Singapore-based advice company TallRock Capital has reached S$500m (£296m, $373m, €345m) in assets under advice, International Adviser can reveal.
This is following the firm hiring seven former AAM Advisory advisers. Wealth manager AAM Advisory was shut down by Utmost International after a strategic review.
Both Greg Atherstone and Shane Coelho, directors of TallRock Capital, said: “This year has been one of our busiest years. AAM closed down last year so all of the advisers had to find a new home.
“We managed to attract seven of them. I think the main pull factor was the strong vision we have for TallRock and its future and also our ongoing digital innovation and current streamlined processes compared to what they were used to and what the rest of the market is offering. We’ve been paperless since the beginning of TallRock and very technology driven.”
AAM closure impact
In October 2022, international life insurer Utmost Group announcement that it planned to close wealth manager AAM Advisory brought shockwaves through the Singapore advice market.
The insurer completed a strategic review of the AAM business and determined, because its “focus is on partner-led distribution” rather than building its own, that closure and de-authorisation is the “preferred strategic outcome”.
AAM managed over S$800m (£498m, $563m, €572m) of assets under advice, principally in third party products, on behalf of over 4,000 clients.
Coelho said: “It is unfortunate that AAM closed, to be honest, because they were a very good company for a number of years and had a great reputation.
“For the advisers and the clients, they have had to go through a lot to move to us and the other firms, and it’s been a challenge for all of them.
“Now, we’re probably one of the largest expat advisory companies here. Our goal is to be the number one financial planning company across the board in Singapore because we’re not only focused on the expat market but also the domestic market and we have already built a local team that we’re really developing here.”
Expat market in Singapore
The closure of AAM Advisory has radically taken its toll on the expat advice market – but Coelho said that the Singaporean sector was already changing before that.
He added: “I think the advice space has changed quite a bit since Covid, because before the pandemic we had a lot more expats in Singapore and there was a lot of new client acquisition going on.
“In the last couple of years, we’ve had a lot of expats leave Singapore. We’re servicing clients all around the world at the moment. I think a lot of the market has been focusing more on client servicing in the last few years.
“However, being fewer firms and fewer expat advisers, there’s still a massive underserved market in Singapore. One of the things that we’re really trying to drive is to really service that market.
“You can meet expats that have never had a conversation with a financial adviser.
“There is a big opportunity. Singapore has kept that quite tight with the regulation. It’s very hard to get a licence in Singapore. There are only so many players and there’s only so many expat advisers in Singapore now compared to before. I think it was more than double what it is today.
“There’s a good opportunity for expert advisers in Singapore with a licence to really service the market. We’ve got wealthier expats here.”
The expat market is not the only area of expertise for TallRock – as it also has an operation to serve Singaporeans.
TallRock believes there are great opportunities in the domestic market as the number of expats dries up.
Coelho said: “If you were to put us in our shoes six months ago, before any announcements of closures, Greg [Atherstone] and I were looking at the market, we had a licence here, and we decided how can we grow a successful business in the market.
“Being such limited expat advisers, we decided to go down a domestic route and local market because again it’s underserved there.
“We’re offering the offshore products and some of the other platforms to the local market, which they haven’t even seen before.
“The investment experience that we’re offering as well, from the backgrounds of the UK and South Africa, we’re able to deliver a unique proposition where they’re very used to domestic solutions.
“The initial plan was to actually dominate that market. We already brought on a few financial advisors, and we had some teams who expressed interest, yet we put that on pause now, until probably the summer and then, revisit and really open up that market to be able to service both sides.”
Providers in Singapore
It is not just the advice market that has been going through change.
So, how has this impacted products in Singapore?
Atherstone, director of TallRock Capital, said: “There’s always going to be acquisitions and mergers going on, it never ends.
“I think there’s still a very good offering. It’s an opportunity for others who have come up over the last few years. The offering has changed in the 10 years that I have been here.
“I don’t think it’s any less, it’s just slightly different and new players have come to the market and capitalised on those opportunities.
“There are more players in Singapore market, than there was when I first came here. This gives clients more opportunity to make choices.”
Aims of Tallrock
Lastly, TallRock was only granted a licence towards the end of 2019– it has great plans to strive in the Singapore advice industry.
Atherstone said: “Organic growth is key for us. Further down the line, if there are any acquisitions that are available, we definitely will be looking at those because you do grow a lot quicker.
“We definitely want a blend of both. We value all the advisers and growing organically is actually key for long-term growth. It stabilises the business because with acquisitions you are handing a large amount of cash flow to grow. You’ve got to balance the boat.”
Coelho added: “I think if someone’s thinks of financial planning, I want them to think of TallRock Capital. That’s really the goal through the marketing that we do and also digitising the business.
“We were quite fortunate being a new entity in Singapore where we were up against all the older firms, and they didn’t really use much digitisation.”