Under a glass covered case at Perpetual Ltd.’s Sydney headquarters medals are displayed. One hundred employees enlisted for active service in 1940. Staff raised a fund for employees who served abroad during World War II.
Now the firm’s employees are in another fight. Perpetual is the subject of takeover speculation. Investor Gary Weiss, says the Sydney Morning Herald, wants a board seat and to helm the company’s corporate strategy following the firing of former chief executive Chris Ryan this month.
Weiss’ office didn’t return calls seeking comment.
But if there is anxiety at Perpetual over such speculation it is not apparent. Some employees are even relishing new CEO Geoff Lloyd’s aims to reinvigorate sales and distribution, inculcate a critical cost sense balanced with an appeal to collegiality.
The executive committee of the firm is united and focused, a person familiar with the matter says. Lloyd has taken the firm’s efforts of streamlining to heart. He has a noticeably more svelte profile. Last week he emerged from the elevator with a styrofoam packet of take-out food in a plastic bag.
The pressure on Lloyd to show earnings improvement and a strategic clarity is not on him alone, says the person who is familiar with the company.
Employees are conscious, the person says, that they all must collectively show an improvement in the business to burnish a 125-year old reputation that is under question and examination.
The person says the firm’s cost cutting efforts is not just about firings.
Pointing out the window to where the ANZ logo on a building can be seen, he says Perpetual does not have a slash and burn culture toward employees.
“There is a lot of momentum in the business right now,” says the person. “There is a buzz around the place.”
But net fund outflows in the fourth quarter 2011 were about $900 million, about $800 million from its equities investment unit. Fund manager John Sevior announced his departure last year.
Still, Perpetual has about $22.9 billion in assets under management. It is still the No. 1 brand in asset management in Australia even if net profit fell 31 per cent to $62 million in the year to June 30, 2011.
Perpetual is seeking to launch new funds and services. It said Sandi Orleow, Jeremy Rolleston and Darren Beesley will help Warwick Boys grow a fixed income and multi-sector product.
“We’re not blindly manufacturing things and throwing them out there,” says Boys. “We’re bringing things to the table in an expert way.”
Boys had been the sole institutional sales representative for non-equity for Perpetual for three years, an area he is keen to expand.
He is clearly relishing his job, frequently grinning and chuckling. The former Army Reserve first lieutenant may be enjoying gossip that depicts Perpetual in a “battle” to win back investor confidence.