Lenses on External Asset Managers (EAMs) – An Exclusive Interview with Ms Lucie Hulme of the Association of Independent Wealth Managers (AIWM) Singapore

CREATING A REPRESENTATIVE VOICE FOR THE INDEPENDENT WEALTH MANAGERS (IWMs) IN SINGAPORE

The AIWM was established in 2011 by six founding IWMs and is currently supported by about 70 Ordinary Members and Associate Members. The AIWM was set up to provide a platform to equip IWM practitioners with business support, training development and networking in order to compete competently in the rapidly and ever changing wealth management landscape in Singapore and globally. This interview was conducted with Ms Lucie Hulme, President of AIWM. Interested readers may refer to the website of AIWM. www.AIWM.org.sg


Disclaimer: This article is purely for educational purposes and should not be misconstrued as promoting EAM.

Ms Lucie Hulme is the Chief Executive Officer, Partner and a founding member of TriLake Partners. She has more than 17 years of experience in the independent asset management and private banking industry, having held various roles at Société Générale Private Banking, Crédit Agricole (Suisse) and The Forum Finance Group. Lucie has served on the AIWM Committee for the past 7 years, and she has also been appointed as Member of the Institute of Banking & Finance (IBF) Private Banking Industry Workgroup since 2019.
 

Q. What is the vision and mission of AIWM? 

 A.  The vision of AIWM is to be the leading industry advocate for independent wealth managers (IWMs) and multi-family offices (MFOs) in Singapore. As the voice of this sector, we aim to

  1. Represent the distinct interests of members to help various stakeholders better understand the role of IWMs;
  2. Strengthen the visibility and uphold the reputation of IWMs in Singapore and abroad;
  3. Drive dialogue and engagement with regulators to shape policy initiatives, communicate new market practices and navigate regulatory changes;
  4. Foster a collaborative community of like-minded professionals that can benefit from one another; and
  5. Empower members through continuous education and training development to elevate industry standards.

Q. What motivated the establishment of the AIWM?

 A.  With the growth in wealth in Asia, not only had the number of IWMs in Singapore risen over the years, the sophistication of wealth solutions sought by high net worth clients had also risen. And so had the complexity of regulation and compliance. There is great diversity in the capabilities of the IWMs in Singapore to cope with the complexities. How can we competently manage the ever-changing landscape as a diverse group spanning from start-ups to more mature and much larger firms? We have to band together as a community and project a collective voice! We must self-educate, self-regulate and self-advocate in order to gain recognition and bargaining power as a sector. Hence, in 2011, six proactive IWMs came together and established the AIWM in Singapore.

Q. How does the AIWM support the development of the IWM community? 

 A. I will share on the member services below.

  1. On helping existing members

    We equip our ordinary members with business support and resources which include legal and compliance support, as well as compliance templates. To help members grow in competencies and strengths, we deliver on-going training programmes, negotiate pricing with selected service providers and create networking opportunities for members. To aid members in staying one step ahead of changes, we provide regular updates on industry developments, new market practices and regulatory guidelines through regular events, webinars, and email newsletters.

  2. On helping new entrants

    When a new IWM in Singapore joins as an ordinary member of the AIWM, the new entrant would be able to tap into the expertise of the ordinary and associate members. The associate members comprise experts based in Singapore and across the globe spanning from legal counsel, tax experts, banks, IT to insurance providers. The AIWM also provides new members with a suite of useful tools and templates (for example, risk assessment templates), a dedicated compliance support centre and a group chat to support their businesses. Members can also benefit from cost synergies through exclusive offers and updates.

  3. On fostering dialogues with stakeholders

    Members are always able to engage with the AIWM on various matters and where feasible, the AIWM will foster dialogue with industry stakeholders and advocate on members’ behalf. The AIWM participates actively in regular discussions and consultations with regulatory authorities on new regulatory developments on behalf of members.

  4. On ensuring quality among members

    All IWMs in Singapore must establish robust operating processes and have stringent policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance with ongoing regulatory obligations. To safeguard the reputation and overall standards of the wealth management industry, the AIWM imposes strict quality and due diligence checks on new applications to the Association before admitting the qualified ones as new members. We champion the best industry practices to elevate overall standards of the IWM profession in Singapore. One initiative was to offer training programmes in regulatory compliance with Continuing Professional Development credits. In addition, the frequent open exchange and knowledge sharing among leading IWMs and MFOs will continue to raise the level of professionalism, integrity and expertise in this industry.

 Q. How does the AIWM foresee the future of IWMs in Singapore?

 A. The IWMs would continue to play a pivotal role in driving greater diversification and maturity in the industry, to meet the evolving needs of high net worth individuals who desire different models of wealth management.

The benefits of the IWM business model has been increasingly recognised. In a typical IWM business model, the clients choose the custodian bank where they want to maintain their account and assets, and appoint the IWM to manage their assets based on a Limited Power of Attorney (LPOA). An IWM has no short-term sales targets and is able to focus on building a long-term relationship with the clients by providing them with independent unbiased advice as well as bespoke solutions. An IWM also has the ability to adapt quickly to fast-changing market environments, being less constrained by regulations than a bank.

Over time, private clients have become more aware of and receptive to the IWM model of wealth management. However, banks would continue to wield a significant amount of power and influence, so it would naturally take time for IWMs to gain a larger share of the client’s wallet.

Q. What role does technology play in the growth of IWMs?

 A. Digital innovation and technology adoption had become a necessity for IWMs to meet current and future needs among clients. To effectively realise their digital ambitions, IWMs must first identify what they aim to achieve, and then adopt a gradual, modular approach to support their actions in order to provide seamless, value-added services for clients. The AIWM had organised several webinars on this topic of technology in the wealth management industry and explained and raised awareness of the recent MAS technology grants1 to members. Nevertheless, we believe that the IWM industry remains very much driven by personal relationships and trust. A total digital shift is unlikely.

Q. How is the AIWM positioning herself for the next phase? 

 A. We have ramped up efforts to engage different stakeholders in the financial ecosystem. For example, we appointed a public relations agency to work on increasing the public awareness of the IWM model.

The independent wealth industry would likely shift further towards greater autonomy in the coming years as digital execution and custody platforms had begun to gain popularity and traction in the region. The industry would likely see more partnerships between IWMs and private banks in Asia aimed at creating seamless onboarding process for their clients. In the long run, these partnerships could increase efficiency and achieve cost savings for both IWMs and banks, ultimately benefitting the clients. The AIWM planned to facilitate such partnerships.

As the AIWM celebrates her 10th anniversary this year, we believe that it would be a timely opportunity to further enhance the Association’s profile in the public eye and expand the member base further. To reflect the expanding sector which included IWMs and MFOs besides the IWMs, the Association was considering to rebrand and reinvent itself with a name change to the Association of Independent Wealth Managers (AIWM). We would definitely be ramping up efforts to reach out to the growing pool of newly-established IWMs, IWMs and MFOs in Singapore.

Q. What are some challenges for the AIWM going forward?

 A. The IWM sector remains relatively young in Singapore and there is much room for greater education on the differentiating values offered by an IWM model compared to the private bank offerings. One pertinent question that clients have been asking is “How are IWMs able to help clients achieve a more holistic and inclusive wealth management offering?“

Further education and outreach efforts by the AIWM would be necessary in order to address common misconceptions among clients that IWMs deliver less security and charge higher fees than private banks. We must explain to clients that the independent model had become very viable in today’s landscape.
 

Background

This interview was conducted by the research team comprising Dr. T Mandy Tham, Assistant Professor of Finance (Education), Academic Director, Master of Science in Wealth Management, Sino Suisse Fellow, Lee Kong Chian School of Business; Ms Esther Kong, Senior Deputy Director and Ms Juliana Koh, Research Associate, Business Families Institute, Singapore Management University, with Ms Lucie Hulme, President of AIWM Singapore. 

 

1https://www.mas.gov.sg/development/fintech/digital-acceleration-grant