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Friday 8 July 2022
That's a wrap
After two fascinating days of debate, discussion, networking and shared knowledge, STEP Global Congress 2022 has come to a close. Huge thank you to our speakers, delegates, sponsors, Programme Committee and of course all readers who have followed the action here.
As we draw to a close, Emma Facey TEP, Deputy Chair of the STEP England and Wales Regional Committee, Nancy Golding QC TEP, Chair of STEP and Mark Walley, CEO of STEP, give their final thoughts on Congress 22 and thank all those involved.
'The best way to predict the future is to invent it'
He speaks about the use of computational statistics and data for problem-solving and prediction of outcomes, the fact that computers can process uncertainty and the dawn of an era of non-thinking machines that can 'outthink' and out-perform us.
So what does it mean for jobs? The systems under development will create a new way of working, he says, and those developing those systems will be the new professionals. But it's not all doom and gloom: we will redeploy, not become unemployed, if we build the new systems rather than try to compete with them.
'We're doing ourselves and our clients a disservice not to take advantage of the forward progress offered to us,' remarks Susskind. 'Scary though it may be, there's a whole new world, career and adventure out there for the people who are prepared to help build the systems. We're lucky to be alive in this time of remarkable change.'
Innovation vs automation
'Innovation isn't about supporting or enhancing the way we do things – it's about doing new things,' Susskind says. 'Many professionals see technology as useful in supporting what they do but not replacing it.' He points out that tech is only going to go 'in one direction', and that is constant evolution and improvement, with AI to have a huge impact on professions in the next ten to 20 years.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) - Opportunities and threats for the professions
Closing what has been a hugely varied and thought-provoking programme is Professor Richard Susskind OBE, Oxford Internet Institute, UK. He's here to tell the audience about how technology is changing the world in which practitioners work and the future of AI in the professional world.
Potential challenges and barriers
Chan also observes the balance of autonomy and protection, and notes that there is a stigma to admitting a lack of mental capacity. Lawyers have to be alive to that, as well as being aware of potential undue influence when children accompany their parents to execute their legal affairs. To be progressive, though, you have to have resources and collaboration. This, notes Flynn, is where real change will be brought about in legislation.
A further challenge is cross-jurisdictional differences in civil and common law and the language used, according to Cunningham: overcoming that barrier would be hugely helped by a universal language. To move the conversation forward, practitioners must know what the options are, recognise the autonomy of the client, educate themselves and share knowledge and have time and patience.
'There's a movement towards a person-directed approach, which can be against the instinct of professionals,' says Flynn. 'But once they are assured there is a framework and tools to use, that inspires confidence.' Service providers need to understand that vulnerable clients have rights and preferences, says Je. 'There can be conflicts between autonomy and supported decision-making,' he comments. 'The change that needs to be made is almost a moral one.'
Legislation in different jurisdictions: who does what
Supported decision-making can mean a lot of different things in different jurisdictions, the panel notes. Chan notes that in Hong Kong culturally health, financial and welfare decisions are very much in the hands of family members. In Ireland, it is enshrined in legislation that every practicable effort must be made to support an individual in making their own decisions, says Evoy, although Flynn adds that it gives preference to supported decision-making over substitute decision-making as far as possible. Korea is a very paternalistic and family-orientated jurisdiction, says Je, meaning that protection of vulnerable clients has historically been the duty of the family. The policy-makers in the country are, however, starting to see the importance of supported decision-making, he adds.
Supported decision-making: here to stay?
Kathleen Cunningham TEP, KM Cunningham, Canada, Sherlynn G. Chan TEP, Deacons, Hong Kong, Bernice Evoy, Banking & Payments Federation Ireland – BPFI, Ireland, Áine Flynn, Decision Support Service, Ireland and Cheolung Je, Korean Research Center for Guardianship and Trusts at Hanyang University, Republic of Korea are here to discuss supporting vulnerable clients and decision-making in various jurisdictions.
Reinventing philanthropy for greater environmental impact
Panel: Caty Batten, Intaconnected, UK; Karl Burkart, One Earth, Rockefeller Philanthropies, USA; Stephen Fern, Ark2030, UK; Ana Toni, Instituto Clima e Sociedade, Brazil.
This panel is exploring the ways in which philanthropy needs to develop in times of economic crisis, to ensure the stability of the environment and future generations. The session is discussing whether the climate crisis can be averted using philanthropic roles. The panellists are considering what the role of the industry is and what the main challenges it faces are.
Predatory behaviours and the vulnerable client: a quiet welfare disaster?
Panel: Louise Lewis TEP, Freeths, UK; Dan Holloway, University of Oxford, UK; Kimberly Whaley TEP, Whaley Estate Litigation, Canada.
In an exploration of financial exploitation of vulnerable clients, the panel highlights that cases are increasing, especially as estimates suggest more than 1 million dementia patients in the UK alone by 2025 – making it a vital and topical discussion for private client practitioners. The panel is giving case studies and presenting the hallmarks and warning signs of predatory marriages, with a review of matrimonial family law in Canada and the UK. 'Protection, when done well, should empower the vulnerable client,' says Holloway.
The importance of family businesses from the Rising Generation’s perspective
Panel: Kecia Barkawi-Hauser TEP, VALUEworks, Switzerland; Iraj Ispahani, Ispahani Advisory, UK; Maria Villax, Bedrock Group, UK.
The panellists are discussing the transition of generations in family businesses in a sustainable way, ensuring that the needs of the current generation and the future generation are met. The mechanisms of the relationships and roles within the family are vital, as well as having appropriate processes in place, they say. Younger generations must be brought to the table, educated and listened to, to fully engage the with the family business. COVID has prompted families to review what they stand for and allowed them to evolve their purpose to meet the needs of the next generation.
Following lunch, Congress has now split into three 'streams': specialist discussion areas for delegates to join.
Is secrecy actually a negative and how can the industry improve perceptions?
Jones says it's a Catch-22: either trusts are seen to be secretive or, when charitable trusts are publicised, are seen to be self-congratulatory, and Hooper adds that the idea has been perpetuated that confidentiality means an attempt to hide bad behaviour. Joffe says that the industry needs to put out short, clear information on trusts, encouraging laypeople to understand what the structures are, what they can do, and why the perceptions around hiding illicit funds are misleading.
The panellists point to STEP's Social and Economic Benefits of Trusts thought leadership research report as the sort of messaging that should be publicised more widely.
The charity perspective
Hooper describes several charitable trusts managed in Jersey: 'There are many charitable trusts doing wonderful, vital things. They do benefit from the trust fund and often the family beneficiaries of the trust are in full agreement that philanthropic giving is the end goal.'
The media representation of trusts is, however, a PR disaster for the industry says Joffe. More should be done to show the range and purposes of trusts. But, as Jones says, good news rarely makes the front page and it's hard to get the message of the good side out.
Trusts for all?
Morgan asks the panel if trusts are seen to be for everyone, or if they are really viewed as the domain of the wealthy client. Joffe says that the point of a trust are often missed and can be key structures for ordinary families to protect assets. Marks also notes that, from the Australian perspective, trusts are an extremely typical mechanism for the average person.
'There's a huge range of trusts and they can be put to a huge range of uses,' agrees Hooper. 'In terms of modern families, they support settlors in countries where forced heirship rules apply unfair. But there are also cases where in a divided family, a professional trustee managing the family wealth can have an extremely harmonising and tempering effect.'
She says trusts allow innovative and tailored structures that would otherwise be hard to achieve.
Transparency and public trust registers
Joffe is discussing the fact that some jurisdictions' authorities simply don't have the capacity to be tracking illicit funds kept in trusts. Hooper agrees that this is problematic and notes that there is a wide range of 'offshore' jurisdictions with very different approaches to transparency and regulation.
Is the answer a public trust register, asks Morgan? Jones points out that there will always be criminals looking to exploit weak systems: 'The idea that trusts as a vehicle present any more risk than any other. You have to look at the service providers' systems and legislation in place to prevent criminals infiltrating in the first place.' He asks what the perceived benefit of a public register is and if it would really actually crack down on the criminals.
Marks agrees that looking at the structure is the wrong direction: 'It comes down to the due-diligence and knowing the customer. Instead we've gone down a policy road that goes nowhere – the problem is not the vehicle.'
Trusting trusts: keeping the faith in a hostile world
A panel is now discussing one of the key issues faced by practitioners: the perception of trusts, especially in the offshore world. Samantha Morgan TEP, RMW Law LLP, UK, Katie Hooper, Mourant, Jersey, Harry Joffe TEP, Discovery Life and Discovery Life International, South Africa, Roland Jones TEP, The Axebridge Group, Barbados and David W Marks QC TEP, Inns of Court, Australia are debating the issue.
An equitable system
'A tax system needs to be looked at holistically,' says Polman. 'Tax systems need to become more efficient so that foreign companies don't have significantly more benefits in some jurisdictions. That's the route to a more equitable world, and we can't pick and choose what we want to levy taxes on.' Businesses and civil society need to work with governments, he says. 'None of us can solve this alone.'
What is the role of the private client in philanthropy?
Pereira asks about private clients' responsibility in philanthropic giving, where giving directly might be a minefield but giving to governments in some places may simply be paying into a corrupt regime. Riches responds that governments implementing efficient taxation is a possible answer, where taxation on wealthier estates, for example, could serve the social purposes of reducing inequality.
'With FATCA and CRS, responsible payment of taxes is no longer really a question or concern – advisors just have to ensure that clients aren't being subject to double or even triple taxation,' he notes. 'How estates and the passing on of wealth is taxed is a much more difficult question to resolve.'
What does responsible stewardship of wealth mean?
'Responsible stewardship of wealth is not a fixed set of best practices,' says Pereira. 'It's thinking through the implications of action or inaction on all stakeholders, from families to the communities in which we operate.' Riches comments that good transmission and oversight of wealth are also good for the communities in which that wealth sits, and consequently the stewardship of assets is a natural part of the conversation. He adds that such stewardship is 'part of STEP's DNA and part of what STEP stands for.' Polman says that society's mindset needs to change and the discussion of responsible stewardship is vital to doing so, to ensure sustainability and equitability.
The twain shall meet
We are now going to hear from a panel of experts on responsible stewardship of wealth. The panellists are Gina Pereira TEP, Meritus Trust Company, Bermuda; Paul Polman, Business leader, Campaigner and Co-author of Net Positive: how courageous companies thrive by giving more than they take and John Riches TEP, RMW Law, UK.
Risk preparation and mitigation
'At a time like this, it's important to talk about risk,' he warns. 'The risks are materialising as we speak. A lot of the discussion with clients is about geopolitical risk, from oil prices and the war in Ukraine to COVID.'
In the long-term, equities are likely to beat inflation: but the risk is higher and there is a benefit to investors being diversified. 'Real assets don't just have the ability to develop real return potential, but they're also likely to diversify better,' says Mueller-Glissmann.
Short-term and long-term planning
Deglobalistation, decarbonisation and changes in society will all continue to drive inflation: not to the extent of this year's rates, but practitioners should be prepared for more volatile swings, Mueller-Glissmann says. We can expect growth to sit at 2 percent and inflation to be between 3 and 4 percent over the next decade. He notes that this has significant asset allocation implications, including how people choose jurisdictions for their investments. Long-term investors have to think now about strategic investments to meet the potential changes in inflation in coming years.
Asset allocation implications from stagflation
Christian Mueller-Glissmann, Goldman Sachs International, UK is the opening speaker of day two: he is here to share thoughts with delegates on the current challenges in asset allocation all while faced by the highest inflation in a generation.
'Markets are very vulnerable to the shock inflation after 20 or 30 years of being anchored,' he says. 'Cash has, in the year to date, outperformed most assets, which is unheard of.'
Day two – welcome back
Rod Luker TEP, STEP Board Member, is now welcoming all delegates back for another exciting day of compelling discussion. Mark Harris TEP, Senior Partner and Chairman of International Grouping at Congress Gold Sponsor Rawlinson & Hunter, is now discussing the importance of the community that STEP engenders in the world of private client practice.
Advisors and trustees, too, have to adapt their practices and make sure they are educated and have experience in the new conversations in philanthropy – for example crypto-investments. Further, the panel adds, they should be ensuring that their own firms' practices reflect ethical decision-making.
Greater communication, greater education
The panellists note that for many HNW families, philanthrophy is a conversation among the younger generations because of their awareness from social media about global needs, but also among the older generations who want to educate their next gen on sustainable finance and giving back with the assets they will receive.
Morning briefing in association with Jersey Finance: The Evolution of Philanthropy
For the early birds, day two of Congress is kicking off with a panel discussion on changes to philanthropy. The panellists, Joe Moynihan, Jersey Finance, Jersey, Penny Chapman, BDB Pitmans, UK, Suzanne M. Reisman, Law Offices of Suzanne M. Reisman, UK and Russell Waite, Affinity Private Wealth, Jersey, are examining how clients are becoming more alive to making change.
The pace of technological change is also driving the conversation about giving, as is the increasing number of generations within family offices.
Thursday 7 July 2022
That's all (for today) folks!
Denese Molyneux TEP, Chair of the STEP England and Wales Regional Committee, is now closing day one of STEP Global Congress 2022. Many thanks to our speakers, panellists, sponsors and of course delegates – we hope to see as many of you as possible tomorrow, and for those who can't make it, please keep following all the updates here!
Changes and challenges ahead
They say that there will be a natural trend towards clients expecting a continuation of close relationships with their lawyers and advisors, but with efficient estate-planning technology. Governments, however, will need a 'push in the right direction' to ensure that the requisite legislation supports this.
Easing the difficult conversations
The panellists are considering how technology can streamline estate planning solutions, to make administration of estates faster, easier and more emotionally engaging for clients. They note that technology does not take the humanity out of the lawyer-client relationship. Clients are in fact expecting these tools to facilitate processes and in the future integrated systems may also allow different professionals to liaise.
Modernisation of the estate industry: the estate industry solutions and the platforms that will transform the future
We are joined now by Andrew Bowyer, ADB Insights (The Canadian Estates Forum), Canada, Ari Brojde, Estateably, Canada, Max Ezerins, Settify, Australia/UK and Jonathan Upton, Estatesearch, UK, for our last panel of day one. They will be looking at technology and the future of estate planning.
Present and future impact
'The refugees will be Europe's reckoning,' warns Hadfield, saying that the EU is simply unprepared for any kind of mass migration. Internationally there will be ramifications in cost and availability of commodities and the G7 and EU have stepped in to find solutions through investment and the EU 6th package of sanctions. But Hadfield comments that we have to go beyond sanctions-driven change: there will be a need to stop relying on fossil fuels and pursue more environmental agendas.
Professor Hadfield is discussing the shock of the Russian invasion to NATO and the West –despite the previous invasion of Crimea – and the impact it has had in terms of mass migration and swift moves towards sanctions. The speed of the move to EU accession of Ukraine has been unprecedented and there is a real shift towards a much wider EU.
Reflections on the impact of the Ukraine crisis on global issues and institutions
The audience has all come back together for the remainder of the afternoon and we're tackling a huge issue: the impact of the Ukraine crisis. Professor Amelia Hadfield, Dean International, Head of Department of Politics, Director of the Centre for Britain and Europe (CBE), University of Surrey, UK, is here to share her thoughts with us.
The cross-border advisor: globalisation, populism and backlash
Panel: Andrew Godfrey TEP, Russell-Cooke LLP, UK; Dr. Katharina Hemmen, POELLATH, Germany; Margaret O’Sullivan TEP, O’Sullivan Estate Lawyers LLP, Canada.
The cross-border advisor panel is exploring the regulatory challenges faced by advisors in relation to multi-jurisdictional planning, including beneficial ownership registers, multiple taxation, cross-border conflict and additional compliance. They note that collaboration, knowledge-sharing and core skills are key for all advisors, but that jurisdiction specialists are essential to get the best results. The panel warns the audience that advisors should also be aware of the perceptions of wealth in the current climate.
Changing views on wealth and global mobility of high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs)
Panel: Nicola Saccardo TEP, Maisto e Associati, UK; Leonardo Braune TEP, Intercorp Group, UK; Line-Alexa Glotin, UGGC Avocats, France; Bock Eng Sim, WongPartnership, Singapore.
The panel are debating the challenges facing practitioners advising HNWIs with cross-border assets, with views from Brazil, France, Italy, Singapore and the UK. In advising clients who are globally mobile, advisors have to be experts in the complexities of jurisdiction-specific laws on tax, succession, residence and even immigration. Clients are already planning ahead with political changes in mind in some jurisdictions, as they note pledges to reform tax regimes.
Into the metaverse: a future for private client business
Panel: Leigh Sagar TEP, New Square Chambers, UK; Sara M Adami Johnson TEP, RBC Family Office Services, Canada; Ross Belhomme TEP, Orcinus, Singapore/Switzerland.
The panel walks advisors through what NFTs and Smart Contracts really are and what it means to own real estate and businesses in the metaverse, noting that many of the same principles apply as to physical assets. They are examining a case study involving a collection of digital artwork held by NTF and the complexities in relation to taxation, residence, domicile and inheritance. They remind the audience that just because crypto-assets exist intangibly, it doesn't mean that you can't or shouldn't consider them.
Underfunded and unrepresented litigants
Panel: Daniel J. Dochylo TEP, Borden Ladner Gervais, Canada; Richard Dew TEP, Ten Old Square, UK; Christen K. Douglas, McDermott Will & Emery, US; Dr. iur. Johannes Gasser TEP, Gasser Partner Attorneys, Liechtenstein.
What happens when a litigant is unable to obtain or retain representation? The panel is confronting the systemic issues linked to self-representation and asking how such clients can be supported and representation can be made more accessible. They are asking how far judges should go in assisting an unrepresented litigant to ensure effective proceedings without bias.
Following lunch, Congress has now split into four 'streams': specialist discussion areas for delegates to join.
What is family? Unpacking the modern families of today and the future
Mutendi says it is vital to understand family archetypes, where their wealth has come from, how it has grown and diversified and how it will work for different family members and generations, possibly cross-border. These archetypes range from fast-growing family start-ups and businesses that adapt to their environment, to the multinational enterprises with close political ties.
The advice these archetypes needs from practitioners is wide-ranging in nature, especially when they are beginning to diversify across generations. Advisors need to understand what the family needs from them as well as bringing their own experience and knowledge to the table.
'It's one thing going in and putting something in place, only to change it a few months later,' she says. 'It's another to go in and have the conversation and really get to the bottom of what they want and need. With the right collaboration and communication then you can help them to build the right setup for their end goal.'
She compares the family to an orchestra: the advisor bringing the right instruments to the table and helping to conduct them in harmony.
What is family? Unpacking the modern families of today and the future
Tsitsi Mutendi, Nhaka Legacy & African Family Firms, Zimbabwe, continues the theme of modern families. She is speaking about the cultural and sub-cultural differences in families globally that govern their decision-making processes and the influences that will be brought to bear on their family structures. She compares the practical and emotional sides of the decisions: balancing legality and cultural conflict.
'Founders create a great business, heirs create a great family – advisors need to anchor it all.'
Who is the client?
Is it the family as a whole? Is it a minor with representatives speaking for them? There are challenges when planning the structure, the panellists agree. Planning for the patriarch or settlor may not suit the needs of the whole family, says Tee. The experts agree that the needs of all the generations must be considered.
Radu emphasises that it's key to build the definitions into the family charter, and Cipollini also suggests that issues such as pre-nups and divorces should be considered in the constitution too.
Succession planning is a huge education piece within families, to help them understand structures, family constitutions and so on across the generations. Communication and collaboration, says Graves, are absolutely vital.
How advisors must adapt
Tee asks how the panellists see the role of trusted advisor evolving. Cipollini responds that the advisor needs to understand the relationships within the family, and understand the needs of the next generation. She suggests it is important for families to learn from each other. Radu says that the key is not to put the structure before the family: it has to match the needs of the family. Graves agrees that collaboration brings wisdom for global families, and advisors previously concerned about losing control over a structure are now working with wider teams to share knowledge.
Modern families: reframing the advisors role?
Charlie Tee TEP, Withers, UK, Giulia Cipollini TEP, Withers, Italy, Cindy Radu TEP, Cindy Radu Advisory, Canada and Katie Graves TEP, Withers, Hong Kong are our first panel of the day. They are examining the evolution of the family structure, with Tee asking the panellists what family really means.
Cipollini comments that while families are changing, the nature of wealth transfer is much the same - but there are greater numbers of generations to consider and many jurisdictions.
Radu notes that it is vital to ask family offices what they personally feel the meaning of 'family' is, whether bloodline or extended. Many legal documents are, she says, taking different views of the definition of family, leading to confusion.
In Hong Kong, Graves says, practitioners must take into account the very traditional view of families - but there are different definitions of family for different purposes within a family office's decision-making.
Tee adds that the family should therefore drive the trust document, not vice versa.
The offshore world
Gauke looks at the future of offshore financial centres, discussing the change in public attitudes and the global regulation and transparency that is vital to the perception of, and reputational risks associated with, such jurisdictions. The case must be made by such centres to showcase the value they add through products and expertise, he says. Increased international cooperation and greater transparency are vital to this conversation. 'Individuals are increasingly going to have to justify their financial affairs,' he reminds the audience.
Where will the revenue come from?
Parties are showing more willingness to raise the revenues from the highest earners, Gauke says. But where can we go for revenue raises within the current tax system? He discusses the various merits of income, business, consumption, carbon and wealth taxes. He is a sceptic, he says, about wealth taxes – and comments on the case made for improving existing taxes and says that a one-off wealth tax wouldn't support ongoing spending pressures.
Turning to non-doms, he comments that it is a 'live issue' with Labour saying they would scrap the nom-dom regime. Ministers have no idea what the behavioural response would be to this.
Soaking the rich in the 2020s?
David Gauke, Macfarlanes, UK, lets the attendees know the breaking news that Boris Johnson will be resigning as PM later today. He starts by examining the fiscal pressures on the UK government, focusing on the historic changes to government spending as the defence spend drops and health expenditure grows.
The increased spending on health can no longer come from the defence budget, he comments, with the result that the budget has to be found elsewhere. COVID-19, demographic change, the Ukraine conflict, net zero and 'levelling up' all cause ongoing financial pressures on the government. A change of parliament will still face these pressures.
Inheritance tax reform
Stevenson is discussing the work STEP and the APPG has done on inheritance tax (IHT), to influence public policy in the UK. He comments on the importance of STEP's involvement in government lobbying for public change and says 'I believe over the next 30 years, STEP will have a huge role to play...its influence will continue to grow and it will continue to be in demand for competent, respectful advice. It is a beacon of professionalism and integrity.'
Opening address from John Stevenson MP
John Stevenson, a practising solicitor as well as an MP, reflects on the changes of the last 30 years, with the speedy rise of technology and social media. 'But people still want to ensure that the next generation is catered for and their estates are managed,' he says. 'The profession has to adapt, change and modernise to remain relevant. Clients still want advice from people they trust and who have integrity.' He points to the high professional standards of STEP and the work it does in public policy globally.
Welcome from Gold Sponsor, Jersey Finance
Joe Moynihan, Chief Executive Officer at Jersey Finance, is adding his welcome thoughts and noting the trials and tribulations the industry has encountered and overcome in the past two years. He notes the challenges faced by the next generation and discusses the importance of ESG and philanthropy.
The future direction of STEP
Mark Walley is telling the delegates about the strategic direction of the organisation: from movement into emerging markets to diversification of income. 'Education is our number one priority', he says, discussing the launch of the new STEP Diploma.
Nancy Golding discusses the equality, diversity and inclusion journey that STEP is now on in terms of best practice.
And we're off!
Welcome to STEP Global Congress 2022 – we're delighted to welcome everyone following two years of COVID-19 delays. We're delighted to see all our delegates in person and to be joined by readers of this blog.
Tony Pitcher TEP, Deputy Chair of STEP, Nancy Golding QC TEP, Chair of STEP and Mark Walley, CEO of STEP are welcoming the delegates.
Wednesday 6 July 2022
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STEP Global Congress 2022: Live updates
STEP Global Congress 2022 is kicking off tomorrow! Taking place in London, UK, Congress will present a powerful and thought-provoking agenda examining issues including modern families, modernisation of the estate industry, trusting trusts, supported decision-making and artificial intelligence. We will be following the key headlines from the two days of presentations and panels here: if you can't attend in person, this is the place to be to follow all the activity and hear the discussions.