Perpetual is one of Australia’s oldest financial institutions with a proud history of helping Australians protect and manage their wealth through both prosperity and adversity.
A trusted role in Australia’s history
In 1885 a group of business and professional people gathered in Sydney for the purpose of forming a trustee company. The group included the Honourable Edmund Barton who was later to become Australia’s first prime minister.
Perpetual Trustee Company (Limited) was subsequently formed in September 1886, originally based at 105 Pitt Street Sydney. James Fairfax (later Sir James Fairfax) was elected the first chairman, John Street was appointed the first managing director and John Pewtress, an accountant, became the first employee.
On 29 June 1888 the NSW Legislative Assembly passed a special act to grant Perpetual the power to act as a corporate executor and trustee. An increasing number of prominent citizens appointed Perpetual as executor or trustee of their estates – in many cases for generations.
The company earned sufficient profits by 1893 to pay its first dividend of 6 per cent and shareholders have continued to receive dividends every year since then.
Due to its strong growth the company moved to bigger premises, firstly in 1891 to 12-14 O’Connell Street and then in 1896 to 2-4 Spring Street. In 1916 we moved to our newly-built premises at 39 Hunter Street, previously the site of the old flower market. The beautiful heritage-listed sandstone and brick building still stands today. In 2006 we moved to our current premises at Angel Place, 123 Pitt Street, Sydney.
Steadfast through adversity and prosperity
Weathering the First World War and Great Depression, Perpetual continued to develop a strong and secure reputation as described in a report from 1935 to celebrate our first 50 years:
'This admirable record of progress is undoubtedly due to a great extent, to the ability of the men who planned and administered the policy of the Company, and also to a growing realisation on the part of the public of the many advantages offered by Corporate Trustees. That Trustee Companies do not die…the life of the company is ‘Perpetual’…’.
At that time, Perpetual Trustee Company controlled trust estates to the value of £50,000,000, making it easily Australia’s largest trustee company. 1935 was also the year that all staff were required to sign an ‘Obligation of Secrecy’ book, a practice that continued until 1988.
During both the First and Second World Wars many Perpetual staff served their country and the company established funds to support them.
In 1963, The Perpetual Executors & Trustees Association of Australia Ltd (Victoria) and Queensland Trustees Ltd, which had operated in their own states since the 1880s, merged with Perpetual Trustee Company Ltd (NSW).
In 1964 Perpetual listed its shares on the Australian Stock Exchange and this continues today.
In September 1966 Perpetual’s ‘Widows and Orphans’ investment fund and mortgage fund were converted into common funds able to accept public investment. The ‘Widows and Oprhans’ fund was re-named the Industrial Share Fund, which became synonymous with our prudent approach to investing. The mortgage fund is today known as the Monthly Income Fund, and has paid regular income since 1966.
From trustee to modern wealth manager
During the 1980s, 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, Perpetual expanded beyond its traditional trustee business to become a leader in the rapidly-developing funds management industry. This included expansion superannuation, financial advice, and corporate trustee and securitisation services.
Today Perpetual is a modern full-service wealth manager – but we have never lost sight of our trustee heritage or mission to help people protect, manage and grow their wealth.