60-second interview with Joanne Morse

Joanne Morse, 8/4/2019

Joanne Morse TEP is Director of Family Office Services, Summit Trust International, Geneva.

What does your firm or organisation do?

Summit is a multi-jurisdictional independent trust group which is owner-managed, specialising in the provision of bespoke structuring solutions for ultra-high-net-worth individuals and families.

What has STEP done for you, individually, or as a business?

My STEP qualifications helped me to gain a real understanding and recognition that I needed within the industry. As a business, Summit has a requirement for all Trust Officers to be STEP-qualified.

What is the most important thing STEP does, in your opinion?

STEP sets a very high standard of competence for practitioners. The training is excellent, and the updates and courses offered help everyone to keep up to date with changes.

You will be speaking at the STEP Caribbean Conference next month. What will you be speaking on and what are the main issues?

I am speaking on the overbearing settlor, who I’m sure many people have experience of dealing with! It can be tricky to keep a positive relationship with sometimes difficult individuals whilst maintaining a real, robust structure with integrity that can stand up to scrutiny.

What do you most like about your job?

No day is ever the same and I am always being challenged!

.. and what do you feel is most worthwhile?

Helping families to find harmonious solutions in often difficult and stressful situations. I find that building relationships and trust with people over many years is enormously satisfying.

What would you say to a young person thinking of a career in this industry?

It is without doubt a challenging and varied career. You should expect to work hard, but be constantly learning. Since I joined this industry I have found myself dealing with circumstances I never could have imagined. Things are constantly evolving and changing, so you will never have a chance to be bored.

Which sectors are likely to see the strongest future growth, do you think?

Attitudes towards wealth management are starting to change, and whilst political and financial stability are still important factors for wealthy families, the introduction of Common Reporting Standard (CRS) also means there’s nowhere to hide. Wealthier families increasingly want to be associated with well-established and respected jurisdictions.

What about jurisdictions?

I think the Cayman Islands has a real opportunity at present. It has proven itself to be one of the larger, more established jurisdictions, with an experienced courts system and the highest level of service providers. It also has sensible and well-regarded regulation and supervision.

What trends do you see in the global private wealth sector at the moment?

Private wealth continues to grow, as have the needs and expectations of ultra-high-net-worth clients. At the same time, the environment in which trust companies and professional advisers operate has shifted significantly. Smaller, and sometimes less reputable, businesses have found it difficult to compete where increased regulatory and reporting pressures impact on costs and increase risk. As a result, the businesses which remain are generally of a higher quality, which is good for the industry as a whole, I think.

What do you feel are the main challenges facing practitioners at the moment, and how will you deal with them?

The Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and CRS reporting requirements on trustees are now really quite burdensome. We discuss them early on with the beneficiaries/settlors/protectors we work with, so they expect requests for documentation. Due diligence requests are not everyone’s favourite thing, but are is slowly becoming ‘the norm’.

Which social media channels do you use and why?

LinkedIn. It’s an extremely helpful tool to help people in any industry connect.

Joanne Morse TEP is the Director of Family Office Services at Summit Trust International SA, based in Geneva. She began her career as a private client solicitor in the UK before moving to Geneva in 2011. She has a wide range of experience in trust and company management, covering such assets as fine art, vintage cars, shipping fleets, yachts, private equity and commercial and residential property. Jo manages an administration team providing bespoke private client trusteeship to ultra high value, complex international trust structures. She speaks English and French.