St James’ Place (SJP) wealth management has released its annual results for year ended 31 December 2020, revealing a 10.5% increase in funds under management to £129.3bn ($183.2bn), with net inflows to such funds at £8.2bn.

Facing disruption from lockdowns and social distancing, operations and performance at SJP were both hampered, evidenced by a 5.3% reduction in gross inflows to £14.3bn, when compared with 2019.

The firms underlying cash result also fell to £264.7m, a 3.08% decrease from 2019, whilst underlying cash basic earnings per share fell to 49.6p from 51.4p in 2019.

Andrew Croft, CEO at SJP, said he was “very pleased” with both new business and financial results for 2020.

Describing 2020 as an “extraordinary year”, Croft continued: “Our lives have been disrupted and we have all had to adapt to protect the physical, mental and financial health of ourselves, our friends and loved ones, our colleagues, and the vulnerable.”

Referring to the increase in funds under management and fund inflows, Croft explained: “This outcome was possible because of high client engagement levels, our recent major investment in technology platforms, and the agility of our advisers and employees. Overall, I am very pleased with both our new business and financial results for 2020.”

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In 2019, SJP made the decision to withhold 11.22 pence of the 2019 final dividend, reassuring investors that the sum would be paid in due course. The firm cited financial and economic concerns resulting from Covid-19 as motivation behind the decision.

Croft added: “I am pleased to report that we have not needed to utilise those funds and, whilst the pandemic is still on-going, we now have the confidence to pay this withheld amount as a further interim dividend during the first quarter.

“The Board has also proposed a final and full year dividend for 2020 of 38.49 pence per share, in line with our existing guidance which is to pay out around 80% of the underlying cash result.”

Looking forward to 2021, Croft looks to the future “with confidence” whilst outlining key planning assumptions for the next five years. SJP hopes to deliver growth in new business at 10% per annum, which would see funds under management surpass £200bn by the end of 2025.

Explaining the importance of technology in facilitating this growth, Croft said: “Growth on this scale will require continued investment but given the success of our technology initiatives in recent years, we believe overall expense growth can be held to around 5% per annum thereby delivering additional value for shareholders through operational leverage in the cash result.

“In turn, we are intending to pay-out around 70% of the underlying cash result in dividends annually over the period.”

Croft concluded: “There remain difficult months ahead but as COVID-19 restrictions ease, we are hopeful there will be an economic recovery and we will see a return to more normal growth in new client investments.”