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A collective future, together

10 November 2023

As the Fort Group’s new CEO, Graham McCormack has just completed his first quarter in the role. Amanda Eulenkamp spoke to him about his vision for the future and building on the strong foundations of the independently-owned business.

He may have only been in his role as CEO of the Fort Group for three months when we met, but Graham McCormack has spent his time productively, listening and observing.

‘When I arrived at Fort, I committed to holding a one-on-one meeting with every single staff member,’ he said.

Those 30 minutes with each of the 50 staff proved vital in understanding each person’s role and finding out what they saw as the strong values of the Fort Group.

‘There was a very brief agenda, time to introduce ourselves and get to know each other,’ said Graham. ‘Asking them what they thought was good about the company and what could be improved gave a really strong insight into the culture and values of Fort. It was also the best way to attach names to 50 faces’.

I asked if the answers were what he had expected or if there were any surprises.

‘I think it solidified my thinking. The business is 50 years old and there are a lot of staff and clients that have been here a long time. It’s a very stable business and the culture is fantastic – it’s a nurturing, supportive culture, and there is very low staff turnover, and for very good reasons. Staff are looked after and given good opportunities and that, in turn, has made the business very successful.’

Having spent 16 years in his previous role, he has synergy with Fort Group’s culture of longevity, and wants to be part of the team ‘for hopefully a long time’ as he looks to grow the business.

One staff member is going to be 82 next year, and Graham said that speaks volumes about the company and its culture. ‘I think the supportiveness, the flexibility, is why there is such a loyal staff base. It’s why the business model has been such a success. Everyone has their trials and tribulations during life but you need to support your team and be flexible. As a result the business ends up performing better.’

In Graham’s view, Jos Ensink, the managing director, has a business that absolutely works. ‘He has got it to a fantastic point over the 30 years he’s been here, but it’s at a junction where a bit of fresh input and direction could be beneficial to help the business grow.

‘It’s important that we have a strong brand profile to portray the values of the business. It’s an opportunity to refresh what we’re doing. We just want to tell everyone and let people see and understand what we’re about.’


Graham says that the company wants to reach out to new networks, new intermediaries and potentially new jurisdictions, while still paying special care and attention to existing clients and staff.

‘There has been a lot of consolidation in our sector. We want to show that we offer a good home for clients and staff, one that provides continuity of personalised service’.

With some larger businesses, shareholder objectives don’t always align with management’s objectives, or even with staff’s view of how things could be achieved, and it can create an issue where shareholder return is the priority over the service model.

At Fort Group, the business is independently owned and objectives are aligned. ‘We are fully owner managed, we’re nimble, and decisions are made quickly in-house. There is no risk of shareholder objectives being misaligned with that of management and the business strategy.’

Having a well-defined strategy that everyone’s on board with and commits to is vital.

Shared ownership

A ‘massive believer’ in shared ownership, Graham says that the best way to grow a business or develop a new strategy is to bring everyone on that journey and make it worth their while financially. To this end, he and Jos have started sharing high-level financial information to bring everyone on that journey so that the staff can benefit as well.

‘We want things to be simple and real. If the business grows, then the staff are going to benefit from it.’ An incentive scheme that is a potential differentiator from ‘the market norm’ is on the near horizon for the business.

Next gen

With an eye to the future, Graham says that as well as wealth moving down to the next generation in trust structures, there are different priorities. ‘Just like our younger staff, the next generation of clients have different views on the world and especially sustainability.

‘We’ve put together a green team, they are the driving force behind our sustainability objectives. This then feeds across to how we can support clients via knowledge and investment proposals.’

Another interesting phenomena around the next generation is the growth of female wealth in the Middle East. ‘A lot of female wealth has filtered down through large families; we are particularly seeing that in Saudi Arabia, which gives rise to more opportunities,’ he said.

Tech and the future

Historically, according to Graham, trust businesses have been quite old-fashioned when it comes to technology. However, as a business, the Fort Group is investing heavily in its technology platform and workforce.

‘It’s important to continually invest in technology, after all it is the backbone of our service model. We want all our staff to have the best tools to do their job and provide excellent customer service. We have to pay attention to new technologies, like AI and ChatGPT and how it can be used in a business context, particularly in making us work more efficiently. We offer a very personalised service, so while technology can assist you in delivering that service and assist with onboarding of clients and the reporting to the tax and authorities, trust relationships still comes down to people and relationships.’

Good and regular communication is something that Graham believes in. Staff are updated formally at the end of every month and each quarter. ‘I talk them through strategy and what we’re doing; give them their voice and listen to their feedback. We are a team and it’s important to listen, find out what’s good and bad, and react to those findings. If everyone understands what we are setting out to achieve, what we are doing, and how they can play their part, then Fort has the best chance of success.’

It is obvious that both Graham and Jos are passionate about their clients, their staff and the continuity of service that Fort Group offers. Now that Graham’s spent time listening, observing, and putting plans into action, plus his enviable track record, things bode well for the Fort Group as it steps into the future with a new CEO at the helm.

This article first appeared in Issue 32 of En Voyage, in the November 2023 issue of Business Brief and the Guernsey Press (article published 10.11.2023).

Photo Credits: Guernsey Press


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