The decision by UK-headquartered financial advisory firm Strabens Hall to exit Hong Kong created an opportunity for one of its directors to pick up the reins and set up his own firm, as reported by FSA‘s sister publication, International Adviser.
David Snelling launched the Hong Kong division of Strabens Hall in 2014, which was sold to a local company called Realord Group in 2019.
Working closely with his former company and the new owners of Strabens Hall Hong Kong, Snelling has now launched his own advisory firm called Charlton House Wealth Management.
“One thing I realised, over the last seven or so years I have been working offshore, is that clients with UK issues want an adviser who is regulated and able to act for them in Hong Kong and also in the UK,” Snelling tells International Adviser.
This is an area in which he specialises and it forms the foundation of Charlton House Wealth Management.
Failing to find an adviser who is regulated and well-versed in both jurisdictions means there is a “risk that the client might not be getting the full range of options available to them”, he says.
Snelling isn’t really looking to attract domestic UK or Hong Kong clients, his focus is very much on internationally mobile individuals and families.
“Typically, my clients are either Brits living overseas or those who have lived and/or worked in the UK previously. They might have UK assets or plan to move or retire there.
“A lot of the clients I have looked after over the last six or seven years are living in Asia and, while they might be able to pinpoint exactly when or where they plan to retire, a lot do end up coming back to the UK.
“So, it’s all well and good them having a regulated financial adviser in Hong Kong, but they need a financial adviser when they get back to the UK to compliantly give them advice when they arrive back.”
Those relocating from Hong Kong to the UK will find themselves in a significantly different tax environment.
A lot of the advice needs to be implemented before arriving in the UK, Snelling adds.
“They are going from a tax regime that is fairly benign and very simple, to the UK. What I have done for a number of clients in these circumstances is give them a financial plan and I’ll advise them on what they should do while they are still in Hong Kong.
“We need them to implement that advice before they become UK resident.”
The UK-based arm of Charlton House Wealth Management has been set up as an appointed representative of Strabens Hall, Snelling explains.
The current plan is to spin the business out into a fully-regulated standalone entity in the next one or two years, “but that depends on how the relationship with Strabens Hall develops”.
“There might be more synergies that mean keeping an appointed representative situation works better.”
Whereas in Hong Kong, Snelling currently runs a division of the Strabens Hall business that was acquired and rebranded Realord Asia Pacific Asset Management.
The plan is to transfer the division to a fully-regulated local entity next year under the Charlton House Wealth Management brand.
The team in Hong Kong remains unchanged and Snelling is looking forward to welcoming Nick Robinson to the UK business in August.
He is a chartered financial planner and currently works for a company called Wealth and Tax Management.
He will be joining Charlton House Wealth Management as a director.
In addition to offering comprehensive, regulated financial advice in Hong Kong and the UK, Snelling believes his new venture has another big advantage.
“In the UK, the average financial planner is in their mid-50s. So, clients are retiring at the same time as their financial adviser. Or sometimes the adviser retires before the client.
“Nick is 31, but has been in the industry for eight years, and I am 39,” Snelling says. “We are a young, dynamic team and we will be able to look after and serve our clients for a good long time into the future.”
Hong Kong tension
It’s safe to say that Hong Kong hasn’t had the easiest of times lately. The convergence of the long-running protests and the coronavirus outbreak has made life difficult for firms and individuals.
But it is a situation Snelling seems relatively sanguine about.
“I think there are a lot of people who are fairly fed up with some of the things that are going on in Hong Kong.
“I think it will continue to be a great place to live and work, but it is starting to make people reconsider.”
And it’s not just Brits eyeing a return home, with holders of British national (overseas) passports (BNO) also reassessing their situations.
“I certainly don’t want to see Hong Kong deteriorate in terms of the freedoms that people enjoy. I don’t think it will.
“But, as a business, if I can provide a really good, bespoke service to people looking to move to the UK; implement the financial plan before they leave and assist them when they arrive; I’ll be happy to assist,” Snelling says.
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