Farewell Michael Harrison

By Jamie Williamson

A veteran of the Australian financial services sector, Michael Harrison is being remembered as a teacher, mentor, and unrelenting advocate for risk advisers after he passed away on Sunday morning, aged 78.

Harrison enjoyed a varied and colourful career.

He established Australia's first private bank, consulted to the likes of AMP, Citibank and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, sat on the board of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, and even served three terms as the Deputy Lord Mayor of Adelaide.

He was also a valued public speaker, both in Australia and abroad, and author of several books.

In 1997, Harrison was tasked with reinventing Zurich's Australian life insurance business; it is now the third-largest life insurer in Australia, according to Plan for Life data.

Most recently, Harrison served as chair of Synchron, a role he took up in 2011 and held until the group's acquisition by WT Financial Group in 2022.

His involvement with Synchron stretches back to 2007 when he began consulting on strategy and marketing for the licensee.

In a tribute, Synchron founder Don Trapnell said: "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 was not just committed to Synchron's success, but to the ongoing success of financial advisers, particularly risk-focused 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."

Trapnell cited Harrison's work in developing the NextGen boot camp for young advisers and Synchron's legal battle against the State Revenue Office of Victoria in relation to payroll tax being applied to the earnings of small advice practices, which ran from 2014 to June 2016.

On LinkedIn, former colleagues and friends are remembering Harrison as a "valuable guiding light" who was one of the greats of Australia's life insurance industry, always generous with his time and knowledge, and a loyal friend.

Harrison is survived by his wife Pam and their five children. He is to be farewelled at a private family funeral.