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Couillault maps out Hobson's path

The former Macquarie Private Wealth business, now called Hobson Wealth Partners, plans to become more prominent next year, its new owner, Warren Couillault tells Owen Poland.

Tuesday, December 20th 2016, 6:00AM

by Owen Poland

The public can expect to hear a lot more from the recently re-branded Hobson Wealth Partners in 2017 as it seeks to promote itself to a broader investment audience - and grow it's client base.

The former Macquarie Private Wealth NZ business manages $2 billion dollars on behalf of 7,000 clients, and is now charting a new course under executive director Warren Couillault who joined forces with more than 20 staff to buy a majority stake from Australia's Macquarie Group which retains a cornerstone shareholding.

"There's nothing like that equity ownership as a great way to focus a team and drive a business" says Couillault, who spent six years at Fisher Funds prior to his departure in 2008 and who retains shareholdings in Generate Funds and the privately-owned Richmond Investment Management.

Couillault says he's "pretty fortunate" to have taken the reins of a business with an established management team under chief executive Laurence Fitzpatrick "who knows the business in and out", leaving him free to "improve the experience for clients" and make the business bigger and better.

Part of the attraction in Macquarie NZ was the growth opportunities. Couillault says that the client base and funds under management have been "growing nicely" in recent years, but he wants to leverage off the firm's research creation by adding to Macquarie's single direct advisory model. For example, "where people can purchase units in a fund rather than necessarily having an adviser relationship."

To that end, Hobson Wealth will move its custodian platform to the new NZX Wealth Technologies platform in mid-2017 which will enable it to extend its offering to include enhanced banking and broking services, as well as real-time reporting, in a single integrated platform designed specifically for clients.

One of the advantages of having independent local ownership is that Hobson Wealth will conduct work internally that was previously outsourced. And it can supplement the research it buys from Macquarie Group by extending its own stock coverage, or even be nimble enough to open new offices where it identifies new client opportunities.

Couillault shares the view of other industry players that there's likely to be a further shake out in the wealth advisory sector as businesses look for more scale, partly in response to an ever increasing regulatory burden which Couillault says making it difficult and expensive for smaller stand alone operations to properly discharge their compliance and regulatory obligations.

On that score, Hobson Wealth has recently appointed Auckland lawyer Jenny Sutton as its Chair to add some independent external strength to a board composed of financial services people. Couillault says that in addition to being astute and innovative, Sutton's strong legal and governance background "is ideal to compliment our skills in the business."

As for the re-brand, the choice of Hobson Wealth Partners is a nod to New Zealand's first Governor, Captain William Hobson, and is designed to create a strong, independent and nationwide brand that will be marketed to the general public early next year. "We can't rely on old historic brands and names like Macquarie" says Couillault, "so we need to do something to create some recognition and profile."

Tags: Hobson Wealth

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