ZEDRA has doubled in size since the acquisition and rebranding of the former Barclays trust business in January 2016.
Speaking to Citywire Asia at the Singapore launch on Thursday, group CEO Niels Nielsen said: ‘We hired 160 people in our trust business since the acquisition last year. We now have 21 people in Hong Kong and 15 staff in the Singapore office.’
The global staff count now stands at approximately 500.
ZEDRA is an independent global provider of trust, corporate and fund services.
‘We are doing well on growth but we are also looking to diversify our business to become a fully-fledged private client business as well as a corporate client business.
‘We want to double the size of firm in the next 3-5 years,’ he said.
An independent investor group, led by the Sarikhani and Nielsen families, agreed to acquire a majority shareholding in Barclays’ trust and fiduciary business on 5 June 2015.
The families merged the acquired business with a Jersey-based trust company, Azure Trust, in April last year.
ZEDRA also acquired Netherlands-based Allied Corporate Services, Luxembourg International Consulting and the Barclays onshore trust business in the UK in 2016.
Barclays has retained a 19.9% stake in the company to continue supporting former clients.
‘In Asia, there is a demand for more private trust companies. The wealth being created in Asia is incredible, but there is an increasing need for generational transfer at this point, so families have started thinking about putting structures into place to protect their legacy and vision.’
At this juncture, data security is a key concern for Nielsen as regulations ramp up worldwide.
‘Regulations are a global phenomenon and people are accepting that.
‘Clients become nervous when it comes to access to their information. People don’t have a problem with the right authorities getting access to it but you don’t want it shared with everybody.’
ZEDRA is working with data security providers to this end. ‘We are investing a significant amount of money into how the data is stored locally and in offshore jurisdictions, how to record who is viewing this data and how it can be shared,’ he said.
Added Wendy Sim, Singapore managing director: ‘Business families recognise that transparency is expected and they want to be compliant because they have a brand to protect.
‘But despite regulations like CRS they still have wealth succession planning needs. So beyond reporting, privacy regarding family business succession issues are important.We can still respect that through the structures we recommend.’
According to Sim, clients in Asia are becoming a lot more sophisticated, demanding complex structures to address a variety of needs.
‘Private clients here have needs that cover a bigger scope of services – not just a trust, company or foundation but sometimes a mixture. For example, the client might need a structure that holds business assets like a private trust company and a charitable foundation that holds art and antiques -- alongside a Luxembourg company and a trust in Singapore. So we see bigger families asking for a wider scope of services.’
In terms of preferred trust centres, some Singapore based private clients may consider the Channel Islands to create offshore structures, said Sim.
‘But in Singapore, our unique proposition is that we are the hub for Southeast Asia and Greater Asia and to those clients, we are perfectly positioned as offshore to their home countries. We have the infrastructure, rule of law and political stability to fulfill their needs.'