Veronica Shim and her Envysion of the New Age EAM of the Future
Veronica Shim is CEO and Founder of Envysion Wealth Management, and with approaching two decades of experience as a private banker and trusted adviser for UHNW families and entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia, she has a remarkable perspective on the world of wealth management in the region. Hubbis met up with her recently by video link and learned more of her vision for Envysion, which she founded only at the end of 2019, and of how she believes the needs and expectations of the UHNW community will develop in the decade ahead. Shim says she wants to build the ‘new age’ EAM of the future, a multi-faceted vehicle that will cater to many of the needs and expectations of wealthy Asian clients in the years ahead. And judging by her irrepressible energy and engaging personality, few would bet against her achieving exactly that.
Shim has a gold-plated resume, having been Managing Director and Head of South East Asia for EFG Bank for 2-1/2 years before she founded Envysion in December 2019. At EFG, she played a crucial role in managing and expanding the business across the region. Before taking the reins at EFG, she was also MD and Senior Advisor at Julius Baer, a role she took on after a spell as a Director at UBS in Singapore. Further back in her working life she had wanderlust and just short of her eighteenth birthday, began an eight-year stint as a Singapore Airlines flight attendant, before completing her banking & finance studies and moving into the world of banking from the age of 26.
Some eighteen years and several big-brand and leading boutique private banks to her CV, Shim founded Envysion to engage with UHNW clients in Singapore and the wider region and offer a bespoke, a new-age independent, full-service wealth management service with a speciality in Family Office solutions. Envysion obtained its CMS license from the MAS only in November last year, yet the firm already counts 24 team members on its books with 2 more joining in coming months.
Envisioning the EAM of the future
“Founding Envysion was driven by the evolution of the family space in Asia,” she reports. “The market was ready, and this was a natural progression for me to bring a fully independent offering and a full suite of services to these clients, agnostic of any links to any private banks or institution.”
“What we are aiming to achieve is to build Envysion as the new age EAM,” she explains. “The traditional Swiss EAM focuses on elite private wealth clients, managing just a few families, and some of the other EAMs in Asia are similar, but we want to forge into a new era of the independent space, where we also look at scalability. To do so, we need to put ourselves in client’s shoes and understand what they really need, and we know from our experience that the wealth manager element of their requirements is only one facet and that they usually need a lot of help in many other areas. That is our challenge and our goal.”
As good as the talent you can engage
Talent is, of course, a vital component of the success that firm anticipates, and in that regard, Shim observes that the private banker community is increasingly receptive to joining well-positioned and clearly targeted firms such as Envysion.
“They know the proposition, and those that are ready to move also know the constraints and pressures of working for the private banks themselves,” she observes.
“Those that fit for us embrace the concept of independence and are doing so for many reasons other than purely financial. We believe we are a little different from other EAMs as with my experience at the cutting edge with the clients, I know very well what the RM wants and how they think.”
Assembled with precision
The Envysion top management team has been assembled to combine experience and local knowledge. “We believe we have a great team to drive this firm forward,” says Shim, “with the right levels of expertise, experience and entrepreneurial drive.
The team includes Jacob Doo as CIO, armed with his 26 years of experience in structured finance and multi-asset class investments, for which his last role was as Head of Structured Products, Asia at Julius Baer. Kay Siong Tan is COO & CCO, bringing his 25-years plus of regulatory, compliance experience in the banking industry, including setting up and growing compliance teams. And Elvin Chan is CTO, and also formerly a director at Julius Baer, while Wei Wen Goh is CFO and Stefan Ho, the chief commercial officer.
Envysion has also gathered an eclectic group of advisory board members. They include veteran banker Peter Triggs, bringing his brand of experience garnered over more than three decades of private banking and insurance, and Katrina Cokeng, an expert in FinTech and the blockchain, and Co-Founder and CEO of Xen, the first-of-its-kind digital securitisation platform providing a one-stop solution for access and liquidity in alternative investments.
Ingo Puhl is there to add weight to the ESG credentials of the firm; he is described as a serial impact entrepreneur and angel investor with over 20 years of experience in Europe and Southeast Asia. Other names include Allison Liu Daisong, brining expertise in art and collectables, Jean-Bernard Boura, an expert in private aviation, Oh Kean Shen, bringing expertise in the marine business and luxury yachting, Doris Tan, with her expertise in real estate, and Feliciano Lopez, the sports ambassador.
All angles covered
“We have assembled a serious team of operating professionals and a set of other experts to help our clients, as well as a properly developed platform,” Shim explains. “The platform is not that different from what our RMs will have been used to at their banks; in order to attract the talent, as well as to help them thrive here, we need the sophisticated platform and the wide range of products and solutions to offer the bankers the ability to hit the deck running and expand their and our revenues streams. And then we also bring our own in-house products, which are tailored to the needs of our clients.”
As to that clientele, Envysion has its focus set on the HNW and UHNW community in Asia, similar to the focus of most of the EAMs with which the firm now competes. Three RMs cover the North Asia market, while the others, including Shim herself, cover South Asia including her home country, Malaysia. “We have multi-language capabilities, as well,” she reports, “including Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Cantonese, and Bahasa (Malay).”
A broad and growing proposition
In terms of the character and identity of the firm, she reports that Envysion dedicates itself to far more than just investments and succession planning, and works, for example, closely with the investment banks and some asset management companies on corporate finance solutions.
“We are actually now currently working on a private placement of debt for a Chinese company, for example,” she reports, “and we handle some unique offerings like private placements of some very high profile deals, for example, a portion of a large fundraising for a major US company, which I will be able to soon explain more about. Like our other deals, we source these through our extensive network, and they are exclusive to Envysion.”
The firm has also been working on some of the early Variable Capital Company creations, following landmark legislation to facilitate them as of mid-January this year. “We have launched our first VCC and sub-fund relating to a commodity strategy, offering clients a more than 10% net return every quarter with certain built-in protections and hedging strategies to protect their capital. It is almost a too-good-to-be-true kind of investment in the financial world, but we have achieved exactly that.”
She explains that deals like these provide the edge is a competitive EMA arena in which it is tough to distinguish and differentiate the proposition.
A beacon for new clients
“It is actually very hard to convince the client to leave their private banks and come to us, so we really aim to offer a compelling overall proposition and suite of ideas and solutions, in short, to truly add value.”
“Establishing our own products offers us the opportunity to offer something unique, different from the rest of the market, and therefore the whole process of creation and execution is highly valuable for the clients and for us. And we ensure that the whole process and the fees are as transparent as possible – we want to win clients for the future, not just for one-off opportunities.”
She reiterates that the VCC represents a remarkably good opportunity, and along with the 13X of family office tax incentives offers excellent conversation openers for clients. “As the VCC is an umbrella fund, under which there can be a host of sub-funds, it offers an incredible opportunity and one that we wanted to work on and experience at first hand, hence the commodity strategy fund, which is the first of others that we will also launch this year. As a result of our experience, we know exactly where the pros and cons are and how long it takes, so we are able to really talk in detail and with knowledge to the clients out there.”
As to fee arrangements, Envysion takes the approach of charging modest management fees, but participating in performance upside. “Clients like this approach,” she says, “they feel comfortable with it, so that is our model for the future. Naturally, we will be working closely with selected banks and possible digital platforms for custody. And we are open to selectively working with the banks, for example if they have an outstanding DPM offering and great track record, so we can bring our clients to them on a fee-sharing basis.”
Getting things done, despite lockdown
Lockdown has been unwelcome and came at a very difficult time for Shim and colleagues, having only recently opened the firm, but the team has adapted, even if it has been tricky to engage with new clients, and sometimes tough to onboard clients.
“The markets have been incredibly busy,” she reports, “and we now do regular weekly client briefing, so that helps keep clients engaged. Meanwhile, especially after the launching of the fund, my teams are spending a lot of time on KYC, onboarding, subscriptions, and so forth. We are lucky, we have business on tap, and we are highly adaptable. We also believe that if the crisis persists, we are becoming ever more capable of riding through it and back towards the new normal, whatever that is.”
Shim closes the discussion by reiterating that the image she had in her mind of the firm she wanted to build is encapsulated in the company name. “We aim to be at the cutting edge of the world of the independents,” she says, “and we will achieve that by realising our visualisation of the clients of the future and imagining and strategising on how we can fulfil their multi-faceted wealth management and broader investment needs. We are on an exciting path…”
Shim’s Key Priorities
The first mission is to hire more talent, people who have expertise and experience as a given, who can bring in the right clients, and who also share the same vision, and will enhance the culture at the firm.
Secondly, Envysion is interested in collaboration with various institutions to augment its organic growth. “We are also looking at potential EAM partners, multi-family offices or single-family offices around the region to see how to work with these partners to create win-win-win situations for their client and for them and for us,” Shim reports. “We are already talking to family offices in Malaysia, a couple of EAMs in Hong Kong, and looking to broaden our horizons well beyond Singapore’s shores. We believe we can add value for onshore solutions in partnership with firms in places such as Malaysia, Thailand or China.”
Thirdly, Shim wants to boost the non-financial solutions, working with its advisory board members. “Each of these advisors, she explains, has been brought on to build and to help us improve in areas where we do not have the expertise, so aside from those we have already in place, we are also talking to someone in the healthcare and wellness sector. The mission is to be a truly holistic solution provider to our clients, not just simply managing their money, but to help them with a wide range of other areas as well.”
Getting Personal with Veronica Shim
Aside from the stellar resume she constructed prior to founding Envysion, between leaving EFG in 2019 and founding the new wealth management business, Shim also co-founded SWAG EV, which supplies full lithium-ion two-wheeled electric vehicles in South East Asia, a venture designed to a bid to help mitigate pollution and high fuel cost in the region. Veronica was one of the founding shareholders of WISE Enterprise. A social enterprise focused on empowering and enabling the lives of socially disadvantaged groups in Singapore, Shim is proud to have been able to create job opportunities for them to gain financial self-reliance.
On the mainstream side of her business life, Shim is also one of the few private bankers in Singapore to have achieved the STEP qualification, allowing her to provide her clients with strategic insights and advice to succession planning. She is also a qualified CFP and licensed Trust and Estate practitioner. She also holds a Master’s in Applied Finance from the University of Adelaide and a Bachelor of Science in Banking and Finance from the University of London, but remotely via the Singapore Institute of Management.
She was born in Ipoh, Malaysia, and moved to Singapore in 1992 around the age of 18 to take up what was then an incredibly exciting job as a ‘Singapore’ girl, then flying for about eight years with Singapore Airlines. She married a pilot, at which point she returned to her studies to finish her degree in banking and finance.
Her marriage has produced two children, a daughter of 15 and son of 13. Shim describes herself as somewhat boring, although that is perhaps the only inaccurate statement of the entire discussion. “I am a home person,” she explains, “and although I am engrossed in this business, I really try to be there for the family, especially for the children at the weekends. I have been incredibly busy, and as an entrepreneur and working mother, there are times you miss out in the children’s lives, but I do try to balance things as best as possible.”
Home is near Bukit Timah, where the family has been doing a lot of exercise since the lockdown. Prior to the pandemic, family travel was a core element of their lives, and as her husband is still a pilot, flying is both remarkably cheap and pleasant, with many associated perks. “But right now, of course,” she comments, “the risks of flying around as a family are too much, so we are just enjoying a very quiet home life and enjoying the nature and exercise near home.”
During more normal times, family trips have included South Africa, with Johannesburg a noteworthy destination. “We went in safari for a few days,” she recalls, “and Cape Town was an eye-opener for the children, opening up discussions in apartheid and slavery. My daughter loves writing, so it fired up her ideas and imagination.”
Shim is justifiably proud of her achievements in work and in life. She recalls that one of the Envysion advisory board members, veteran banker Peter Triggs, was her first boss and hired her into private banking when he was the Malaysia head for Citi Private Bank.
“That was my first opening, and it was a great move,” she says, enthusiastically. “But actually, I became pregnant almost immediately after I joined the bank, and then later went to see all the clients getting bigger and bigger. At the same time, I decided to complete my Master’s ahead of time and ended up taking my final paper a few days before my first child was born. Great times, great memories, but I was younger than, and I am rather glad I am where I am today.”