Top Wealth Manager in SA 2021

Private Client Holdings has been awarded Top Wealth Manager of the Year for the boutique firm category by Intellidex Top Private Banks & Wealth Managers 2021, published by Financial Mail Investors Monthly. Blue Chip spoke to Grant Alexander, founder of Private Client Holdings.

Grant Alexander, Founder, Private Client Holdings

Grant, you founded Private Client Holdings (PCH) in 1990. Please share how it feels to realise that after a 31-year journey you have reached the victory milestone: the tribe has spoken and has voted PCH a resounding success.

It is an incredible feeling and the fact that the results are largely based on the confidential feedback of our clients is heart-warming and humbling. This victory is without doubt a team effort, right from my fellow directors to the loyal support staff, some of whom have been with us for most of this journey.

This has in many ways felt like a game of Survivor and it hasn’t always been plain sailing, but the fact that we put our staff and our clients at the forefront of everything that we do has paid dividends. Our team is strong, and our clients are loyal, which makes me feel incredibly blessed.

What is the defining edge that makes PCH the Top Boutique Wealth Management Firm in South Africa for 2021, especially since this was the year of the Covid-19 crisis?

I think that we were successful, not in spite of, but because of Covid. There was so much uncertainty and turmoil so all we could do was focus on what we could control. We had to stay engaged with one another and with our clients. We had pulse-check meetings twice a week and regular newsletters. We also ran a mindfulness series, which complemented our culture of nurturing relationships.

“Our team is strong, and our clients are loyal, which makes me feel incredibly blessed.”

We are extremely fortunate that we operate in an industry where the move to working from home was relatively seamless. We had already invested in cloud-based software that had moved us into a paperless environment. The video-conferencing meetings are effective, but we definitely miss the face-to-face engagements and the serendipitous water-cooler moments.

We were concerned that our clients wouldn’t embrace technology and digital engagements. Our concern was misplaced, and most clients were surprisingly comfortable with the new environment. Their only complaint was not having access to the legendary cappuccinos served in our boardrooms.

Intellidex sets the benchmark for companies in the South African wealth management and private banking sector. After winning a range of awards both in 2019 and now, please share your opinion on how the wealth management and finance sector could raise its game.

The assets under advice of the firms in the Intellidex survey amounted to R490-billion and there has been a clear migration of market share from the banks and large institutions to the boutique wealth managers.

Perhaps in the broader industry, the incentives are not always aligned with clients and the sales of what may be good products do not address the most critical factor – the fears and goals of the individuals and their family. 

I would encourage participants in the industry to take on board the fact that wealth management is not a once-off event. It is a partnership that navigates the trials and tribulations of living life to the fullest, preparing for a transition to future generations and building a legacy.

“Wealth management is not a once-off event. It is a partnership that navigates the trials and tribulations of living life to the fullest, preparing for a transition to future generations and building a legacy.”

PCH was founded as a corporate tax consultancy practice and then developed into a full asset and wealth management company – and has since grown into a Family Office. From corporate to family. What was your reason for moving from tax to wealth management?

We initially provided tax structuring consultations for companies, ranging from small businesses to large listed companies. As we established relationships with the business owners and directors in their personal capacity, we broadened our service offering to incorporate the six pillars of our wealth management model. It was clear that clients wanted a one-stop holistic family office approach. The survey has shown that this positions us apart from our peer group where all pillars scored higher than peers, but the inclusion of tax and estate planning in the advice process scored 80.5% versus peers who scores less than 50%.

Accordingly, we have a loyal client base with a higher contingent of clients than our peers who have been with us for more that 10 years and 76% of our clients have rated our family office as “excellent” compared to 39% of clients of our peer group.

The award validates that your development strategy was spot on. Why did you take this route? Please share your thoughts.

It is important to note that a strategy on paper is useless without a skilled and committed team that engage with our values of client centricity, professionalism and trust and the culture of our firm, which is nurturing relationships and the wealth of our clients.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our clients and each of the more than 100 professionals in our firm who played their part for us to be recognised with this prestigious award.