St James’s Place Review 2021

  1. Up to 5%-6% to get in — upfront cost.
  2. Ongoing charges of up to 2.5% per year. This includes fund fess.
  3. There are sometimes exit fees. This isn’t the case with their unit trust funds but is relevant for pension and bond products.
  • As this is a well-regulated company, you are unlikely to face the worst case scenario. All advice is checked. Whilst this is the case with most companies these days, their compliance is relatively good
  • Most of their funds don’t lose money, if you buy and hold them for years. Only the most conservative fund has done that in recent years. So whilst they might not be the best funds in the world (more on that later), they also aren’t the worst. This could be one of the reasons why they have a relatively good client retention rate in the UK and overseas. For the average conservative investor that isn’t overly happy with getting 4% per year when the market is doing 9%, for example, they might not want to leave the company and invest elsewhere.
  • The few SJP staff members I have briefly met have seemed professional.
  • Their wealth protection products are OK, even if not the cheapest in the market. The same can be said for the expat mortgages they offer, via Metro Bank.
  • Some of the very poor online reviews are maybe a bit over the top. Even though they make good points, that doesn’t mean the criticism is 100% justified.
  • They are better on average than a few of the traditional expat plans. I have reviewed those plans as well, as per the link at the bottom of this page.
  • The funds are neither cheap nor do they perform well compared to the benchmarks in general.
  • They are not truly independent. So this isn’t a million miles away from investing with a well-regulated bank, even though they can offer external fund managers. So it is highly likely that you will be suggested St James Place funds if you go with one of their advisors, especially in the expat market.
  • In addition to point two, this point gets even more complicated. Their investment committee does look for excellent fund managers. So some fund managers are in-house and some are external. Regardless, even if their advisors believe that another provider has a better product (like Vanguard or somebody else) they can only use SJP products and services in most situations.
  • They are quite UK-centric when it comes to expat advice and that isn’t ideal for non-British expats in Asia.
  • The high net wealth solutions are quite basic, and again expensive, compared to some of the alternatives.
  • The regulation is a double edged sword. Most clients, even if they want advice, also prefer to have some say about some of the investments that may be picked. With St James Place, you won’t be able to do 80% in “safe funds”, 10% in index funds and 10% in Bitcoin for example. So you have very little control.
  • The approach is quite old fashioned. Two or three face-to-face meetings, face finds and a traditional approach to trying to beat markets, isn’t what most clients are looking for these days. We all want to use Uber rather than “normal taxis”, and likewise, with wealth management as well, most people want speed and online traceability. The ongoing corona virus is a great example of this. People didn’t want to meet in-person even before this pandemic. So they need to use technology more in the future.
  • Linked to the last point, there has been some complaints online that the company stalls when it comes to moving money out to other providers or when a client wants to sell out. I highly suspect this is a bit harsh and linked to the last point. An old fashioned company, which is used to face-to-face and paper forms, isn’t going to be as quick as an investment app, when it comes to withdrawals and top ups.
  • A big brand name isn’t always a good thing. It can mean you are client number 100,625 with less tailoring. In reality, you have different fund options with them, but you don’t have greater flexibility and choice compared to some providers.
  • Beyond the actual fees, you have the opaque nature of the set up. Even one of their newest board members admitted their fees weren’t particularly transparent.
  • As per the analysis above, your mileage might vary. Investor A, could be happy with Advisor B, in fund C. Investor B, in comparison, could be in one of their underperforming funds.
  • In some offices, they have high advisor turnover, which significantly affects consistency of service.
  • The way they have compensated and incentivised advisors has attracted a lot of negative publicity. Some of this publicity hasn’t been fair, but it does appear that incentives can sometimes cause conflicts of interests.
  • The difference between the service in the UK and overseas is likely not the same, and even between different offices in the UK.
  • The reliance on “star fund managers” as per the Neil Woodford affair.

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