A Conversation With Stuart Parkinson, Group CEO of Lombard International Group
Lombard International Assurance is a leading independent global wealth solutions provider that has been partnering with the advisors of high net worth individuals and institutions for more than 30 years. Its aim is to provide customised insurance-based solutions to help individuals and institutions ensure that their assets are protected, portable and can be passed on. Group CEO Stuart Parkinson spoke with Wanda Rich, editor of Global Banking & Finance Review, to discuss the relevance of Wealth Assurance today, the enhanced services offered by its digital platform, and the use of wealth to create social good.
Stuart explained that there are often many complex factors and unique expectations of HNW/UHNW individuals and their families when it comes to protecting, preserving and passing on their wealth. “For these clients, wealth is often accumulated over generations, or generated through creating their own businesses,” he said. ”Their assets carry with them a sense of responsibility, as well as the duty to be preserved and protected for future generations. However, as the world becomes more unpredictable and uncertain, with shifting geopolitical landscapes, confidently achieving these goals can be more challenging. In addition, modern family dynamics and structures, such as family members being dispersed around the world, also contribute to greater financial intricacies.”
For this reason, he notes that HNW/UHNW families often have financial interests spread across multiple jurisdictions and therefore need to be able to navigate various different regulatory regimes. “This has resulted in an increase in demand for customised wealth and succession planning solutions. This is where the Wealth Assurance industry steps in with the provision of solutions that are comprehensive, compliant and proven, while also highly flexible, portable and adaptable to the evolving lifestyles of HNWs/UHNWs.”
The results of their 2021 European Wealth Assurance Report showed a clear appetite for Wealth Assurance products (also known as unit-linked life insurance or private placement life insurance [PPLI]). “30% of wealth professionals stated that more than half of their clients currently use it, and 57% agreed that it is a good option for wealth planning, recommending it to their clients whenever possible,” Stuart reported. “In addition, the survey confirmed that ‘asset stickiness’ and client retention benefits for wealth professionals, as well as succession planning, are the top motivators for them to use Wealth Assurance solutions.”
As business practises shift towards more automated interactions and the world becomes increasingly complex and globally connected, Stuart recognises that the need for continuous digital development is more important now than ever. “There is a clear opportunity for the Wealth Assurance sector to enhance its digital footprint in order to deliver even greater cross-border service and operational efficiency to its stakeholders,” he said. “Hybrid and remote working over the last 12 months has been a catalyst for further innovation in the way we manage our service delivery. This has included introducing new enhanced processes, such as the use of secure e-signatures and the development of new features on our existing digital servicing platforms like Connect in Europe, which delivers further operational efficiency and service enhancements for our clients.
“Digital solutions and the automation of business processes must therefore continue to transform and evolve while maintaining a client-centric servicing approach,” he went on. “Finding the right balance between human expertise and technology is critical to delivering operational excellence.”
The European Wealth Assurance Report also revealed that 75% of wealth professionals expect a “high” or “very high” level of digitalisation over the next three years, so developing its business process automation to support partnerships and enhance services and efficiency is high on the company’s agenda. “At Lombard International Assurance, we use technology and digitalisation as enablers of service excellence,” Stuart said. “Digitalisation brings automation, which in turn enables us to deliver greater efficiency throughout the entire lifecycle of our solutions. For several years now, the integration of technology into key operational processes has contributed to increasing our operational efficiency.
“One example is our digital servicing platform, Connect, which provides enhanced, secure online access to client policies. Through Connect, new policies can be fully onboarded remotely in some of our core markets, in a compliant and efficient manner. France was our pilot country for the launch of our digital onboarding solution back in 2019. Fast forward to today, and over 80% of new policy subscriptions use our online process.”
As the digital infrastructure is embedded into Lombard International Assurance’s Partner & Client servicing department, its expert team – which includes people of 40 different nationalities, who speak over 30 different languages – can now focus more time on value-added services. “This means that we can respond to queries on the more complex cases more efficiently, support our business development teams further and grow long-term relationships with our partners.
“In addition, our Partner Outreach Programme is a proactive approach that our Partner & Client Services teams in Europe use to check in with family offices, wealth planners, asset managers, private bankers and other partners to gain feedback on their experience with us,” Stuart continued. “It gives our partners a voice in supporting our prioritisation of operational enhancements, and provides valued feedback to address any potential changes required.”
Stuart also discussed how interest in Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) investing and sustainable finance has grown significantly in recent years, and the importance of Wealth Assurance in such strategies. “The pandemic has highlighted the importance for HNWIs to reconsider their wealth and how to leave a lasting legacy. Contrary to popular belief, wealth and succession planning is about more than just protecting and passing on wealth to the next generation; the debate has expanded to include the concept of wealth itself, and how it can be used to create social good.
“Wealth Assurance providers have a unique role to play with supporting clients on their ESG preferences. Sitting at the intersection of asset management, private banking, and insurance, Wealth Assurance is the gateway through which an increasing number of HNWIs and their advisers are choosing to activate their ESG investing strategies.”
When reviewing the past 12 months, Stuart pointed out that 2021 was a landmark year for Lombard International Group. “Not only did we celebrate our 30th anniversary, but our international teams also delivered a strong performance in new business. While ways of working will continue to evolve, we have proven that our ability to stay relevant, agile and flexible, and our use of a combination of in-person, hybrid and digital capabilities, have enabled our operational efficiency, business development and strong engagement.”
In terms of the immediate future, he revealed that 2022 will be a time for Lombard International Assurance to continue to further enhance its business strategy, while focusing on greater global integration and new opportunities. “We will continue to develop and grow our business in each of our core regions of Europe and the United States, with renewed attention on Asia and Latin America. This includes broadening our geographical footprint in Europe and building new distribution partnerships with renowned international wealth partners in emerging markets. Crucially, though, it is our people that are our strongest asset and Lombard International Assurance is widely – and rightly – recognised as being home to the best talent and expertise in the market.”
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