The low-profile Brisbane-based wealth management firm Fitzpatricks Financial Group has pulled off something of a coup by appointing former Hillross and Centric Wealth managing director, John McMurdo, as its new chief executive officer, and adding the former managing director of Colonial First State, Chris Cuffe, to its board in a non-executive role.

Childhood friends Scott Fitzpatrick, the firm’s chief investment officer, and John Woodley, chief executive officer of Fitzpatricks Private Wealth, formed Fitzpatricks in late 1999.

The company has grown to include 30 advisers and specialises in providing holistic financial planning services to high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs), managing about $2 billion of client funds.

The appointments of Cuffe and McMurdo suggest that Fitzpatrick’s profile will remain low no longer. Both say they are committed to broadening the group’s offering in the HNW market and to adopting a leadership role in the financial planning industry.

Professional attraction

Cuffe says he was attracted to the role at Fitzpatricks because it compliments his other financial services activities – he is chair of the investment committee for the $30-billion super fund UniSuper, chair of Australian Philanthropic Services and he manages the Third Link Growth Fund, overseeing a multi-manager structure – and because Fitzpatricks has a proven track record of professionalism.

He says professionalism is “something I am passionate about”.

“I grew up as a chartered accountant, which is supposed to be a professional occupation… and it was really ingrained in you what it means to be a professional in the true sense of the word,” Cuffe (right) says.

“Your client is absolutely front-and-centre. For a long time, I have thought that the wealth management industry needs more of that.”

Cuffe and McMurdo worked together previously at Centric. After leaving that organisation, McMurdo began looking for an opportunity to re-enter the financial planning business and says that at one stage he contemplated a start-up or engineering some kind of merger of firms because he could not find a model that brought together all of the elements he sought in a professional, non-aligned HNW-focused financial planning business.

“I’ve been leading ostensibly higher net-worth or private wealth firms for a number of years and that’s offered me the opportunity to work with a number of high-net-worth advisers… and clients, and to listen to what it is that they want and what it is that they value in a wealth management firm,” McMurdo says.

“To be candid, I thought we may find various elements in different firms and we may even need to combine two or three firms to get the right combination of elements together.

“But what I didn’t expect was to find all of these elements under one roof.”

What the wealthy really want