60-second interview with Matthew Howson

Matthew Howson, 1/4/2019

Matthew Howson TEP is a Senior Associate at Harneys in London.

What does your firm or organisation do?

Harneys is a full service offshore law firm with 12 offices worldwide, advising on British Virgin Islands (BVI), Cayman, Cyprus, Bermuda and Anguilla law, with an associated fiduciary company.

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

I have met some great people, and learned so much.

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

The biggest challenge and opportunity in international law is to apply the laws of one jurisdiction to clients and situations in another. STEP education – conferences, articles - makes me think ‘how could a BVI or Cayman structure apply to that situation?’ which is invaluable in speaking to clients.

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

I’ll be discussing objects clauses in purpose trusts. Purpose trusts are used a great deal on offshore structures for many purposes, but practitioners are always asked how to craft the ‘purposes’ of a particular purpose trust within the objects clause of a particular trust deed.

What do you most like about your job?

Frequent travel, explaining BVI/Cayman succession to people from different cultures throughout the world. There is not a region that does not use BVI or Cayman structures in some way.

.. and what do you feel is most worthwhile?

Providing a personal service to the families of the deceased in their time of grief.

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

I feel too young myself to answer that! But I would say do not feel constricted to stay on the ‘usual’ onshore law firm path if you want something different. Offshore law has given me international adventures, greatly increased responsibility as well as freedom and a wonderful bank of memories (and photos).

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

As long as humans are mortal, there will be a need for Private Client advisors.

What about jurisdictions?

I think that the Caribbean jurisdictions have a bright future despite some current (largely Euro-centric) challenges. Their products, such as the BVICo, are embedded throughout the world and are relatively inexpensive, and indeed in many areas, use of Caribbean structures is growing. They have an industry of onshore-trained lawyers and compliance professionals, and accept universal common-law jurisprudence.

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

I envisage differentiation in structures following onshore amnesties; splits among clients depending on their attitudes to confidentiality; and a new client generation emerging in the ‘new jurisdictions’ who are more informed about wealth management than their parents.

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

I’d say that’s getting the message out to people. Given how universal the structures we promote are, our mission is to educate clients and professionals throughout the world on their proper use.

Matthew Howson TEP is a Senior Associate at Harneys in London, having spent two years in its BVI and Cayman offices. He specialises in BVI and Cayman trust law, private client and estate planning. Matthew is a member of STEP London City, and is recommended in the Legal 500 2019.