In 2009 Adam Hill was in Papua New Guinea, working in a Port Moresby accountancy office by day and coaching rugby union by night.
Then the country’s national team the Pukpuks, or crocodiles, called. They didn’t want a coach. The Pukpuks wanted Hill, who had played more than 100 first-grade games for Sydney rugby club Gordon, to play tighthead prop for the land of his birth.
Hill ended up playing six matches for the Pukpuks. He had spent the first six years of his life in PNG but it was on the rugby field that he learnt pidgin, bonded with men who did not grow up in Mosman on Sydney’s north shore and decided to make an investment in the country.
“We saw an opportunity in PNG’s funds-management industry to set up a company with international standards,” says Hill.
Last year Hill founded investment manager and adviser PacWealth Capital. He appointed former Colonial First State executive Ian Jenkins, who had worked in Sri Lanka and Hong Kong, as its chief executive.
Port Moresby-based PacWealth last week announced it had won a $1.1-billion mandate from Papua New Guinea’s National Superannuation Fund.
Hill also has a business in Sydney: Forte Private Wealth advises well-heeled individuals. Hill often greets clients next to a photograph of former Wallabies captain John Eales raising his arms in triumph after a try against the All Blacks in 2000.
He foresees further opportunities to win mandates on the back of Papua New Guinea’s economy. With a population of 6 million, the nation’s economy grew 9.3 per cent last year and 5.5 per cent this year due to a mining boom.
PacWealth currently has eight staff and another two will join this year. The company wants to bring staff to Australia to expose them to financial services practises outside PNG.
Hill believes PacWealth’s decision to hire almost entirely local staff and work with PNG institutions was a key determinate in winning its mandate.
It also helped that Hill’s father, Richard, has an accounting business with an office in Port Moresby headed by Michael Mayberry, a former board member of the Bank of Papua New Guinea. Adam Hill lived in Papua New Guinea between 2008 and 2009 with his wife and children.
“I still go back to PNG every three weeks,” says Hill. “It’s a land of opportunity.”