STEP Europe Conference 2018 in review

Friday, 19 October 2018
On 4-5 October, more than 160 delegates from 30 countries attended the STEP Europe Conference 2018, hosted by STEP Benelux.

On 4-5 October, more than 160 delegates from 30 countries attended the STEP Europe Conference 2018, hosted by STEP Benelux. Held at the Le Royal Hotel in Luxembourg, this year’s theme was ‘the new state of the art: keeping pace with unprecedented change’. Change was indeed the order of the day, with status updates on the MiFID II, PRIIPS, IDD regulations; beneficial ownership registers; the EU Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive and the upcoming EU Matrimonial Property Regime.

Despite the wealth of regulation practitioners have to keep in step with, the agenda also looked further afield, to developments in fintech, blockchain, impact investment, and how technology can be used to lighten the administrative load for advisors.

Day one kicked off with a welcome from Paolo Panico TEP, Chair of the STEP Europe Regional Committee, and STEP Benelux Chair Louise Benjamin TEP; a keynote speech from His Excellency Mr John Marshall, British Ambassador to Luxembourg, provided delegates with an update on the latest Brexit developments.

Simon Gorbutt TEP moderated a panel navigating the regulatory maze of MiFID II, PRIIPS, IDD and their status and applications in Switzerland, Luxembourg, Norway and the UK. Panel members highlighted how prescriptive, complex administration to ensure compliance has resulted in advisors changing the jurisdictions they work with, and predicted the increased regulation would result in more sanctions.

An update from Dr Hans-Joachim Jaeger and Andrew Knight TEP on the Common Reporting Standard (CRS) followed, which asked how authorities the world over plan to handle the vast amounts of data now flowing between jurisdictions. For instance, teams of data analysts have been hired to look at the received information under the OECD’s Mandatory Disclosure Rules (for CRS avoidance schemes)and Base Erosion and Profit Shifting (BEPS) initiative, to help identify ‘outlying’ assets under management, and that demand will only grow as more automatic exchange of information initiatives come into force.

Serge Schroeder, Premier Conseiller at the Cour Administrative of Luxembourg, (pictured below) gave a keynote address on the balance of tax transparency against human rights, particularly in relation to beneficial ownership registers and unfettered public access to these.

On the subject of tax, Belgian tax and company law updates from Saskia Lust TEP, and an overview of Luxembourg’s space programme by Louise Benjamin, shifted the attendees’ attention skywards. However, the focus was not only on Europe, with the US’ own Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, tax reform and developments covered by James O’Neal TEP and Todd D. Mayo TEP.

A networking and reception dinner at La Table de Belvedere, with dinner speaker UK Judge Christopher Vajda from the Court of Justice of the European Union, ended the first day.

Day two, although shorter, was packed with discussion and thought-provoking presentations. Namely, the upcoming EU Regulation covering civil-law aspects of matrimonial property regimes and comparative presentations on the Hungarian trust and San Marino and Italian courts.

Following the theme of change, Prof of Law Miguel Poiares Maduro, from the European University Institute, gave a keynote address on impact investment and social innovation, highlighting new projects combining and driven by the latest tech, social needs and public policy, warning delegates that ‘change, by itself, is not innovation’.

Delegate feedback was positive across the board, praising the ‘excellent choice of topics’ and all of those who filled out the feedback survey felt the conference was good value for money and would attend similar future STEP Europe events.