ABOVE: Michael Harrison
Highly-respected business strategist and former Synchron Independent Chair, Michael Harrison, passed away in Melbourne on Sunday morning, 21 May 2023, after a long illness. He was 78.
Mr Harrison worked closely with Synchron from 2007, when he was appointed Synchron’s business strategy and marketing consultant. He then served as Chair from April 2011 until the sale of the group to WT Financial last year.
Long-time colleague and friend, Don Trapnell, said Mr Harrison made an enormous contribution to Synchron, and in many ways helped reinvent the business.
‘With his help, we transformed Synchron into one of the largest non-institutionally owned licensees in the country and a preferred dealer group for both younger advisers and our traditional network of older advisers,’ he said.
‘He was one of the main instigators of our ground-breaking NextGen bootcamp for young advisers and industry participants, and he went with me to the UK in 2015, to uncover the real story in relation to life insurance commissions in that part of the world.’
Mr Trapnell said he believes the findings he and Mr Harrison brought back from the UK informed debate on the issue of risk remuneration in Australia and helped shape the future.
Mr Harrison was also instrumental in Synchron’s legal battle against the State Revenue Office (SRO) of Victoria over the imposition of payroll tax on the earnings of financial advice practices that did not employ two or more people.
‘It was Michael who successfully led that fight, saving not only Synchron, but potentially all licensees across the industry, from a hefty payroll tax bill that could have had a profound negative impact on their businesses,’ he said.
‘He was not just committed to Synchron’s success, but to the ongoing success of financial advisers, particularly risk-focussed advisers. He deeply understood the financial services landscape and the drivers of change. I greatly respected his business acumen and will profoundly miss his friendship.’
In the early 80s, Mr Harrison established Australia’s first private bank. He also served three terms as Deputy Lord Mayor of Adelaide and, over the course of his long career, sat on government and private company boards, including the Australian Formula One Grand Prix.
Mr Harrison consulted to numerous clients including Citibank, the STAR Alliance Network, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and Zurich Financial Services, where, in 1997, he was charged with the responsibility of reinventing Zurichʼs Australian life insurance business.
He was also the author of three books, a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management, and a Life Member of the Million Dollar Round Table.
Mr Harrison is survived by his wife, Pam, and five children, and will be farewelled at a private family funeral, as per his final wishes.
Mr Trapnell has prepared a video tribute to Mr Harrison which can be viewed via the following link: