Cult Wines lays off sales staff in Singapore and Asian operation
Fine wine investment company Cult Wines has laid off members of its sales and operations team within its Singapore and Asian business, the drinks business has learnt.
Staff from sales and operations were made redundant with immediate effect in early August, according to multiple sources close to the company.
When contacted by db, Nicolas Monroy, director of Southeast Asia, said the layoffs were “part of restructuring” the Singapore-based operation and attributed the redundancies to being in line with the “evolution of business”.
He said: “Over the last two years, the company has invested super heavily in tech, and that tech is now in place. So, you don’t need those many hands anymore.”
The company completed a new round of fundraising in June to fuel growth and support its tech infrastructure. Former Moët-Hennessy CEO Christophe Navarre supported the funding round, and has joined the Cult Wines board as a strategic advisor. Formula 1 driver Valtteri Bottas and Reda Bedjaoui, founder of luxury fintech Privat 3 Money, were also named among the high-profile investors.
The funding drive follows the launch of its digital trading platform CultX in May 2022, which is backed by blockchain technology and powered by Wine-Searcher, and will allow the company to scale this up in the coming months as well as invest in more data, the company said at the time.
Monroy claimed that the new platform is able to address 99% of the company’s needs. He said: “A lot of people’s normal queries can now be solved through tech solutions.”
“I think the company evolved to a point where we are ready to take on the next challenge, and we don’t need as many heads.”
Cult Wine has built its investment business, where the minimum portfolio amount has risen from US$10,000 to US$50,000 in the last decade, on “high-touch engagement”, offering clients the benefits of an investment management team, resources, and personal relationship managers.
Most Singapore clients will now be asked to contact relationship managers via their new user interface. Others – the highest tier – will benefit from the ‘personal touch’. However, Monroy would not specify what qualifies as the highest tier.
The Singapore entity serves as the regional headquarters for Southeast Asia. According to Monroy, no other regional offices, including Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Tokyo, were affected by staff redundancies. He said there are no plans to hire new staff, believing that “we are currently at the right size”.
A UK-based company, Cult Wines, was launched in 2007 by Tom Gearing. The company manages £290 million in assets and runs regional offices in Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai, New York and Toronto.
Speaking exclusively with Asia editor Eloise Feilden, Gearing said that the company is prioritising “having staff that are able to support customer needs cross-regionally” in Asia. “Now we’ve got one consolidated team in unit, that works cross-regionally across all those areas, but we still have staff locally based in Shanghai, we still have staff locally based in Hong Kong and we still have our office and our staff locally based in Singapore. We feel that that’s now going to give us a more operationally efficient structure to enable us to support our existing businesses and still be able to support our partners and grow our business going forward.”
Gearing said of the whole company: “As a business we’ve taken the decision to right size, the organisation in line with current market conditions, but also in line with the investments we’ve made.”
The Cult Wines CEO confirmed that not all of the company’s teams in Asia have been reduced. “There has been an overall reduction in sales-facing staff,” he said. “We’ve reconsolidated down, but not all three units were reduced.”
In an earlier version of this article, we wrongly stated that Cult Wines had laid off its entire sales team in its Singapore office by making five sales staff there redundant. This was not true. Three employees who dealt with sales remain in the Singapore office. Only one member of the sales team in Singapore had their contract terminated. We apologies to Cult Wines for the error.