The growth and economic development in China and south-east Asia over the last 20 years has been phenomenal. For UK-based St James’s Place Wealth Management, expansion into Asia offered the opportunity to tap into an exciting and dynamic region of the world.
St James’s Place expanded its operation into Asia in June 2014 with the acquisition of The Henley Group, an established financial advisory business principally serving the expat community.
Culturally, the acquisition of Henley made sense. It was a leading wealth management advice business in Asia, with over fifty advisers and £400m assets under management, operating from offices in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai.
St James’s Place and Henley both have business models based on the provision of face-to-face advice, strong corporate values and a quality management team to maintain a successful and robust business.
From these offices there is now the potential to access around 40,000 UK expats in each city. Each regional office supports a number of advisers, or ‘Partners’, experienced in understanding the specific issues that affect the expat community, assisted by a team of managers and technicians, both locally and in the UK.
Following close liaison with the different regulatory authorities a suite of St James’s Place products has been developed to meet specific expatriate demands and is now being offered to clients living and working in the territories.
These products are also beginning to attract interest and investment from new and existing clients from the region.
The launch of our Repatriation Service has further boosted the St James’s Place offering to expats. This distinctive service ensures expat clients returning to the UK (or, indeed, moving to any of our other jurisdictions) experience a smooth transfer of assets – in the most tax-efficient way possible.
It also ensures continuity of advice and service via a seamless handover to an appropriate adviser in the UK.
Following the rebranding of Henley Group to St James’s Place Asia, the recruitment of new advisers across all three jurisdictions has been strong. From a starting position of 51 partners and advisers in January, at the half-year point we now have 70 Partners and advisers across the three offices.
There have been many lessons learnt in these new territories which have provided us with the blueprint for further overseas expansion – a strategy that is a priority for the rest of 2015, and 2016.
In particular, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) presents an exciting opportunity to expand our international business in one of the largest Middle Eastern economies. We think there is a clear gap in the market for providing expats with quality financial advice in the UAE backed by a strong, well-known brand.
As is the case in our current Asian locations, the intention will be to focus on the career-driven British expat market. According to HSBC’s Expat Explorer Survey 2014, over three-quarters of expats in the Middle East are in full-time employment, and 70% believe that they earn more than they would have in their home country, so the potential to build a commercially-viable and profitable operation in the region is evident.
Of course, the process – both in terms of the negotiations and licensing with the regulatory bodies, and the logistics of setting up overseas offices – must be carefully navigated, but we expect to make good progress in the coming months.