When Platinum Financial Services was narrowing down the brand name for its pensions schemes in Hong Kong, it drew inspiration from a Greek goddess who wore a victorious laurel wreath and in whose honour sanctuaries were built. “Soteria was the goddess of safety which we believe is an extremely important theme when it comes to planning your retirement,” says Mark Kirkham, chief executive of Platinum Financial Services.
Soteria Pensions (www.soteriapensions.com) was subsequently born, serving two Occupational Retirement Schemes Ordinance (ORSO) schemes in Hong Kong that were designed to improve the financial security of clients.
Two ORSO schemes
The first scheme is specifically tailored to HK nationals and permanent residents (PR), and is recognized by the United Kingdom (UK) tax authorities as a bonafide international pension into which clients can transfer their UK pension funds. Kirkham says the scheme is “extremely popular” with people of any nationality who have previously lived and worked in the UK.
The second scheme is geared towards non-PR’s and non-residents, enabling them to build up a highly flexible and tax efficient retirement fund from their earned income.
These two schemes are part of the suite of new offerings that Platinum Financial Services has brought to the HK market in the face of growing demand for retirement plans in the territory. “Our latest initiatives relate to retirement, taxation, estate, and legacy planning — all of which are financial planning fundamentals,” says Kirkham. “Our number one objective is to make sure that our clients are appropriately advised, aware of and prepared for, the financial planning journey on which they embark with us.”
He reckons that this trend is not only confined to Hong Kong. As more governments become insolvent and raise taxes to balance the books, people around the world are becoming more retirement savvy and aware of the necessity to have a robust pension plan. Many are also looking for the best place to retire, and a growing number are trooping to HK, which has among the best pension laws in the world. “Its favourable income tax regime, and the increasing number of double taxation agreements that it has with trade partners, makes it an extremely popular and efficient pension jurisdiction,” says Kirkham of HK’s rising reputation as a pension haven.
The HK pension industry benefits from the exemption of CRS reporting on ORSO & MPF (Mandatory Provident Fund) schemes. This has led to a breadth of attractive pension options in HK, and it can prove overwhelming for clients, which is where Platinum Financial Services comes in to provide sound advice. “The role that Platinum plays in that is to make sure that everybody it touches are fully aware of the excellent pension options that Hong Kong offers,” says Kirkham.
Platinum consultants provide clients with a breadth of services and expert guidance on the most optimal solution for their pensions and other financial services requirements. Many of these clients are expatriates in HK and across Southeast Asia, as well as high net worth local and international clients. Kirkham says Platinum clients rely on the firm’s global knowledge to help plan plan for their own and their families’ futures. Even though clients come from all over the word and have differing personal circumstances — some are very simple individual cases while others are very complex family and corporate requirements — each Platinum advisor is trained to present exceptional solutions.
“Our attention to detail and being solution- rather than product-oriented helps us to stay focused on both ours and our client’s objectives,” says Kirkham. “We build from the ground up and leave no stone unturned when exploring which solutions are best suited to our client’s needs.” He adds that unlike some other financial services companies in HK, Platinum Financial Services treats clients with utmost consideration, building a relationship grounded on trust and respect. “Simply put, our honesty, transparency, knowledge, product innovation, and ethics are just some of the differentiating factors that influence clients and subsequently lead them to choose Platinum over others,” says Kirkham.
2017 challenges and opportunities
Looking towards 2017, Platinum Financial Services is determined to ride out the growing regulatory challenges in HK, and expand their distribution network to complement the recent launch of new offerings. “Our biggest challenges are definitely the ones we have no input, influence, or control over. Outside of the normal economic and political challenges that all businesses face, by far the next biggest ones are brought about by regulation and compliance regimes which, on the face of it, don’t appear to do much for clients, brokers, or product providers,” says Kirkham.
He believes that the cost of doing business in HK is escalating and there is a growing concern that the authorities are stifling businesses, as well as endangering the territory’s popularity as a pension destination and competitiveness in the region. “Despite that, we hold a view that from crisis there comes opportunity and we look forward to returning to the vibrant ‘let’s do business’ mentality that, for now at least, is sadly lacking,” says Kirkham.
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