Escala and Family Office firm merge in Sydney expansion

Ultra-high-net-worth advisory groups Escala Partners and Family Office Research & Management have merged to form a national consulting firm with an estimated $4 billion under advice. They will soon be joined by another eight advisors from Deutsche Bank.

Pep Perry, Escala chief executive and co-founder, said last week that a new Sydney office was being built to house, initially, 13 staff, which he predicted to grow to about 35 within two years as part of the group’s expansion program.

Thomas Murphy, who co-founded the Sydney-based FORM in 2008, told clients of the merger with Melbourne-based Escala just prior to Christmas. He and his two partners – Alison Thomas and Heidi Davies – have become partners at Escala, while colleague Ed Brooke, who is involved in manager research and portfolio management, has also transitioned to the new entity.

Murphy, Thomas and Davies worked together at Deutsche Bank Private Wealth Management, where Murphy was CIO, prior to FORM. Deutsche decided to exit that business late last year and several firms jockeyed for position with its advisors and their clients. Eight advisors are now joining Escala in Sydney.

Perry said that Escala, which was founded by a group of former UBS advisors and management in 2013, and the FORM businesses mirrored each other. Neither offered its own products to clients nor provided any sort of investment banking services. They concentrated on advice, usually remunerated on an assets-based fee-for-service basis. They each focused on ultra high-net-worth investors, family offices, charities and small super funds.

Prior to the merger, about 30 per cent of Escala’s business emanated from Western Australia. With both FORM and the new team from Deutsche, Escala will have a more even national representation, as well as a big jump in assets under advice.

– Greg Bright