ve got another branch in Auckland in us, so we’ll potentially open one more branch or look to acquire one more business in Auckland,” says Bolton.

“The goal in the next 12-18months is to have eight branches around New Zealand and have a nation-wide brand.” 

Bolton says they are ultimately aiming to list on the stock exchange within same time frame and this is one of the opportunities for other businesses who may join with Squirrel. 

“There’s huge value in these financial services businesses that are done right,” he says, explaining that traditional broking, where a trail book is built up and then sold on to another broker, doesn’t generate the same values as building a nationwide brand and business model that go beyond that of traditional mortgage broking.

By 2020, Bolton says Squirrel hopes to be one of the top five mortgage originators in the New Zealand market.

The take-over of Aspire has brought the Squirrel team up to 40 strong with about 20 of those as advisers. 

The young motivated and driven team at Aspire, as well as their similar client-focused values are what influenced the acquisition says Bolton, and they were already looking at having a reach in North Shore, so it was a natural extension.

“In the world that we live in now people have a lot of questions and they need to have good advice around them and that they can trust.”

“It’s important to us that the client is really at the centre of the relationship and the breadth of the offer – how wide we go in terms of the stuff we are prepared to help our clients figure out.”

He says Aspire’s client niche had more of an investor focus than Squirrel, which leans more towards home owners and first home buyers but both have broad customer bases.

“Although Squirrel is a much bigger business, the reality is in terms of the number of people we’re talking to the businesses are probably not dissimilar in size.”

Squirrel has kept the current Aspire office for now but will look to shift into a new Squirrel branded office in the New Year. 

Bolton says the market is not as strong as it was earlier in the year so that will be their focus moving forward. 

“I think the challenge for us, with a bigger team, is to regain that momentum early next year and continue to innovate.”

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