In 2014, the FTSE 100-listed wealth manager acquired The Henley Group, an IFA firm in Asia, which had £400m ($500m, €469) of assets under management. Since then, SJP has roughly doubled the number of its advisers to the wealthy in Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai, he said.
It had initially recruited advisers from the UK to help with the integration of The Henley Group and drive growth amid a shortage of advisors in the region.
Gravestock said the number of advisers in Asia, following the takeover and investment into the business, is set to rise to over 100 by the end of 2016 from 42 at the time of the acquisition.
“We have launched St James’ Palace propositions in those three [Asian countries] and we have further plans to add to them in the first half of next year,” Gravestock said.
It started out targeting expatriates in Asia but has more ambitions for the region. Gravestock said that he wanted to focus increasingly on local high-net-worth individuals.
SJP is competing against private banks, which have long dominated the market. But their target client base is often slightly below that what private banks might consider.
The firm is targeting a gap between smaller advisory businesses and the private banks.
“There will be significant opportunities for us to engage with the high net-worth individuals of the local populations of Singapore, Hong Kong and Shanghai so we see this as an exciting opportunity to build a sizeable operation.”
Expanding from expats to local wealthy clients would mean modifying the product offering. For example, focusing more on funds that invest a greater proportion of their portfolio in Asia. Gravestock said there was a natural home bias not only amid wealthy Asians but also expats that spend a prolonged time in the region.
China is a difficult market to crack and the firm remains focused on expats in the mainland. The marketing team helps run events for existing clients, and the firm has relationships with local expatriate organisations. But it is not actively targeting local HNW clients.
“We have been approached by a number of businesses in China with a view to a joint venture agreement but as yet we have not found the right opportunity,” Gravestock staid.
In its half-year results for the first six months of 2016, the group as a whole disclosed net inflows of £3.1bn and group assets under management of £65.6bn.
SJP would not disclose its assets under management in Asia until the next annual results, but Gravestock said he was “pleased with the flows into those propositions”.
Adviser boom in Asia
SJP’s expansion in Asia coincides with a number of high-profile mergers & acquisitions (M&A) in by international life companies and cross-border IFA firms.
In July, UK-headquartered Aviva set up a 280-strong advisory firm in Singapore, known as Aviva Financial Advisers, in a further push into the domestic market following an earlier purchase of Professional Investment Advisory Services (PIAS), also based in Singapore.
In September 2015, shortly before Zurich exited Singapore, the insurer transferred its 160-strong adviser network to the Middle East-based Nexus Group, which is also aimed at Singapore’s local wealthy.