If you Google the word “deVere”, you get around 2.6 million hits, most of which are references to a hotel group rather than the major international financial advisory company of that name.
Similarly, if you want to find the website of the Singapore-based Henley Group by using Google, you will need both words rather than just “Henley”, which by itself throws up more than 42 million listings, starting with the Henley Royal Regatta, Henley-on-Thames and Henley Business School.
Singapore-based advisory company Meyado, in comparison, shares its name with hardly anyone or any thing. Google reckons it can find 43,000 references to “Meyado”, but to judge by the first few results pages offered up by the search engine, most have to do in some way with the company – a Facebook listing for one “Grace Meyado” aside.
Meyado managing director Mark Paine says the uniqueness of the company’s name reflects the fact that the word was coined by its founder, Martin Young, for its launch 19 years ago.
There is a story behind how he came up with the name, but Paine prefers not to share it, at least not for the purposes of this article.
“We like to keep it a bit mysterious,” he explains, while admitting that the truth may be more prosaic than the name’s Japanese feel (think miso, Mikado, manga) suggests.
20 years on
As the company approaches its 20th anniversary next April, Paine says Meyado is unique in other ways as well.
“For our clients, it is unique in the way that we define our service proposition,” he explains in an interview at his company’s offices on Cecil Street, which runs between a district of quaint old Singaporean “shophouses” to the west, and the gleaming towers of the city-state’s financial district to the north and east.
“It’s a very simple thing, but clients these days really want to know what they’re paying, and what they’re getting for that payment,” he continues.
“Clients are more likely to stay with a firm if they know what’s going on.
“What we do at Meyado is not so different from what other companies do, except that we spell out what we do and what we don’t do more – unlike a lot of other advisory firms, which vaguely portray themselves as doing everything for the client.”
“In addition to spelling out what we do and don’t do for them, we make sure that we deliver on what we say we’re going to do.
“For advisers, in addition to offering genuine career advancement, our annual company get-togethers have become legendary, apparently. A few years back, we got bored with the standard five-star hotel convention format, and now we do things like training with the British Army in Belize, exploring the Arctic Circle on dog sleds and riding horses across the Andes.
“Other companies have sought to emulate our expeditions, but there is no doubting that ours are among the most extreme and challenging adventures any advisers can have on company time.”
In growth mode
Paine joined Meyado Private Wealth Management just five months after it was set up by Young, who is his cousin and who remains the London-based company chairman.
At that point, in 1993, Paine had been working for the UK lender then known as Halifax Building Society. Meyado had been set up in Frankfurt as the German-registered sales arm of an Old Mutual Group operation that looked after the wealth management needs of expatriates living there.
Over the intervening 19 years, Meyado grew and contracted in response to market conditions and the evolution of financial markets, Paine says.
The company entered and subsequently left several markets, including Hong Kong. The Singapore office opened in 1999; an administrative presence in the UK was established in 1993, followed in 2007 with a licence to advise UK clients. The company left Frankfurt – and continental Europe – in 2009.
“When I joined, Meyado existed only in Frankfurt, and there were only about eight or nine of us. From that point, we gradually grew throughout Europe and into Asia over the next six or seven years; then we contracted for about five years, beginning around 2001, when the whole industry went through a difficult time.
“After that we stagnated for a bit, and then, for the last two or three years, we’ve been expanding, mainly in Singapore and the UK.”
As part of this expansion, Meyado is in the process of opening an office in London’s Square Mile financial centre, and looking to recruit experienced advisers for it. Until now, the company’s UK presence has been limited, mainly to Berkshire, although it has an office in Berkeley Square, in London’s Mayfair, Paine says.
Once the City office is up and running, Paine says the company will look again at Europe, where it still has a licence to advise clients. Several hundred of those who signed up during the company’s Frankfurt years remain on its books.
In the meantime, the company has been on a hiring spree in Singapore. Three months ago it named a former Global Eye adviser, Peter Seligman, to be the office’s assistant branch manager.
“Peter and I will be working together closely now to increase the size of our team in Singapore,” Paine says, adding that the growth is coming in the wake of two unusually good years.
Profit leapt 500% in 2010, due mainly to cost-cutting and tighter cost controls introduced that year – Paine’s first in the role of MD. It then rose by 39% in 2011, on income that was also up, by 30%, over the previous year.
Paine says that in addition to tighter controls over costs, Meyado’s recent growth has been driven by new features. The introduction of fee-based options offers clients extra services and commission rebates in return for higher fees than the basic annual charge. Clients now have 24/7 online account access, and can also access a so-called “concierge service”.
A client using the concierge service can get Meyado’s help with holiday, hotel, cinema and restaurant bookings as well as with buying “last minute gifts for their employees and relations, and invitations to at least two exclusive events every month”, according to Paine.
He says that clients like the service, and points out that it also gives Meyado advisers the ability, in liaising between their clients and the concierge service team, “to entertain and network, at no cost to them or the client”.
Fees under fire
At Meyado, as at all Singapore advisory firms these days, the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Financial Advisory Industry Review, announced in March, has come in for a great deal of debate.
FAIR, as it is called, is intended to assess how the interests of Singapore’s retail investors might be better served by providers of investment products and services, and to ensure that all necessary changes are implemented.
Meyado began moving towards a fee-based remuneration model more than ten years ago, after it introduced an annual fee for all clients in 1999. The trend accelerated after its UK operation began to make changes to accommodate Britain’s Retail Distribution Review, widely seen as the model for FAIR. For this reason, Paine believes that Meyado is better placed than many of its Singaporean rivals to make whatever changes the regulator deems necessary once the FAIR review is completed.
He worries that the new transparency, however well intentioned, could result in some expatriates failing to invest in contractual savings plans as much as they do now, with the result that many will be less well prepared for their retirement.
“That could be a problem,” he muses.
For now, though, one of Paine’s most immediate concerns is the annual staff expedition. He declines to say where it is likely to be, or what it will involve.
“We never tell the team where we’re going,” he explains. “We give them a kit list, and most of the kit they’ll need is provided when they get there, anyway. Mostly they just need walking boots.”
And one other thing. Like James Bond, it seems, Meyado advisers don’t embark on their expeditions without one crucial piece of kit: their dinner jackets, for the “lavish, black tie” dinner on night six, which marks the end of the adventure.
“Or a cocktail dress in the case of the women,” Paine adds.