The family office big gun joins the 136-year-old financial services and accountancy house, reports Matthew Hardeman.
Former Savills’ director of family office services Rupert Phelps has joined Smith & Williamson in a new partnership role that sees him assume responsibility for boosting client and intermediary relationships and business opportunities across its family office services wing.
A twenty year veteran of the financial and wealth management industries, Phelps was previously director of Savills’ family office services, and was formerly London head of family office services at BNY Mellon.
In a public statement, Peter Fernandes, Smith & Williamson’s head of private client investment management, welcomed the appointment. ‘We are delighted that Rupert has joined us at Smith & Williamson,’ said Fernandes. ‘His arrival should help spur the growth of services we offer to family offices and cement our reputation as leading providers of advice in the field of wealth management.’
Joss Dalrymple, the firm’s head of private client tax and business services, said the move was part of the development of Smith & Williamson’s family office services and a key component of its business plan. ‘We are all really excited to begin working with Rupert as he leads the family office team and drives our offering at a strategic level,’ he added. ‘His hire should ensure the breadth and depth of services and experience we have at Smith & Williamson is recognised within the wider family office sphere.’
Unusually, Phelps has been appointed partner of both LLPs that form Smith & Williamson’s structure (Smith & Williamson Investment Management, and its tax and business services wing) – a combination he sees as being critical to success in his new role. ‘I have known, and admired, Smith & Williamson since I first started in financial services,’ he said in a statement. ‘Their broad range of services is unique and greatly enhances their offering to family offices. I aim to grow the established presence Smith & Williamson has in this sector, particularly through the development of new business plans and strategies as well as through the identification of new clients.’
Speaking to Spear’s, Phelps said he particularly looks forward to assisting international and business-owning families across the UK who rely on the firm’s twelve offices outside London: ‘My book covers business-owning families, liquidity events, cash-generative operating companies – someone making ball-bearings in the Midlands who’s going to sell it or needs advice on that, or looking at succession issues, for example – there’s no other firm in this country that has a more impressive range of services.
‘My whole role here is to lead, and represent and grow a team that’s right, looking at everything Smith & Williamson can do for the family office sector, whether it’s going to be the accountancy side, personal or corporate financial planning, or whether it’s looking at different structuring for business entities, or succession planning in a pre-tax sense – next generation preparation and family governance. I need to be a member of both parts of the business to orchestrate that together.’
Phelps is effusive on the joint offering, starting with the investment side: ‘It’s very consistent,’ he tells Spear’s, ‘they’re not for people who want to shoot the lights out and invest in Russian mines, but they’re absolutely superb for long-term investment, whether people want a bit more income or capital value, they’re really, really good at that.’
The 1,700-strong firm also offers corporate finance experts and a fully regulated bank that can lend to existing clients. ‘We can be very agile and fast in terms of providing that sort of liquidity,’ he says.
Phelps’ hire follows the 2016 retirement of Frank Akers-Douglas, who chaired the committee that was previously responsible for family office services at the 136 year-old firm. (It has been serving at least one of its multi-generational clients for 99-and-a-half years, according to Phelps.)
Despite leaving Savills on ‘very good’ terms (he describes the property giant as ‘absolutely fantastic’), the move represents something of a homecoming for Phelps: ‘My natural habitat is actually in the Square Mile – in the regulated financial services sector. And believe it or not, I actually like it,’ he says. ‘I like the sense of purpose when you walk around here – there’s no people staring into windows dithering away. People are here to work and do business, and to help their clients – hopefully.’