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If you aspire to work with wealthy families you need to be independent
More families in Asia are becoming conscious that the traditional private banking offering alone may not be truly aligned with the families’ long-term objectives
1 Apr 2020 | Tom King
Gary Tiernan
Gary Tiernan

IN November 2019 veteran international wealth professional Gary Tiernan took up the role of managing partner at Singapore-based multi-family office Golden Equator Wealth.

Tiernan said he was motivated by the challenge noting that in a few years Golden Equator Group has grown from 3 people to over 80 and has multiple synergistic business units which fit and work together.

One of his first growth targets is to hire 6 to 7 additional personnel in the next 12 month period, and that goal is well on track he says.

Now settled in his new surroundings, Tiernan has already moved to strengthen the team and will be welcoming new members in May. The Asset met with Tiernan recently to catch up on his progress at the ambitious firm. 

Tiernan previously built teams across Asia at the wealth units at Deutsche Private Bank and Standard Chartered. When adding to the business he believes in creating a vision and for Golden Equator Wealth (GEW) his visualization is to make it the multi-family office (MFO) of choice in Asia. 

With over three decades of front line experience in investments, private banking, and independent asset management across London, Geneva, and Singapore, he is a mature and steady influence for clients and colleagues alike.

It adds up to a valuable advantage and strength to bring to the table set against the current febrile market conditions.

Together with augmenting the Singapore-based team Tiernan is driving the expansion of GEW into other markets together with the growth of its diverse in-house initiatives and did not rule out considering acquisitions.

The independent asset management (IAM) landscape in Singapore has matured. Recent developments include global wealth manager Schroders acquiring one of the early players Thirdrock Group, while another Singapore IAM, Lumen Capital, agreed to merge with Hong Kong-based Carret Private Investments. 

So does Tiernan think the sector is ready for consolidation and will the Covid-19 turbulence possibly expedite the process? On that one he says he is playing his cards close to his chest.

While totally respectful of current market volatilities and of course the health situation, the current market troubles might also be fertile ground for the IAM and MFO sectors in Singapore for recruiting new talent.

Certain relationship managers’ long standing relationships with some clients have come under extreme stress as margin calls were made or earlier house views to which portfolios were allied, have been demolished.

“I think it’s exactly in these times that clients will ask themselves wouldn’t I be better off finding someone who is truly independent and who is working with and for me rather than advising me but perhaps with a different motivation,” Tiernan says.

He points out that working as an advisor, whose loyalty is only aligned to the best interests and normally long-term welfare of the client in tendering unbiased advice, can also lead to better investment outcome decisions.

Part of the pull Tiernan is exploiting to lure new advisors is that over multiple years the focus of traditional wealth managers is becoming less and less about the client. Whereas at independent players like GEW, the client is at the core.

“If you aspire to work with families you need to be independent,” he adds.

He claims that as the global pandemic has been unfolding, GEW clients were already well positioned to benefit as part of their long-term approach to the management of family wealth. The MFO has acted on opportunities to buy into the falls.

“By using the market environment cautiously and in a selective and disciplined way, buying into the falls can mean in one to three years’ time these assets are very much more valuable,” Tiernan says.

As a seasoned wealth manager with broad international experience Tiernan is also looking to broaden the geographic reach of the MFO.

The firm has ongoing interest from European and Australian families looking to set up personalized family offices in Singapore to get more Asian exposure. It has also been in talks with governments and industry partners in the region to highlight its services.

Earlier this year, the firm opened in Brunei, and there is the possibility that it could expand to include Europe, Australia and Hong Kong in the next few years.

When pushed on expanding into North Asia in the near future with say an office in Hong Kong Tiernan is guarded but says he can never say never.

He is however open to on-boarding someone based in Singapore but who is conversant and experienced with the family office environment in Hong Kong.

As GEW is working on a multi-generational level Tiernan is also open to speaking with younger wealth managers who possess the requisite skills and attributes as this often matches up with the alignment of the families they work with. 

A central element of the work that Tiernan’s team undertakes is facilitating wealthy clients to set up and operate their family offices. This also covers comprehensive legacy preservation planning that includes grooming the NextGens of the client families in managing the family business and/or the family office.

The planning also includes advising families on investing in all asset classes such as real estate, venture-capital funds and startups, all of which GEW has specialist experts in via the broader Golden Equator Group business stable.

He is positive that the financial overseer in the city state, The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS), has hit the mark with initiatives to continue to attract single family offices and multi-family offices to Singapore.

“Singapore is highly regarded, its skilled workforce, political stability and legal system are among the foundations that is drawing inflows of wealth from across the region to Singapore,” he points out.

But he is concerned that with the talent pool of those with the skills to match the demand not all that deep, there could be a competitive challenge forming to source the best talent to work in the sector. 

This is also where he sees the MFO model as having an advantage as the structure allows it to work with different service providers to match families and their diverse needs. GEW’s Tiernan says it has already benefitted from the MAS moves by adding more families to its growing list of clients, who were drawn to Singapore because of the initiative.

More families in Asia he believes, are becoming conscious that the traditional private banking offering alone may not be truly aligned with the families’ long-term objectives for their wealth. An issue that is being exacerbated in the current environment.

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