St James's Place  

SJP boss vows to protect partner firms

SJP boss vows to protect partner firms
 Andrew Croft, chief executive at SJP

St James's Place intends to use funds withheld from its dividend to financially protect its partner firms if required during the coronavirus crisis. 

Last month the advice giant confirmed it had cut by a third its final dividend for 2019, withholding the difference until the "financial and economic impacts of Covid-19 [became] clearer".

Speaking at a virtual conference for the company's partners last week Andrew Croft, chief executive at SJP, said the decision had provided a "layer of protection" which would be used to support firms within the partnership if required. 

Mr Croft said: "This was not a decision we took lightly but it was a sensible precaution until the financial and economic impact of COVID-19 becomes clearer.

"Withholding this proportion of the dividend provides a layer of protection should we need it in the event of extreme circumstances.

"A layer of protection which provides us with funds to give financial support to partner businesses should it be required."

The advice boss said the move was "very much about planning for the worst case" and being able to protect the business if needed. 

The listed company cut its final dividend for 2019 from 31.22p per share to 20 pence per share, with the difference of 11.22 pence per share to be withheld until further notice.

Mr Croft added: "Whilst this was the prudent and right thing to do, we hope it proves to be an unnecessary move and that the withheld dividend can be returned to shareholders in due course."

The financial regulator has previously warned against paying dividends with capital which could instead be used to protect businesses against the coronavirus crisis. 

The SJP boss also told partners technological innovation during the lockdown had seen a drop in administration errors and increased efficiency. 

He added: "We’ve also built on our self-service capabilities enabling you and your teams to do more, simply and swiftly, with the added benefit of a drop in error rates and less admin issues."

SJP told FTAdviser its recently introduced digital forms had seen errors reduced to under 3 per cent when compared to paper forms. 

rachel.mortimer@ft.com 

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