Financial advisory firms in the Middle East must modernise and enforce leadership changes to steer the market away from its current sales-driven mentality, said an industry expert, noting that a drastic change is needed in how to approach clients in the UAE.
Omar Jackson, partner at Berkeley Assets, a multi-asset company with a strong, diversified portfolio of investments, added that investors have become much savvier when it comes to identifying where and how to place capital and independent financial advisers (IFAs) must adapt or risk failure.
“We’ve seen a notable shift from clients who are turned off by the hard sell and in today’s climate, you just can’t get away with that,” said Jackson.
“With social media and the internet, there is heightened awareness and access to information and options like we’ve never had, so you’re operating in a much more educated and knowledgeable space, especially in the world of investment.
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“People take far more control when handling their finances than they used to, and IFAs need to wake up to that.”
As Berkeley Assets continues its expansion into the Far East, with offices soon to be opened in Hong Kong and Singapore – adding to its current locations in London and Dubai – Jackson has identified numerous ways the Middle East markets can learn from Asia.
“The Middle East does things differently largely because of regulatory issues, but Hong Kong was very similar to Dubai in particular in previous years but has changed dramatically now. Whereas every advice firm had a large physical presence in Hong Kong a decade ago, now none of those firms are there or they have a very sparse representation,” he said.
“We saw a large swathe of IFAs who wanted to do things properly move to St James Place, the UK-based wealth management business listed on the London Stock Exchange. A lot of the offshore advice firms were squeezed out because of the fee-based model brought in.”
“Don’t cold call clients 10 times a day – the cold call used to work but today you have to understand a client’s needs and how they prefer to be approached. Comfort is the key issue to achieve; when a person wants to move their hard-earned money into investment, it’s all about feeling comfortable with the person advising them.
“The multi-asset private equity firm with investments in real estate, hospitality, logistics and technology has brought all marketing and direct client servicing in-house to work solely on capital raising from the retail market.
“Our aim is to make private equity accessible to everyone because a fundamental part of what differentiates Berkeley Assets from most firms in the industry is that we welcome a broad spectrum of investors to place capital with us,” added Jackson.
“We are firm believers in educating investors and removing any level of secrecy or uncertainty that private equity has cultivated over the years. We are and always will be transparent,” he noted.
Berkeley operates more than 150 businesses, helping property developments, hospitality concepts and emerging businesses thrive. All underlying assets of the business are located in the UK and the US. The company’s portfolio of properties spans multiple sectors and includes existing and new to market assets in some of the world’s most sought after locations in the UK and the US.
Berkeley Assets’ aim is to continue to develop a diversified portfolio of existing and new to market concepts and businesses as part of a low-risk, yield-based strategy, Jackson added.
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