Recently playing host to the glitzy wedding of Jerry Hall and Rupert Murdoch, the stately 18th century Spencer House is a London landmark that exudes palatial splendour and West End riches.
While neo-classical state rooms are prepped for swanky private functions, new wealth is made in the low-ceilinged attic offices of St James’s Place (SJP).
Sometimes-stooping six-foot plus chief investment officer Chris Ralph is in buoyant mood, as the firm has recently completed two acquisitions: discretionary Rowan Dartington and Technical Connection, a consultant on taxation, trusts and product development.
While other firms in the wealth and asset management space talk up the new world of ‘vertical integration’, SJP was arguably a pioneer in adopting an all-encompassing business model.
Says Ralph: “We are vertically integrated in that we manufacture and distribute. That has been our model since 1992. We think it is a great model and we are very happy to go out and tell people that it’s great. We can’t see any reason to change.
“The evidence would suggest it is not an easy model to imitate but we don’t see any reason why it shouldn’t be as applicable in the second decade of the 21st century as it was when the business was founded.”
While SJP previously had an arrangement with Quilter Cheviot (now part of Old Mutual Wealth), the £34m ($43.8m, €39.2m) takeover of Rowan Dartington effectively brings discretionary management in-house, alongside its 2,200-plus army of IFA partners.
Ralph reports that he has started to participate in Rowan Dartington’s asset allocation committees, chaired by non-executive director John Betteridge.
“Our process has always been about finding good managers, putting them in a portfolio and delivering for clients,” Ralph says.
“What I hope I can bring is some understanding of what’s going on in the market place from the people I speak to, and another voice at the table with views on the opportunity set in the asset classes they put their clients into.”