Karl Morris

Karl Morris admits that witnessing the fallout of the 1987 stock market crash as a young stockbroker new to the industry is etched into his memory bank.

Those extraordinary days of boom then bust opened his eyes to the sheer force of the stock market, providing a baptism of fire he’ll never forget. He was hooked.

“Investing was much different back then. Interest rates were so high, and the industry was evolving at a rapid pace,” Morris recalls.

His father, a builder, recommended he get into an industry that financially incentivised those who worked smart and hard. So, he opted for a commerce degree. His grandfather also left him a small number of shares, providing his first exposure to the stock market.

In the decades since, Morris has witnessed the industry evolve into what it is today, from the arrival of the large investment banks into the Australian market, regulatory changes galore, the commencement of compulsory superannuation and countless acquisitions and mergers.

He’s worked his way through the ranks at Ord Minnett since the 1990s, from a state manager, to managing director, executive chair and today, as the CEO and managing director. He’s also been the chair of QSuper Group and sat on the board of RACQ.

Ord Minnett trades on its pioneering heritage, which stretches back to stockbroking in the 1800s. In 2019, an ASX announcement detailed IOOF’s (now Insignia Financial’s) planned divestment of its 70 per cent shareholding in Ord Minnett to a consortium of private investors, led by Morris. These days, the buck stops with him.

The buyout cemented the company as one of Australia’s largest independent wealth firms, with continued access to research and corporate deal flow with JP Morgan.

“Our business has changed so much over the years, to a funds under management advice business, which has meant moving away from being a purely transactional business,” he says.

The advice industry doesn’t operate on a level playing field, which is a bone of contention for him.

“The currently regulatory framework allows advisors allows an environment for two different classes of advisers to operate and I find that quite bizarre,” Morris says.

“For some to decide to only deal with high net worth sophisticated investors and therefore be excused from the national exam and ethics [requirements] that a retail adviser has to pass isn’t fair. If you go to a dentist in the city or a regional area, that dentist still has to have the same education and compliance.”

Meanwhile, the reputational problem that’s facing the industry is a key concern he’s keen to address.

“Retaining adviser talent is a huge concern,” he says. “Regulatory change has made the business more expensive to run, resulting in huge numbers of advisers leaving the industry, and replacing that talent is a real challenge.”