*This Infocus report is written in partnership with Godfrey Pembroke
Max Weston and John Godfrey forged what has proven to be an enduring business when launching Godfrey Pembroke Group in 1981. Indeed, their vision has stood the test of time.
Today, Godfrey Pembroke is a highly regarded and trusted part of the financial services landscape in Australia. The network of advisers and integrated wealth management firms has a long history of delivering bespoke, quality advice.
The firm has cemented its position in the market, serving mostly high net worth individuals with more complex investment requirements.
This year marks 40 years since the business launched. Today, the boutique firm is backed by IOOF, giving the firm access to extensive support and solutions, such as technology, education, compliance guidance and research.
The anniversary provided the founders of the business with an opportunity to reflect on the journey so far and contemplate what the future might hold.
One of the original founders John Godfrey, is now 78. He recalls having big plans from the very beginning when setting the business up with industry colleague and friend Max Weston.
Godfrey’s idea of what a financial consulting process could look like was formed early in his career. He got his start in stockbroking, where he managed a client service department, advised private clients and managed discretionary portfolios before moving into a research and institutional advice role.
He left stockbroking to join Development Finance Corporation’s underwriting department, then moved into the financial controller role at Mercantile Credits.
He recalls setting up the first Godfrey Pembroke office and building the business from the ground up, one day at a time. In a bold step, Godfrey Pembroke became the first large scale licensee group to adopt a fee-for-service model.
In those early days, he had to think outside the box to drum up customers. Godfrey had a five-minute radio spot talking about financial issues on community FM radio in Sydney. He decided to announce over the airwaves that he would offer free advice to the first 12 listeners to take up the offer, and the business grew from there.
He had also forged relationships with the Rotary Club of Sydney, which allowed him to be involved in local business communities and yielded a steady stream of new clients. “I knew this was what I wanted to do. I knew the work was important,” he says.
Before long, he had a thriving business. Even back in the beginning, the business was professionally independent and resource strong, Godfrey says.
And at a time when they were leading an innovative business breaking new ground, the founders were also driving broader industry change. Godfrey and Maxwell saw an opportunity to raise the bar on professionalism through adviser education and advocacy.
In 1992, Weston supported the establishment of the Financial Planning Association (FPA) of Australia, and Godfrey went on to become CEO of the FPA in 2002.
Godfrey Pembroke’s operating model not only provides reassurance that it delivers on the needs of advisers and clients, but it also helps foster trust and camaraderie among members of its community.
“Our licensee team facilitates opportunities for advisers to come together to share pain points and problem solve with each other,” he says.
All these years later, the firm has well and truly come of age. It’s a genuine adviser-led community, working collaboratively to prioritise the needs of advisers and clients.
The financial services landscape has changed as greater regulation comes into play.
But in a forward-thinking shift, the firm paved the way toward engaging in active advice with clients, putting Godfrey Pembroke advisers in good stead for the current environment.
This shift has seen advisers engage more proactively with their clients in terms of educating them to understand their fees, what they’re paying for, and what the value represents.
“Godfrey Pembroke has changed ownership and evolved over the years, but the culture and mindset of our adviser network has not wavered,” current general manager Mark Fisher says.
“We continue to drive higher education standards, encouraging advisers to embrace higher levels of qualification to complement and back their existing experience as professionals,” he adds.
Godfrey Pembroke has one of the most experienced leadership and support teams in the industry, which includes a team of specialists delivering bespoke solutions.
Collectively, the licensee team has significant experience in the financial services sector, each with more than 20 years of hands-on industry experience. From the general manager to the practice development managers who work closely with the firm’s advisers, the entire licensee team brings deep industry knowledge, maturity and professionalism to their role.
The fee-based business builds lasting relationships with clients. “This is not a transactional business. We’re small because we have high barriers to entry,” Fisher says.
While advisers’ businesses and clients vary, they still think collectively about what’s in their clients’ best interests and how to effectively engage and support them, he continues.
“Community has become a key component of our future strategy, which has resulted in a number of initiatives and events to bring advisers together to discuss our plans as a group – both formally and informally,” Fisher explains.
In recent months, the entire team has been sharing ideas about how best to invest and manage client portfolios and streamline back-end processes to find further efficiencies in each other’s practices, he says.
“We are a diverse group of advisers who stand firm in the belief that we can deliver outcomes for our clients and businesses when we work together.”
As advocates for innovation, Godfrey Pembroke facilitates regular forums revealing insights from industry experts to showcase new investment products and offers coming to market.
It boasts a dedicated team of specialists whose primary focus is to support advisers who have complex needs. A heavy investment in proprietary software is being rolled out throughout the business.
Leadership and experience
Based in Perth, Practice Development Group (PDG) chairman Bernard Schortinghuis says the firm is stronger when working together, and genuinely puts clients first.
The PDG advisory board works alongside the Godfrey Pembroke leadership team in making key decisions, he explains.
This isn’t just a reference group; the board members are elected by their peers and remunerated for the important role they play in helping to shape the strategy and engage the broader adviser network, Schortinghuis says.
The five members of the board are representative of the diverse group of Godfrey Pembroke advisers. From the largest advice practice to a sole trader, from the longest serving adviser to one of the newest advisers to join the firm.
“And yet there’s a boutique feel to Godfrey Pembroke, with advisers playing a leading role in guiding important decisions, such as the decision for the firm to partner with IOOF,” he says.
Being adviser-led isn’t just about the advisory board involvement. The firm prides itself on ensuring advisers experience a deep level of inclusivity.
“It means that all advisers have the opportunity to frequently engage with Godfrey Pembroke on issues that are important to them, to be heard and have a say in shaping the future they want for their community,” Schortinghuis says.