Fast forward: 2015

Thursday, 01 April 2010
Peter Pexton describes the key competencies that he feels newly qualified TEPs will need in 2015.

We live in compliant times, increasingly so, and this will demand certain attitudes of the future trusts and estates practitioner. Many like me grew up with the Enid Blyton children’s adventure stories, some may remember the Famous Five (Five on a Treasure Island?) and the Secret Seven. But if Blyton were alive and writing now, what might the titles be? Famous Five Assess the Risk? The Secret Seven Go Transparent? Given a climate of due diligence, regulation and active government scrutiny, the future practitioner will need great patience and attention to detail.

Flexibility

History is cyclical, but the cycles seem to come around more and more rapidly. The future practitioner will need flexibility to adapt to new structures and ways of doing business. In Jersey in the mid-1970s we operated many private trust companies (PTCs). These PTCs all gave way to the professional trust corporation as clients looked for independent trusteeship and cost effective management. Now PTCs are back in fashion, but how long before they are displaced by something else, perhaps settlor directed trusts?

Like the tide, major banks have continually moved into the trustee business and then moved out again. And tax priorities continually change too. As fiscal alchemists we spent many happy hours converting income into capital, then capital into income, and now it’s income into capital … Or was that last week?!

Wealth management

Going forward private client work is likely to be all embracing ‘wealth management’ and not entity specific. Future fiduciaries will be adaptable, au fait with much more than Anglo Saxon trusts. They will be comfortable with companies, foundations, partnerships and the host of creative new life forms still to be invented (probably by some of the STEP members reading this article!).

Technical competence

Technical demands will increase. Some practitioners, perhaps specialists in a single tax, will be learning more and more about less and less. Generalists face the uncomfortable prospect of seeming to know less and less about more and more as we strive to deal with complex international assets and complicated family situations. Either way, the knowledge requirement will grow for all.

Networking

Indeed, such will be the amount of information in the trusts and estates field that the fiduciary will have to be a knowledge broker, knowing who to approach for the right answers. Effective networking skills will be vital.

Interpersonal skills

Despite the rise in the use of technology, the successful TEP will need to be more highly skilled in client facing situations. Successful service delivery will call for greater ‘soft skills’ in psychology, communication, negotiation and mediation.

Working with the elderly client

Demographics indicate that more people are becoming elderly, and will be elderly for much longer. Managing this aging client profile presents significant challenges. The services provided will require an effective marriage of technical knowledge and communication techniques. Dealing with clients suffering memory loss and senility will require great patience and sensitivity.

Professional standards

For me the most depressing aspect of the credit crunch has been the sheer amount of high level fraud and downright dubious practice. The good news is that in response there will be far greater emphasis on professional integrity and asserting high ethical standards.

And finally…

The good news is that generally personal wealth is increasing in both quantity and complexity, so there should be plenty of activity to interest and reward our future TEPs. If the recent press stories of the unfit baby boomer generation are true, then our estate and probate practitioners are also looking at a bright future!

So what does this mean for STEP?

I see some exciting challenges for STEP over the next five years:

  • We must keep the learning process relevant and up to date.
  • We must provide effective networking opportunities.
  • We must establish robust counselling services for ethical, moral and professional guidance.
  • And, most importantly, we must ensure our members feel justifiably proud to belong to this, their Society.

We would be interested to hear your views as to what competencies the practitioner of 2015 and beyond will need. Please email [email protected]

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Peter Pexton

Peter Pexton TEP has served on many STEP committees and is currently Chairman of both the Vaduz Branch in Switzerland and the Membership Committee, STEP.

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