To STEP, with love

To STEP, with love

I congratulate STEP on its 30th anniversary. I was the 959th member of the Society, which I joined when I was the regulator in the Turks and Caicos Islands. I have watched the Society flourish through the years, proving the adage that from little acorns mighty oaks grow, and I am proud to be one of its (albeit retired) members still.

So much has changed since I entered the trust and estate profession 50 years ago. When I started my career, there were no fax machines and telegrams were the fastest means of written communication. A library, rather than a laptop, was of far greater importance to research. At that time, a trust and estate practitioner, in its purest sense, meant just that: you administered trusts and liquidated deceased estates. If you had decided to make this profession a vocation, as I did, you normally took the traditional guild route with its recognised three ranks: apprentice, journeyman and master.

If you were lucky – as I was – you also had a mentor to show you the ropes at the start of your career. I studied for the trustee diploma of the Institute of Bankers in South Africa, which was formed in 1904, 25 years after its counterpart in England.

My career at a senior level has been in Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, Latin America and North America. From 1989–1992, the UK government appointed me to form the first financial services office in the Turks and Caicos Islands, following a series of financial and political scandals there. My remit included a review of existing laws and recommending any necessary new legislation. As a result of this exercise, I drafted, inter alia, a much‑needed trust law.

When I joined STEP, it was not so much how the Society helped my business over the years (although several referrals from fellow members were welcomed), it was the impact it has had over two decades in contributing to the knowledge of local members. Crucially, STEP has made it easier for them to understand the important differences between the civil code and common law, as applied to trusts. To this day, for example, the main challenge for some is appreciating the principle of equity, which stands alongside common law. STEP examinations are there to fill this gap.

STEP has already set the course for the industry’s future, and the only challenge is to keep up with the many changes facing succession planning from both a social and legal viewpoint. In the case of the latter, new precedents are constantly springing forth. It is very clear to me, however, that STEP is more than up to the challenge, ably supported by a fraternity of skilled, experienced practitioners.

STEP has now become the fountain of all knowledge in the fiduciary field for students. It has become the central source of trust and estate education and, importantly, a forum for members to exchange ideas. Like the Open University, it has enabled practitioners to access courses via their computers from all points of the compass. STEP has turned the administration of trusts and deceased estates into a distinct profession, one that is today widely recognised, and from which the public can benefit, knowing that their affairs are in capable hands.