Wealth management in Asia

When the private banking industry in Singapore became more rigid, structured and stringent, Veronica Shim saw an opportunity to bring a different perspective to the industry. So, she set up Envysion Wealth Management, which offered a wholly new approach to wealth management. How different? One of the members in her team is professional tennis player and five-time Davis Cup winner Feliciano Lopez. The Peak chats with CEO and founder Veronica Shim about her views on the changing landscape of wealth management.

(Related: How banks are attracting children of wealthy clients)

Veronica Shim, CEO and founder of Envysion
Veronica Shim, CEO and founder of Envysion

Could you describe this brand new approach to wealth management?

Wealth management has traditionally been rigid – more often than not, it only involves a one-way conversation, and the solution that is presented to clients might not be the best fit. Moreover, private banks usually have their own approved list of financial products to sell which may not fully meet clients’ needs. The measurement of success for private bankers usually does not include the standard of client services as a yardstick but rather, skewed towards the profitability of the banks.

When I was setting up Envysion, one crucial aspect of the business for me was being able to maintain independence, allowing me to present the best and right decisions for our clients. We represent a more comprehensive, conflict-free and open sky approach as we act as our clients’ gatekeeper in finding the best solutions in the market. We believe that the entire process should be a partnership and two-way conversation, and based on our understanding of an individual’s needs, we’ll curate the best solutions.

 What would you say are the biggest differences between Envysion versus other wealth management offices out there in the market?

We advocate a holistic and well-rounded approach. Today, high net worth individuals are not just looking to grow their traditional wealth, but are also looking to invest in alternative assets from the arts and vintage collectibles to even rare whiskies. Beyond the current team of eight wealth managers at Envysion, we’ve also convened a diverse board of advisors and experts in different fields to offer strategic counsel and advice to our clients in areas such as Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG), Fintech, Blockchain, Fine Art and Antiques and Aviation and Private Jets/Yachts. We’ve also appointed former Top 20 ATP player, Feliciano Lopez, as our health and wellness ambassador.

Alternative forms of investment. Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash.
Alternative forms of investment. Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash.

(Related: Where do UHNWIs put their money?)

What are the main aims of Envysion with these hires?

Individual wealth is no longer just about financial assets but has expanded to include non-financial and unmeasurable commodities. While we’ve built a strong team of veteran wealth managers, there are still areas that we might not be subject matter experts on and would rely on our advisory board and ambassadors like Feliciano Lopez for advice and insights.

The extent of our services to our clients span beyond traditional financial needs and portfolios to also include providing independent advice from art appreciation to environmental consciousness and even private jet and yacht chartering or ownership. So, for example, if a client needs to ascertain the authenticity of a piece of painting, our art advisor, Allison Liu, can help with the verification process.

What do you see as the future of wealth management?

The independent wealth management landscape in Asia is still in its very early stages of development, mainly because of the lack of awareness and understanding among the high net worth individuals and families about what independent wealth management involves. For instance, in Switzerland, about 30-40 per cent of wealth is being managed by independent wealth managers – comparatively, in Asia, the figure dwindles to less than five per cent.

There is massive potential for the industry to grow and for us, as wealth managers, to educate the Asian population on what precisely wealth management entails. On top of that, we also need to take a different approach in Asia – as a society, we are more values-driven, and each family would have their own unique sets of values, legacies and traditions that they want to pass down through the generations. These values are usually built over decades and it is important to preserve them.

Additionally, the Asian market is evolving at a rapid pace and with advancements in technology, wealth management needs to embrace digitalisation. This is a crucial part of Envysion’s set up as well – at the end of the day, what’s important is the client’s experience and what value we can add to the client. For instance, a client today could have five bank accounts with different banks and they want to be able to have an overview of what their portfolio looks like at one glance.

There’s been renewed conversation about inheritance taxation and ensuring that wealth inequality doesn’t become too severe. What are your own thoughts about this?

In Asia, there is huge emphasis within families on succession. As compared to Europe, much of the wealth in Asia is still held by the first generation which they built through hard work and perseverance and will ultimately be passed down to their children.

Whilst an inheritance tax may make it more difficult for future generations to accumulate wealth, it may not necessarily alleviate wealth inequality. An introduction of inheritance taxation may be perceived negatively unless the government has detailed plans on how such legislation can help with the redistribution of wealth in society.

At Envysion, we have noticed that our clients have a vested interest, and increasingly so, in using their wealth for a good cause. When we started Envysion, we built in philanthropy and Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) as core elements in our approach to succession planning for our clients.