St. James’s Place chief to focus on Asia after stepping down from top job at year’s end
St. James’s Place chief executive David Bellamy, who is stepping down from his role at the end of the year, said he will stay on with the British wealth manager in an advisory capacity to oversee the Asian business, including Hong Kong.
Bellamy said St. James’s Place (SJP) will build its Asian operations over the next five to 10 years in the same way it has been growing gradually and organically in the UK. The FTSE 100 company acquired Henley Group in 2014, enabling it to service the British expatriate market in Hong Kong, Singapore and Shanghai.
There are currently around 3.5 million residents in Hong Kong and Singapore with investable wealth of US$50,000 or more. This population and their liquid wealth is expected to surpass £1 trillion (US$1.29 trillion) by 2020, according to SJP.
While the tax regime and the way people view investments may differ between the UK and Hong Kong, the same challenges apply in that people are living longer, retiring later and want to make sure their wealth is sufficient to support retirement while also being able to pass something on to the next generation, Bellamy said.
“As Hong Kong property prices are rising so fast, people will want to manage their wealth so that they can help their children with the process of getting on the property ladder,” Bellamy said.
Bellamy, who will be replaced by current chief financial officer Andrew Croft, has been with SJP for 26 years, including the role of CEO for the last 11 years.
Under Bellamy’s watch the company has more than quadrupled client funds to £80 billion, including £750 million in Asia. Gross inflows amounted to £11.5 billion last year.
The firm has about 100 financial advisors mainly spread between Hong Kong and Singapore, with a smaller office in Shanghai. The company is seeking to grow increase its distribution capacity in Asia by hiring 20 to 30 advisors a year.
SJP’s business model is structured so that the company channels funds to external fund managers, who build investment portfolios of different asset classes. The scale of inflows provided by SJP means it can negotiate cheaper fees for its clients than the ones typically charged by external fund managers.
Bellamy said SJP has already obtained some good client investments in Asia, but needs to learn the differences and adjust portfolio offerings to suit to the Asian markets. It plans to diversify from sterling funds and develop US dollar-denominated funds as well as other currencies to make further inroads into the Asia market.
SJP’s unit trust wrapper, which allows funds to hold assets and provide profits that go straight to individual unit owners instead of reinvesting them back into the fund, is the most prevalent in Hong Kong. It has also established a life company in Hong Kong to market the insurance bond “wrapper”.
“We encourage people to invest for the medium to long term rather than focusing on the short-term market volatility,” Bellamy said.