A new association between a UK and Hong Kong firm could easily have been lost to Singapore, the head of the Hong Kong firm has revealed.
But what won the day in the end for Hong Kong was its access to China’s new wealth.
Charles Russell Speechlys announced the association recently as part of the firm’s international expansion plans.
The firm’s Asian venture will be run in association with Jonathan Mok Legal, a newly established local firm under Jonathan Mok, who was previously a partner at Mayer Brown JSM.
“Charles Russell Speechlys decided to choose Hong Kong due to its geographical advantage as a gateway to China,” Mok told Asia Business Law Journal.
“Over the years, Charles Russell Speechlys has had very close contact with Singapore; [but] instead, the firm wants to focus on Hong Kong this time.”
Charles Russell Speechlys and Jonathan Mok Legal will form an association and be known as Jonathan Mok Legal in association with Charles Russell Speechlys when they commence operations before the end of September this year.
The new Hong Kong office is committed to serving private clients, specifically high net worth individuals (HNWIs) and families, in Asia.
Mok said the initial plan of the firm was to capture local HNWIs who may be more comfortable conversing in their home language when instructing their lawyers.
“In Hong Kong there are only a few international law firms focusing on private clients,” he said.
“Charles Russell Speechlys’ Hong Kong office must be the only office with a senior managing partner who can speak fluent Cantonese, as well as English.”
Mok said the firm has been looking at the growth of HNWIs in Hong Kong, and based on the Private Wealth Management Association’s projection that the number of HNWIs in Hong Kong could reach 230,000 by 2020, he said the Hong Kong office will focus on Hong Kong only in the near future.
But the firm’s focus will eventually include greater China. “Hopefully in a few years’ time, we can look to China and develop the private client space over there, or for clients when they come over to Hong Kong,” said Mok.
“Although there’s no current plan of a very aggressive expansion, clearly the firm has set its eyes on the Chinese market,” Mok added.
The team will include Richard Grasby from Maples and Calder, who was the first trusts partner at an offshore firm in Asia, Ashley King-Christopher, a tax partner at Charles Russell Speechlys transferring from London, and Graeme Kleiner, who will co-ordinate the Hong Kong office with Charles Russell Speechlys’ other international offices.
“Our move into Hong Kong fits squarely within our international expansion strategy,” said the firm’s London-based managing partner James Carter. ‘The firm will have direct access to clients and intermediaries in five of the world’s top 10 private wealth centres, further extending our ability to support the world’s leading creators and owners of private wealth, their families and enterprises across the full spectrum of business and personal needs.”