New partners Eureka Whittaker Macnaught (EWM) and AZ Next Generation Advisory (NGA) celebrated the opening of their new Sydney premises last Thursday.

An informal affair – complete with a lounge singer, drinks and canapés – the event drew an impressive array of senior industry figures, despite the rain-soaked, wintry weather of the evening.

At first glance, the office launch seemed even more popular than the 100 or so guests would attest. People sheltering under tents and umbrellas were camped out on the street below, but they were queuing to be among the first Australian owners of the latest iPhone, with Apple’s flagship Sydney store directly underneath the new offices of Greg Cook, Paul Barrett and co.

Senior executives from the Australian Financial Services licensees behind NGA’s planning practice acquisitions were among the more than 100 attendees. Mark Ballantyne, general manager, Financial Wisdom and Darren Whereat, chief executive, RI Advice Group were both sighted by Professional Planner. These are the respective licensees behind EWM and Pride Advice, which were acquired in May this year, along with Westpac’s Securitor-licensed Financial Lifestyle Partners, as announced during the event.

Mark Rantall, chief executive, Financial Planning Association; Brian Bissaker, former head of Virgin Money and Alan Kenny, an architect of Colonial’s FirstChoice products were also among those mingling freely on the night.

Greg Cook, chief executive officer, EWM, co-founded the business with his father-in-law, Mike Phegan, more than 20 years ago.

“Mike and I effectively started the business as a two-man outfit in 1993. And now, here we are with a brand new office above the Apple Store in Sydney’s CBD.

“It does make it a landmark – [the Apple Store is] probably a modern-day landmark equal to what the GPO or MLC centre might have been decades ago, so no matter whether you’re talking about Gen Y or retirees, they all know of it, and it’s also a convenient central location transport-wise,” he says.

Originally known as Phegan Cook, the business’s first home was in Chatswood, on Sydney’s northern outskirts. Its headquarters have shifted gradually southward ever since, first to Crows Nest in 1995, then to Milsons Point before finally crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge into the CBD with its latest move.

“It also brings our Sydney office into line with our Queensland office, which draws in a little more than 50 per cent of our revenue and is based in the CBD of Brisbane,” Cook says.

The business also rebranded as Eureka in the early 2000s, and added Whittaker Macnaught to the name after acquiring the $1 billion, six-office business in 2013.

Accommodating Mike, Howard and Ted

A number of key individuals featuring in EWM’s past and present are actively recognised in the new building, which will be shared with its parent company NGA, headed up by Paul Barrett.

During the launch event, Cook unveiled rooms named Howard, Ted and Phegan, the first of which is named after the in-laws and valued clients, Ross and Judy Howard, of senior planner Andrew Jones.

Ted Roberts, now aged in his 90s, was similarly honoured and also spoke briefly at the new office opening. A financial planner between 1949 and 2010, he was part of another planning business EWM acquired along the way, Evans Financial Solutions.

The boardroom is named Milano in honour of the home city of Azimuth Holdings, the Italian fund manager behind EWM’s new owner AZ NGA. Azimuth was represented on the evening by Massimo Guiati, chief investment officer – Australia and New Zealand.

Asked about NGA’s decision to co-locate with EWM, rather than one of its other practice acqusitions, Cook says: “we’re the largest practice and the founding practice [of the partnership], it just made sense.”

He says being in one of the nation’s biggest cities was another key reason, with two of the other three practices based in South Australia and regional Victoria.

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