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Sandaire's CEO Eyes Growth, But No Rush For Scale

Tom Burroughes, Group Editor , London, 19 December 2018


The MFO's chief executive, who joined a year ago, is helping to develop this business and would like to add more international clients but isn't interested in scale for its own sake.

London-based multi-family office Sandaire, a firm that has expanded significantly in recent years, could increase its roster of international clients, as it currently tilts towards the domestic UK market, its chief executive said. But this is a business in no mood to hurry unnecessarily.

Sandaire, one of a handful of MFOs in the UK and Europe has come a long way since it was founded in 1996 by Alexander Scott to run the wealth of the Scott family, having sold Provincial Insurance and Exeter Bank. The organisation expanded into Singapore in 2012, and two years later, merged with Lord North Street Investment Office (founded in 2000). Sandaire has about £2.6 billion of client assets under management.

Last November, James Fleming, former vice-chairman and CEO at private bank Arbuthnot Latham, was brought in to add some of his City savvy to the job, strengthening the firm’s governance and resources. There has been a steady trickle of people wanting to become clients in recent months.

“The bias for our business is domestic UK families,” Fleming told this publication at his firm’s offices in Wigmore Street, adding that the firm is keen to increase its exposure to London-based international clients in future.

But wherever clients come from, there is no rush to acquire new ones without good reason. “It’s not a game of huge numbers. We’re here to serve families first and foremost and we don’t want to lose a personal touch,” he continued. As a lover of the game of cricket, Fleming can appreciate the metaphor of a careful batsman getting used to a pitch as he builds up a score. This is more “test cricket” than a limited-overs slugfest.

Fleming said that he was attracted to taking on the job because Sandaire’s senior figures, such as Scott, have a direct experience of handling a liquidity event such as a business sale, giving them an insight into their clients’ situations in a way that a banker might not have.

“The founder has been through this experience, and that’s a powerful story,” Fleming said. 

Sandaire is so far nowhere near as vast as some wealth management houses, but there are multiple ways for such entities to boost resources. For one, it is a member of the Wigmore Association, a group of multi-family offices which regularly share ideas between chief executives and chief investment officers. For instance, Fleming attended a New York meet-up of his fellow association CEOs in October.

Other Wigmore Association members are HQ Trust (Germany), Mutual Trust (Australia), Northwood Family Office (Canada), Pitcairn (US), Progeny 3 (US), Sandaire (UK), Turim Family Office and Investment Management (Brazil), and Promecap (Mexico). These institutions collectively oversee more than $40 billion of AuM – which is plenty of financial muscle.

“We’re not competing with each other and very open about sharing experiences and sharing information about best practice,” he said. “We’re now at a level where we are making client referrals,” Fleming continued.

Organisations such as the Wigmore Association are a way for disparate businesses to scale. At a point in the future, if Sandaire continues to grow, managing that scale might call for further adjustments. For now, its chief executive appears confident about business growth, whatever the uncertain political and economic climate brings.

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