Kevin Lee, partner at Hong Kong law firm Zhong Lun, tells Citywealth about his work and says increasing compliance will mean less commoditisation.
Tell me about your role at Zhong Lun
I am co-head of our Private Client practice. While we have had extensive experience in this sector in Hong Kong over the years, the increasing demand from UHNW individuals in Mainland China for personalised legal services is a more recent phenomenon. It is this demand that has shaped the development of our team's private wealth practice. My roles include both continuing my Asia Pacific and international practice as well as helping to oversee the growth of the practice in China.
How has the local private client industry changed?
The phenomenal growth of wealth in China has driven demand for structuring, planning, preserving, managing and investing wealth. Legal advice and language skills are particularly sought-after. We are also seeing our clients impacted by global compliance and transparency initiatives.
What is that impact?
Hong Kong got swept up with the rest of the world on the compliance front. We now have to deal daily with FATCA, CRS, significant controller registers, corporate services and trustee licensing, and anti-money laundering rules. However, these changes have helped us to focus on the types of clients we wish and need to service. The cost of compliance has led to consolidation among professional service firms but where there is increasing demand there is still room for growth.
Tell us about your ethics.
I value collaboration and sharing. If I do not create blockages for my colleagues or clients then they in turn are less likely to create obstacles for me.
What trends do you see in the private wealth industry?
I believe there will be more tailored advice leading to diversification of investments and succession-planned structures. I think the tougher compliance requirements will work against commoditised ways of thinking and planning. Advisers and clients alike need to move on from obsolete attitudes and adapt to a less private world until the pendulum swings back the other way one day.
What was the last book you’ve read?
Tim Winton is one of the best among a group of novelists who I regularly turn to for my next good read. Winton's Breath is a mesmerizing look at adolescence and the test of physical and emotional limits, centred around surfing culture on the wild shores of Western Australia. While I am into most sports, I am not a "surfie", but you don't have to be one to really enjoy this novel. Other novelists include Kazuo Ishiguro and David Mitchell.
How do you relax after a long day?
The occasional dinner with good wine is always a great way to unwind. On quieter evenings, if I am not in the middle of a new book then I usually listen to music or play my guitar or piano. I am also a film buff but I usually save that for weekends.