UPDATE 2-St James's Place targets 200 bln stg in funds by end-2025 as profit jumps

* 2020 profit jumps to 327.6 mln stg from 187.1 mln stg

* Funds under management reaches a record of 129.3 bln stg

* Low savings rates, ageing population underpins business (Adds CEO comments, share move)

Feb 25 (Reuters) – St. James’s Place expects funds under management to surge more than 50% to top 200 billion pounds ($283 billion) by the end of 2025 as low savings rates and an ageing population boost demand for the British wealth manager’s services.

The forecast came as the company posted a 75% surge in 2020 pretax profit, with funds under management reaching a record 129.3 billion pounds from 117 billion a year earlier.

After suffering hefty outflows at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, wealth managers have had a strong run as markets bounced back, helped by trillions of dollars in government stimulus steps and optimism over vaccination rollouts.

St. James’s Place (SJP) said it made pretax profit of 327.6 million pounds last year, up from 187.1 million in 2019.

It set a full-year dividend of 38.49 pence per share, versus 49.71 pence in 2019, and said the final dividend from 2019 that was withheld during the first peak of the pandemic would be paid as an interim dividend during the first quarter of 2021.

‘ADVICE GAP’

Chief executive Andrew Croft said the company was confident of delivering 10% growth per annum in new business.

“We live in a complex world, people needing advice and needing to save for their own retirement, people living longer … We are at unbelievably low interest rates, some people say it might even go negative,” he told Reuters.

“There is a very large inter-generational transfer of wealth in the pipeline in the UK as well. There is an advice gap in the UK, there are not enough advisers to meet the demand.”

Still, SJP, which is cutting 200 jobs to simplify its business, said the environment remained challenging due to coronavirus lockdowns, despite moderate growth in new business in the early weeks of 2021.

“There remains 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,” it said.

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