Although a very well-known brand in the mass affluent space, St James’s Place (SJP) still largely flies under the radar when it comes to serving high net worth clients.
The firm remains “a bit of a secret” in the industry.
However, with the unveiling of its new brand – St James’s Place Private Clients – Paul Emery, private clients director, is hoping this will begin to change.
SJP rebranded its core business in January. This was “well overdue”, Mr Emery acknowledges, as the brand had become too traditional.
As part of this, SJP reduced its number of sub-brands for clarity. Along with the SJP adviser academy and the firm’s charitable foundation, the private clients brand was one of only three retained.
Retaining the brand demonstrates how important the private client segment is to SJP, Mr Emery argues.
SJP Private Client's rebrand
The rebrand of SJP Private Clients, which will be rolled out gradually to reduce the environmental impact of reproducing branded stationary etc, is designed to make it clear that it is part of SJP, while also highlighting it is focused on high net worth clients.
The firm’s high net worth client base – which it defines as £2 million or more managed by SJP – now comprises over 8,000. This division also experienced “double digit growth” in 2022, Mr Emery tells thewealthnet.
SJP Private Clients has had a record year in terms of new business, helping onboard over £1 billion in client assets. This has helped keep the division’s assets under management (AUM) relatively steady at around £24 billion despite a difficult macroeconomic environment.
Mr Emery attributes the firm’s success to three key factors:
- Its advice led approach.
- The longevity of its client relationships. Many of its partners work at the firm for “life” or at least a significant proportion of their careers. This allows them to develop strong relationships and offer clients continuity.
- The firm’s partner model. This gives clients the “best of both worlds” with the partner acting in a similar role to a GP and bringing in SJP’s in-house specialists when needed.
Surprisingly to many, SJP’s dedicated private client team are a “free resource”. They do not charge for their services, instead it is included as part of the partner’s fees.
SJP also invests in training new advisers – something else that does not immediately offer financial gains for the firm.
“We believe this is the right way of supporting our business and supporting our clients,” Mr Emery explains.
SJP is no stranger to justifying its fees. It is often criticised for being more expensive than its peers.
However, Mr Emery disputes this claim. He explains SJP uses EY to benchmark its fees and it actually comes out below average.
Its average weighted fees for external fund managers has reduced from 0.36 percent three years ago to 0.30 percent.
Mr Emery also notes how competitive the UK private client market is. If SJP’s fees were too expensive, they simply would not have as many clients as they do.
SJP is also building its overall offering and starting to provide more than just advice and investment services.
It has relationships with four private banks – including Weatherbys, where it can direct clients as needed.
It has also partnered with Ten Lifestyle to offer private clients a concierge service and launched a cash deposit service this year, which is powered by Flagstone.
Moving forward, Mr Emery wants SJP to become better known within the private client industry.
While intermediaries are responding well so far and more referrals are starting to come in, he is aware this is a long term project.
Relationships – both with clients and advisers – take time to develop. Mr Emery believes it can take three years to build a client relationship.
This time is an investment SJP is willing to make.
“It is all about doing the right thing over the long term,” Mr Emery stresses. “And these are not just empty words.”