Years have passed since he was in it full-time, but Chris Cuffe clearly retains plenty of friends in the financial services industry. Across most parts of it, anyway.

Since joining the non-profit sector with Social Ventures Australia (SVA), Cuffe had noticed that many potentially great charities were hamstrung by a lack of capital. Old habits dying hard, the former Colonial First State boss came up with the idea of a multimanager fund, backed by service providers willing to work on a cost-recovery basis, which passed on most of its fee income to those social programs identified as successful and sustainable by SVA.

Taking a goodwill tour around Sydney, Cuffe found a host of service providers willing to go pro bono for what he named the Third Link Growth Fund (the non-profit sector is often referred to as the ‘third sector’ of society, with business and government being the other two).

Treasury Group came on board as responsible entity, RBC Dexia Investor Services as custodian and administrator, while Cuffe convinced a host of industry luminaries to donate investment advice when and if he should need it – QIC chief Doug McTaggart, Frontier boss Fiona Trafford-Walker, Geoff Wilson, Stephen van Eyk and Don Stammer are among the industry ‘household names’ giving their time.

At last month’s official launch of the Third Link fund, Cuffe reflected that the only service he’d had to dip into SVA’s pocket for so far was a $20,000 professional indemnity insurance policy. But even the resistance Cuffe encountered from the insurers seems like it will be surmountable.

Immediately after his speech, Cuffe received two separate offers from the floor – one from insurance broking legend Len Hanning – to sniff out a deal on the insurance side. Cuffe says he is confident something will come of it in the near future.

The only other missing piece of the Third Link proposition is funds managers. Cuffe says several have offered their services, and due diligence is well underway. Thanks to the generosity of the industry, over 1 per cent of the Third Link Growth Fund’s 1.4 per cent management expense ratio is expected to be passed on to SVA-backed social projects, which will add up to a welcome annuity stream for these charities if the product reaches its fundraising target of $150 million.

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