Greg Stockton has only been chief executive of UAE-based Prosperity for a few months, but he is set to carry out “aggressive” growth plans for the business.
Stockton, who was previously commercial manager at Finsbury Associates, told International Adviser that the first part of the growth plans is a hiring spree across the UAE.
“Our head count goal is to have 20 highly trained and qualified financial planners servicing the UAE including in places like Ras al Khaimah, Sharjah and Fujairah as well as of course Dubai and Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“The ideal team will comprise of advisers, wealth managers and planners that have been in the region for at least a couple of years, have a ‘client first’ attitude and that also see UAE as their long-term home.
“With our approach to market being targeted events, referrals, seminars and of course our existing clients, it’s imperative that the team establish solid personal routes in the UAE in order to grow their network.”
Stockton’s plans are ambitious – and he said that the firm plans to reach $1bn (£760m, €890m) assets under management in five years’ time.
The Prosperity chief executive added that the firm is looking to make acquisitions across the UAE alongside the hiring spree.
“There’s a lot of people that have been in a holding pattern waiting to see what truly happens with regulation,” he added. “Ultimately, there will be smaller firms that just either can’t afford to continue to operate here, or don’t want to comply with the regulation.
“I do believe that there’s definitely an opportunity for us. We are looking at acquiring firms and licences for that very reason.”
Stockton said the advice company is looking at “acquiring firms that have a licence to help us in the long term”.
“We are looking at firms that are potentially in a position where they can’t operate, but they have decent size assets under management, or firms that have an investment focus,” he added. “We’re looking at all licences to complement our Insurance Authority licence.
“We are mainly looking to keep advisers on, but a few of them will be looking for an exit strategy. We would have certainly made one acquisition by end of Q1 2022, but it could be two.”
The UAE has been going through a wave of game-changing regulation from BOD49 to the updated Securities and Commodities Authority (SCA) handbook.
So, is this a good time to try and grow in the financial advice sector?
Stockton said: “At the moment, everyone is really panicking about regulation. People are saying the golden era of financial planning in the UAE is coming to an end.
“If you think about the UAE, they are introducing more opportunities for people to retire with golden visas and expat visas. They are looking to keep expats here for the longer term.
“When we look at it, we think maybe this isn’t the end, maybe this is actually just the start.”
Stockton, who was also previously a managing director at Carrick Wealth, said that his priority is building the foundations in the UAE – but did admit that growth across the Middle East could be on the cards.
He added: “We will look to do an almost replica model based around the GCC, probably starting with Saudi.
“The first stage of the aggressive growth plan is making sure that the UAE is solid from a foundation point of view.”
Nigel Green-backed advice firm Prosperity also has plans further afield.
Stockton told IA that the firm is “currently working on getting a licence in Europe” but that will not “come to fruition in terms of recruitment and development until Q3 or Q4 of 2022”.
He added that the firm would be looking to enter “established markets” in Europe first, before venturing into different countries across the continent.
Despite Brexit, “there’s more demand” for financial advice services in Europe, he said.
“I don’t think you have seen a mass exodus from Europe. What has happened is Brexit has caused more confusion around what people can and can’t do with their money and their assets.
“Whenever you have got confusion, there’s always a need for better financial planning. I see that as a growing market. People will continue to move and work in Europe and need financial planning advice.
“As an expat, you need somebody that knows that market. I feel that we will be uniquely positioned at that time to offer full financial planning advice to that market.”