Citywealth spoke to Ian Devereux, a partner at Stephenson Harwood and head of the firm’s private wealth team in Greater China, about the growing number of UHNW families in the region and their need for increasingly bespoke advice.
Tell us about the private wealth team in Greater China.
Stephenson Harwood's Hong Kong office has the largest private client team in Hong Kong with 5 partners and 17 other fee earners. Over the past few years, the private wealth team has won numerous awards and recognitions. All five partners are ranked in Chambers HNW, and we won the awards for 'Private Client Categories – Estate Planning: Greater China’ and 'Excellence in servicing North American clients' at the WealthBriefingAsia Awards 2019 last week in Singapore. We also won the 'Private Client Firm of the Year' 2019 award at Asia Legal Awards, and 'Law Firm of the Year – Asia' 2019 at the Citywealth IFC Awards. Four out of five of the private wealth partners and one consultant were named in the Citywealth Leaders list 2018.
Name three factors that distinguish Stephenson Harwood from its competition.
The first is that Stephenson Harwood is able to cover US, UK, Canadian and HK tax and trust advice.
Secondly, Stephenson Harwood's Hong Kong office is a full-service firm that can assist clients with all their legal needs.
Thirdly, the Stephenson Harwood Hong Kong team is able to advise in English, Cantonese and Mandarin.
What is the role of Greater China within the global network?
Clients are increasingly becoming more international, which means they need a law firm that can service their international needs, such as advising them on cross-border issues. Chinese clients are increasingly looking to invest out of Greater China (“GC”), and Stephenson Harwood, with its strong presence in GC with four offices – Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing and an associated PRC law firm in Guangzhou, is able to assist these clients and act as the gateway to the other Stephenson Harwood offices. The Hong Kong office is the second largest office in Stephenson Harwood with over 200 people.
Explain the significance of Stephenson Harwood’s locations.
With the growing number of ultra-high net worth PRC individuals and families, the Hong Kong and China offices are ideally located to serve, and take advantage of, this growing market.
How has the private client industry in Greater China changed over the last decade and how has your service adapted?
The number of high net worth and ultra-high net worth PRC individuals and families has grown significantly over the last decade and these individuals and families are becoming increasingly sophisticated, requiring more complex and bespoke advice. Our private wealth team has grown significantly over the past few years to cater for the increasingly complex issues these individuals and families require.
How has the role of technology within the group changed over the last five years?
Technology has assisted our lawyers to be able to travel and respond to a client’s needs while on the road. To give one example, one of our partners had to advise a client (via email) whilst on the plane from London to Hong Kong.
What are the topics you feel personally passionate about?
Growing the private wealth team to continue to serve our clients’ needs. Our clients are becoming more sophisticated, and the provisions in the trust deeds and letter of wishes, including but not limited to the reserved powers, are becoming more detailed and complex. They are also more international, whether in terms of investments, tax residences (like concerns over CRS or ultimate beneficial ownership), or countries which they wish to retire in.