Establishing a foothold in Labuan, Malaysia’s offshore financial centre, is a turning point for Hong Kong-based financial advisory firm Just Service HK, says its chief executive Phil Neilson.
“Hong Kong has limitations in terms of building a global business, therefore we have just had confirmation that our licence in Labuan has been approved,” he says.
Just Service was launched by Neilson in late 2014, after he spotted a gap in the market for a financial advisory firm specialising in technology.
Filling the gap
Today, the firm advises expat clients living in Hong Kong, offers back-office services to the region’s IFAs and has an in-house platform, Genius, which it plans to license to insurance companies in a bid to pick up their ‘non-serviced’ policyholders.
“While we are an advisory in Hong Kong, we are more of a fintech,” says New Zealand-born Neilson. “I tried to buy an advisory business but it is much easier – especially if you want to build a technology platform – to start from scratch, as you do not have any other baggage.”
Demand for its services has exploded over the past year, says Neilson. The firm now partners with unregulated IFAs in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia, has $100m of assets under management and, according to Neilson, is planning to triple its client base from 500 to 1,500 over the next 12 months.
“One IFA in Thailand currently has more than 2,500 clients, and up to 300 people joining each month. That is massive growth,” he says.
Just Service works with these firms to ensure their clients receive monthly updates so that they can “see what is going on with their money”, Neilson says.
“Often these firms do not have any formalised ongoing service delivery for clients. So the idea of Just Service delivering monthly updates, market news and developing ongoing relationships with their clients is really appealing,” he says.
Which is where the licence for Labuan and plans for an office in Kuala Lumpur come in. Neilson hopes the licence in Labuan – an island off the coast of Malaysia – will attract unregulated IFA firms across Asia that will seek to team up with Just Service to gain legitimacy in the region.
“Wherever we operate we want to not only be licensed but have a ‘real presence’ as part of a professional, compliant and transparent advisory and technology business.”