"Alignment of motives. It's everything": Year in review with ANZ NGA's Paul Barrett December 2017

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It has been a big year for AZ NGA CEO, Paul Barrett, who talks us through some highlights and challenges of 2017 and hints at some exciting developments for 2018. He tells us about the organisation's push into the accounting space - which he considers a 'natural move' - shares the key element he believes makes for a cohesive workplace community, and names his proudest moment with the firm since inception.

What has been a particular highlight for AZ NGA this year?

We are still very much in growth phase. We have certain objectives in terms of our scale that are very ambitious. To be honest, I didn’t even believe we could achieve our targets, but we have. In fact we are about 20% ahead of where we thought we’d be in terms of our scale.

What are some of your key goals for 2018?

We are now very focussed on phase two of our plan, which is to build a world class ecosystem for our firms. We’ve spent much of 2017 understanding what this looks like, now we are focussed on executing it. By ecosystem, I am talking about the operational, product, marketing and management systems that underpin small business. We want to utilise the highest quality components we can. This includes management information systems, CRMs, business management and reporting, risk management, lead generation, portfolio management and licensing systems.

Can you tell us more about AZ NGA’s push into the accounting space since the acquisition of Peters & Partners in mid-2017?

The push into accounting [was] a natural move for us. The best financial planning firms and accounting firms are starting to look alike. They are professional services firms looking to manage and advise across a client or SME’s entire wealth. Fast forward 10 years and all of our firms will refer to themselves as ‘professional wealth management firms’. We won’t think of accounting vs planning anymore. We are about to announce a new deal that we honestly cannot pigeon hole into either category!

"We are about 20% ahead of where we thought we’d be in terms of our scale."

When we last spoke, you said that it’s the ‘community culture that will ultimately define your success’. With 42 firms now joining you under the AZ NGA banner, what steps do you take to instil a sense of community?

Alignment of motives. It's everything. Getting genuine alignment is almost impossible, however on the rare occasion that it can be achieved great things are possible. We work really hard on this on so many levels. The incentive systems, the way we talk about strategy, and our reason for being – all these things need to be shared, understood, and believed.

How many more firms do you have on your shortlist for 2018?

As we close the year our current shortlist stands at about 15 firms, including 6 accounting firms. Interest continues to grow in our proposition. Our long list has about 35 firms identified.

What have been some of the challenges that you’ve faced in 2017 and how did you overcome them?

Fatigue is a big factor. We are running so hard that you run the risk of becoming ‘transactional’. We overcome this by celebrating every success and always talking about why we are doing this, the big picture and the difference we can make in this sector.

Since launching AZ NGA in 2014, what has been one of your proudest moments?

Azimut, our capital partner, hosted their top 300 private bankers and CEOs of all 16 country locations in Sydney in March. It was amazing. The recognition AZ NGA received from Azimut was just so pleasing. Three years ago I turned up to the Azimut conference in Sao Paulo with a Powerpoint presentation that said: “we are gonna do this…”, we hadn’t done one deal at that point. To be able to address the conference and highlight that we’d built a successful business in two and a half years was just amazing.

What's your overall vision for AZ NGA?

Our vision is emerging from within. We firmly believe we have now earned the right to think really big with respect to what we can achieve. We really think we can create one of Australia's best professional wealth management firms over the next 3-5 years. I’ll be more forthcoming next year!

View Paul Barrett's profile