updated 9:41 PM CET, Jan 25, 2021

Focus Financial Partners expands further into Australia, via 'partner firm' Connectus Wealth Advisers

Focus Financial Partners, the NASDAQ-listed, New York-based partnership of independent, fiduciary wealth management firms that has been growing rapidly since it was founded in 2004, has announced that it has expanded its presence in Australia after one of its partner firms, Connectus Wealth Advisers, acquired three firms there.

The three Australian firms that are now a part of Connectus are Sydney-based Brady & Associates; the Link Financial Services Group, near Melbourne; and the Westwood Group, in Fortitude Valley, near Brisbane. 

Focus Financial has acquired three Australian partner firms in the last three years. Earlier this year, it added Melbourne-baed MEDIQ Financial Services, a firm that offers integrated wealth management and medical practice strategy services to medical professionals and their families. In 2019 it added Melbourne-based Escala Partners Ltd. –described as being in the "ultra-high-net-worth space", with outposts in Sydney and Perth. 

Financial Professionals, a Gold Coast-based firm, joined the Focust partnership in 2017, according to a list of Focus Financial partner firms on the Focus website.

Connectus is described by Focus as "a consortium" firm. By this it means that  Connectus is designed for "founders and teams" of wealth management companies, who are keen to "continue managing their client relationships and maintaining their boutique cultures while gaining the operational efficiencies of shared services."

The Connectus model is seen as expanding and complementing Focus Financial's existing acquisition model, which is to acquire independent wealth management firms as Focus partner firms, or acquire them as tuck-ins on behalf of the partner firms.

"As a consortium, Connectus offers integrated technology, investment support and centralized services, including compliance, accounting and talent management," Focus Financial explains, in a statement announcing the Connectus acquisitions.

"Connectus also provides marketing capabilities to support business expansion through organic growth programs.

"Connectus exemplifies the spirit of partnership and collaboration yet celebrates the entrepreneurial mind-set of its advisers."

The Focus expansion comes as wealth managers around the world are joining forces to take advantage of the scale and synergies that being part of a larger entity can bring, as the financial advice and wealth management industries become increasingly costly, challenging and competitive, particularly for smaller firms.

The new Connectus firms 

According to Focus, Brady & Associates provides financial planning, investment management and tax advisory services to high-net-worth individuals and families, estates, trusts and small business owners.

Link Financial also looks after HNW individuals, families and family offices, while Westwood is described as a "boutique wealth management firm" that looks after "a range of clients including professionals, executives and owners of small and medium-sized businesses."

Westwood was previously owned by an entity in which Focus has a minority investment, the Focus statement announcing the deal notes, without naming the entity.

Rajini Kodialam Focus FinancialFocus co-founder and chief operating officer Rajini Kodialam (pictured left) said the company extended "a warm welcome to the Brady & Associates, Link and Westwood teams", whom she said now formed "the foundation for Connectus in Australia."

In the U.S., Focus currently has some 71 member firms in its stable, all of which operate their businesses under their own brand names, but are able to take advantage of a range of resources that Focus Financial makes available to its partner firms, as well as help in making sub-acquisitions, in exchange for a share of the partner firms' cash flows, according to company materials.

In addition to the U.S. and Australia, Focus has a presence in the U.K.  (London-based Skeet Kaye Hopkins, which was merged in 2019 into Gelfand, Rennert & Feldman, a multi-family and business office manager in Los Angeles, California, and a Focus Financial partner firm, and Altrincham-based Greystone Financial Services Ltd.)  and Canada (Toronto-based wealth planning and investment manager Nexus Investment Management, as well as Toronto-based multi-family office Prime Quandrant). It has annual revenues of around US$1.3bn, and a market capitalization of approximately US$3.2bn.