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India on the march

Citywire Asia, Mar 29, 2017

By Shiv Gupta, Founder and CEO, Sanctum Wealth Management

With the first anniversary of Sanctum’s acquisition of RBS’ private banking business approaching, how has the management buy-out shaped up and what lies ahead?

The creation of Sanctum was predicated on the idea that India is on the march, economically speaking, and ready for a truly world-class wealth management service delivered through a vehicle that is flexible, agile and locally relevant – a firm that embodies the best of both worlds.

To the team at Sanctum, this meant that we needed the attributes of implicit trustworthiness and dynamic ideation, resting on a platform of exceptional customer experience. With these principles in mind and aided by strong fundamentals provided by the existing RBS Private Banking business, we set about the task of creating the new organization.

How has it gone?

Today, we are fully-licensed, have a state-of-the art technology platform with strong digital capabilities, some 70 people, and a robust client franchise (across four branches) which has grown by more than 25% since commencement. On the proposition front, we have developed an end-to-end product capability across investments services, estate planning, real estate and private investments. To round it out, we have an experienced management team and a reputable board of directors.

It is safe to say we have made a successful transition and are now gaining momentum. But getting here wasn’t easy. The project involved considerable complexity and execution risk arising from what at the time seemed like insurmountable challenges such as obtaining five new regulatory licenses in four months, and convincing clients used to dealing with a large multinational organisation to move to an upstart new domestic firm.

Fortunately, we had help. A collaborative counterparty in RBS and a well-designed (and staffed) transition plan which included heightened engagement with key stakeholders throughout the process, ultimately worked in our favor. As a result, in April 2016, we began our new operations having migrated 95% of our clients and a large proportion of staff, in what turned out to be a remarkably smooth transition.

Key Technologies

In the coming months, we expect to continue growing our team and delivering new ideas to clients whilst developing an international capability and devoting meaningful attention, at all levels of the organization, to technology, especially digital.

Of these, we see technology not only as a source of potential disruption, but also as a key driver of exceptional client experience. Our new architecture has exposed to us the vast benefits, in terms of business productivity and client experience, that accrue from the use of the latest tools, and we have been employing these generously. That said, we are also developing an appreciation for the accompanying challenges and the need for habit change that would accompany a digital transformation. As technologies and habits evolve, alongside the external ecosystem, we need to ensure we create the right internal ecosystem to benefit from this evolution. Accordingly, we will need to develop the right skills and culture, including the willingness to experiment. This is how we are positioning ourselves.

From a macroeconomic standpoint, it is heartening to note that the business outlook remains promising and has been bolstered by recent actions on the part of the government, including the secondary effects of the contentious demonetisation drive. Further, seeing as our fate is intertwined with those of our clients, it is encouraging that a majority of them share this sentiment, having seen positive momentum in many of their respective businesses. This bodes well for wealth creation in general, but comes alongside structural and regulatory changes that are creating disruption within the industry and adjacent to it, such as in the real estate sector. Hence we are seeing opportunities and challenges going hand-in-hand and firms that can be agile and responsive to change, whilst remaining client-focused and true to the fundamentals, are the ones that are most likely to succeed.

As the industry undergoes a transformation, we are pleased to be in the position of a pure-play wealth manager so we can focus on what we do best. The road ahead is full of promise and our team is geared up for an exciting journey.