Exclusive interview with Pamela Phua, Asia CEO, VP Bank: “Asia is on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history, and the opportunities in wealth management are immense”



GPB: How have Asia’s wealth landscape and the needs of high and ultra-high-net-worth individuals changed and evolved over the past few years?

Pamela Phua, Asia CEO, VP Bank: The number of ultra-high-net-worth families worldwide is expected to increase by 125% within a decade. Global wealth is at its highest level ever, with Asia Pacific accounting for 42%, or US$218 trillion, of total global wealth. Asia is therefore in the midst of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer. This, in turn, will drive huge demand for financial services to support the seamless transfer of wealth to the next generation. Financial intermediaries such as family offices and wealth management firms will be in high demand for wealth management needs such as wealth planning and succession.

Another trend we have seen is that the priorities of the next generation of HNWIs are changing, with a greater focus on technology and sustainability. It is imperative that the wealth management industry takes this into account when designing solutions for the future.

GPB: How is VP Bank catering to these changes and positioning itself at the forefront of the Asia wealth industry? What are the firm’s priorities – and how is it going about meeting them?

Pamela Phua: Asia is on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history, and the opportunities in wealth management are immense. VP Bank has both the right talent and the right environment to take advantage of these opportunities. We have integrated Singapore and Hong Kong into one region, creating stronger synergies and business momentum between the two locations. This streamlined model also allows us to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our service to intermediaries and private clients.

Reinforcing our commitment to Asia, VP Bank Singapore moved into a new office in 2023, and created an international team within the intermediaries division, which has opened very different opportunities.

Our Strategy 2026 “Seize Opportunities” aims to achieve profitable and sustainable growth across the group, and Asia is a key focus. In our journey through the Asia roadmap, we have successfully completed the rebuilding the foundation phase, setting the stage for accelerated growth in 2024 and beyond.

GPB: What role does technology, including the likes of blockchain and tokenisation, play in the wealth market in Asia? What are the trends in this space – and how is VP Bank finding opportunities?

Pamela Phua: The digital shift emphasises accessibility, convenience and efficiency, but also raises concerns about data security. The evolving digital landscape is therefore changing the way customers interact with digital services, requiring banks to be adaptable and innovative. VP Bank is the first regulated bank in Liechtenstein that can represent real assets, such as works of art, in a bankable manner. This gives us the scope to rethink how other needs, such as inheritance planning, can be addressed. With clear requirements and investor protection embedded in Liechtenstein’s blockchain legislation, the country offers both service providers and investors a stable and, for the first time, clear legal framework. This allows VP Bank’s Singapore branch to leverage the capabilities of VP Bank Liechtenstein and refer interested clients to them for tokenisation services, providing a practical and hassle-free solution for clients in both markets.

Developed with intermediaries and their needs in mind, this new service will further enhance the efficiency of client service and is an example of our deep understanding of the rapidly evolving needs of clients. VP Bank aims to be at the forefront of digitalisation, and our tokenisation services, which was launched in Liechtenstein in 2021, is already a good example of our intention.

In addition, with the launch of the Open Wealth Services platform in 2021, we continue to proactively invest and reinvigorate our business model to meet clients’ evolving wealth management needs with our latest offering – digital client onboarding. This was launched in Liechtenstein and Switzerland in June last year and will soon be rolled out in Asia.

GPB: What are main challenges facing wealthy clients in the region – and how are they tackling it?

Pamela Phua: Wealth succession remains a pressing issue. Asian families appear to be struggling to establish proper succession plans, with many patriarchs or matriarchs – the sole decision-makers in the family – finding it difficult to hand over the reins. However, as Asia’s wealth creators approach retirement, proper wealth succession is becoming increasingly important to preserve family wealth for future generations.

These wealthy families are therefore evaluating current structures to strengthen their wealth, with a focus on intergenerational wealth transfer. The next generation of successors or entrepreneurs are also shaping their philanthropic and charitable goals with environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects in mind, with sustainability being a key consideration.

GPB: What is your outlook for the growth in wealth in Asia, and the role VP Bank plays as an intermediary and private bank for clients?

Pamela Phua: The world is experiencing a great intergenerational transfer of wealth. Asia is forecasted to maintain a steady expansion, supported by strong domestic demand in regions such as Southeast Asia and India, as well as a general recovery in international tourism, which drives many Asian economies. China is also forecasted to gradually improve its growth in 2024, albeit with a bumpy recovery in 2023, and this will continue to drive growth in Asia.

Intermediaries remain our North Star as part of our Asia roadmap. This means we are strategically placed in the ecosystem of partners such as trust companies, family offices, tax advisors, legal advisors and consultants, enabling us to leverage these networks for continued growth. With three family foundations as cornerstone shareholders of VP Bank Group, family offices are also in our DNA, and we are confident that our product offering, combined with our wealth planning expertise, positions us well to meet their evolving needs in the years to come.

As told to Rashmi Kumar, contributor, Global Private Banker



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