CORPORATE LEADER Chris Cuffe, former CEO of Colonial First State, has converted his substantial goodwill in the business community into one of Australia’s first not-for-profit managed investment funds, Third Link Growth Fund.
Minter Ellison handled the legal side of the fund establishment, working in a pro bono capacity as part of the firm’s community investment program.
The fund, launched last Thursday at Minter Ellison’s Sydney office, has already raised $12 million, and will close at $150 million. If the fund reaches its full investment potential of $150 million, it will generate $2 million a year for the not-for-profit sector.
After working at Social Ventures Australia (SVA) for 18 months, Cuffe began to re-examine the traditional fundraising cycle. He took the skills and business contacts he had gained from years in the managed fund industry to put together “a fund-to-fund” model.
“Most non-profit CEOs spend a huge amount of their time — probably at least two-thirds of their time — out raising funds,” he said. “If you’ve come from my background, you can’t help but wonder is there a way to find a more stable and reliable source of income?”
Minter Ellison was the fledging fund’s first port of call for legal services, due to Cuffe’s long-standing professional relationship with members of the firm.“It’s probably around 20 years ago that I first started working with one of the partners there, Russell Stewart,” he said. “I’d worked with Russell for a long time at Colonial and working for him in those early days was Stuart Johnson. And then as time went on Stuart’s become a partner and Russell’s doing consulting work for them.”
Minters partner Stuart Johnson was easily persuaded to become involved in the endeavour, and after preliminary discussions, the financial services team started work on the project in December last year.
Their first task was to bring the Third Link concept within the regulatory space of Australian fund management, applying for a financial services licenses and making sure the fund complied with the stringent provisions of the Corporations Act. The firm also prepared the offer documents, and put in place the agreements with the other pro bono service providers, including accounting firms Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu and Ernst & Young.
The management fee on the fund is set at 1.4 per cent per annum, and donations will come from that fee, Cuffe said. “There’ll be a few costs that we’ve got to pay still, but net of the few costs, most of that should get through [to not-for-profits].”
The involvement of so many professional service providers for no fee is a significant achievement in itself, and one that few people could engender. In his many years in the industry, Cuffe had learned that it’s often easier and more practical for professionals to donate their expertise rather than time or money.
“I guess again that’s part of me having been round the industry for a couple of decades. I know most of the key players and they’re happy to let me talk to them, and when I put up this concept I think they found it a fairly easy way for them to contribute to the not-for-profit sector,” he said.
“The magic in that is, all the service providers — and that includes Minters who’ve played a huge role — have all provided their services pro bono, including the fund managers I’m placing the money with.”