Weary of promoting proprietary products and often at odds with the house view, more and more seasoned wealth managers in Asia’s twin wealth hubs of Hong Kong and Singapore are opting out of the competitive corporate struggle to work independently and focus on a few select clients.
Regulatory enticements from the Monetary Authority of Singapore and the Hong Kong Monetary Authority have helped buttress the moves of these independents leading to an increasing number of family and multi-family offices setting up in these jurisdictions.
Envysion, led by veteran wealth manager Veron Shim, is the latest entrant to the independent wealth management landscape in Singapore. As if to emphasize the move away from monolithic wealth managers, Shim now heads up a team of seasoned private bankers with a collective experience of more than 100 years drawn from banks like EFG, Julius Baer, Standard Chartered, HSBC and Credit Suisse.
“As an independent wealth manager, the most important thing we offer clients is independence,” says Shim, speaking to The Asset. “We have no conflicting corporate interest.”
“We have access to 16 private banks and 12 investment banks,” she adds. “And I can now be 100% on one side, and that is the client’s side.”
In the current disruptive market, Shim sees opportunity where banks are recalibrating policy on collateral requirements and exercising margin calls, and where some lower threshold clients have been shunted into digitalized platforms.
Having diligently studied the market, Shim and her team are committed to offering more than just the traditional long-term wealth management and preservation expertise.
Her firm is also locked-in to providing a wide range of augmented lifestyle services for their ultra-high net worth (UHNW) clients. The services are built on four key pillars – investment, succession planning, corporate advisory, and lifestyle planning.
“The non-financial part is the area traditional private banks will not do,” Shim points out. “That’s why we built Envysion on these four pillars. The first three cover any solutions private and investment banks can offer, but the fourth pillar is all about non-financial.”
Shim gives an example of her fledgling firm’s additional services, set against the current Covid-19 and financial disruption backdrop, by detailing the plans she has just put in place to arrange for a private jet to bring a client’s family member back to Asia from an overseas location where no commercial flights were available.
Prior to establishing her new venture, Shim was EFG’s head of Southeast Asia, managing a team of ten bankers covering Thailand and Malaysia.
In addition to being Envysion’s CEO, Shim manages UHNW clients from Singapore and Malaysia. Three of her wealth managers cover North Asia while the others manage clients from Indonesia, Vietnam and the Middle East.
While she was reticent to offer a specific entry-level parameter for welcoming new clients to the firm, the figure of US$5 million seemed to resonate.
Judging by the number of staff, 28, at Envysion, it already appears to be one of the largest independent wealth managers in the Lion City.
Interestingly, Shim has managed to weave many of the themes of the firm’s lifestyle offerings into the physical space of her sparkling new office. While many independent wealth managers opt for humble surroundings, Envysion is located in a Grade-A office complex that is also home to Liechtenstein heavyweight private bank, LGT Bank.
Housed on the same floor but in a separate unit, a lavish private lounge with sweeping views of Singapore’s central business district and Marina Bay is available for clients and service providers.
While fine and contemporary art adorn the walls and meeting rooms of the wealth manager’s working space, rare Scottish and Japanese whisky and collectable wine are stocked in the lounge. And for the more health-conscious UHNW clients, tennis star Feliciano Lopez is an in-house sports and physical health advisor to the firm.
“We feel that in this business, especially with Asian clients, we have to show our permanency and having an impressive office in a prime location shows confidence and that we are here to stay,” Shim says. “It’s a necessary investment.”
While Envysion’s clients are already compliance ready as a result of their own established relationships with many private banks, Shim has her own in-house compliance team to underscore what she stresses are her own very high compliance standards.
All of this, of course, comes at a price, which Envysion says comes from portfolio and performance fees. For other lifestyle services, the firm charges market rates and emphasizes that the fees are not based on the lowest number, but on what is best for the client.
Although only months old, but with a very scalable model in place, what does Shim envision for her firm? “In five years’ time, we definitely see ourselves being a lot bigger and stronger, and a radically changed wealth management industry.”