A global member of a global Society

Sunday, 01 September 2013
STEP board member Edward Buckland speaks to Hannah Downie about the three big challenges ahead: Generation Y, branch development and regulation.

Edward Buckland spends a lot of time on planes. As Global Head of Fiduciary at Barclays, Edward is based in Jersey, but is a frequent flyer to London and myriad other countries where Barclays has established trust companies. For every flight he makes he has an extra leg: ‘It’s called the Jersey-Gatwick leg!’

Brought up in South Wales, Edward followed his father and brother into a career in law. In 1987 Edward found himself applying to law firms to undertake his articles. It was the time of London’s ‘Big Bang’ and the deregulation of the financial markets. London law firms were recruiting heavily for trainees to do corporate work, bond work and capital markets work. However, Edward’s chosen path was the private client route, and he was lucky enough to get offers from numerous leading city firms, including Slaughter and May, Herbert Smith and Clifford Chance. He chose Allen and Overy, and it was a fortuitous move: ‘By the time I qualified in 1990, A&O was one of the few firms with an active private client department!’

In 1995 he went offshore to Coutts, in the Bahamas. This was the first of a series of relocations. After the Bahamas came a stint in Jersey, followed by time in Switzerland and Guernsey, then, in 2002, a return to Jersey. In 2011 he joined Barclays as Global Head of Fiduciary. Edward finds his work fascinating and considers himself lucky to have a job that is responsible for a global franchise but comes without the big-city location.

Edward is responsible for every aspect of Barclays’ trust business: ‘I have to ensure that Barclays transacts the right kind of business, manages it in the correct way and that we deal with our clients appropriately.’ His speciality is fiduciary risk. He explains that risk differs depending on many factors: the type of structures that are being run, the jurisdiction and the clients, but mainly the assets. Barclays accepts a wide range of assets into trusts, and this makes Edward’s job very interesting. ‘I don’t know whether I am going to get a call from a wealth advisor based in Dubai who is talking to a non-resident Indian family about Cayman STAR trusts, or if I am going to get a call about a Delaware-directed trust for a family based in Virginia.’ Edward has the opportunity to frame the type of business that Barclays does, and he finds it enjoyable because he never knows what the next enquiry is going to be: ‘There are lots of different challenges!’

The other meaning of ‘E’

Edward joined STEP in 1995, just before heading to the Bahamas. With every relocation came membership of a new STEP branch: ‘I have probably been a member of more branches than anyone else!’ But Edward is first to admit that his involvement in STEP had been passive until his return to Jersey.

By the time Edward was back in Jersey he had been in the industry for 13 years and he felt he had reached a stage in his career that meant he had something to give back. STEP was the obvious choice for him, as it was global but also an organisation that focused on its members.

Edward joined the Jersey Committee and became more involved. Before he knew it he had been elected Chair. ‘Being Chair of STEP Jersey – the largest STEP branch – was an enormous privilege.’

He found that his contribution was very welcome, but he is aware that a lot of people are reluctant to volunteer, perhaps because they don’t know what they will be able to contribute. Edward’s advice? ‘You will have something to add, because everyone has something to add. That’s the great thing about a membership organisation – everyone’s view is valid and important.’

Edward found that the more involved he became with STEP, the more rewarding he found it – and the more he learnt about trusts and estates. ‘It’s the ability to tap into the wealth of knowledge and experience that is invaluable. To be able to pick up the phone to George Hodgson and get the latest update on FATCA is fantastic.’

The playing field has changed. Offshore is seen through a different lens. The whole ethos of trust and estate planning and tax planning is seen in a different way

Edward’s advancement from Chair of STEP Jersey, to Council, to Board has been a natural progression: there was never a grand plan. At each level he learned about new initiatives and vowed to improve his level of knowledge to be able to understand the STEP world better. ‘At each level it’s been brilliant – it’s been a really amazing experience.’

The best thing about being on the Board, for Edward, is that he gets to see the breadth of work that STEP carries out. He truly appreciates the tremendous effort and work that is done in the STEP office and by the many STEP members around the world: ‘It’s just fantastic to see all these amazingly talented people giving up their time to help the entire profession reach higher standards. It’s positive, affirming and makes me really excited!’

But what drew Edward to STEP in the first place? ‘It was the other meaning of the “E” in “STEP”: “Education”. For me, it’s the Society for Training and Education.’ Edward believes STEP transformed the trust world when it started concentrating on education and introduced the STEP qualifications.

Generation Y

On the education front, STEP is going from strength to strength, but there are some big challenges on the horizon. Generation Y are next in line to inherit the Society, and the Board has to understand who these members are in order to meet their expectations. ‘The STEP member of tomorrow will probably work in a sector of the industry that doesn’t exist today, and communicate in a way that hasn’t been invented yet. So how should STEP engage with these members; how should STEP communicate with them?’

Generation Y may be social-media savvy, but are they committee-type people? Are online forums the board rooms of the future? Edward isn’t convinced the board room is Generation Y’s natural medium, so where will the decisions be taken, and how will they be taken? This presents a huge challenge to STEP, as a structural membership organisation. ‘If the members have changed fundamentally the organisation has to change fundamentally, and the people at the top have to change in line with the membership – and that is very difficult. It’s a huge challenge.’

Branch development

The second big challenge is size. Is bigger better? STEP has seen a steady increase in members, but does that mean the Society should set itself a target? Edward sees a tricky question: ‘Should STEP plant a flag in every place in the world where there are a few people who might be STEP members, or should the Society look for stronger, deeper penetration in certain markets?’ He thinks STEP shouldn’t think in terms of absolute numbers: ‘STEP needs to grow, but growth isn’t only about developing new branches; it’s also about developing existing branches.’ There is also a resource issue: is it better to spend time and effort helping a branch that already has 100 members reach 300 members, rather than setting up a new branch in a place where you are unlikely to get more than 50 members? ‘There is a philosophical challenge there: do we want to be all things to all people in all places, or are we going to concentrate the resources? What we need is really good relationships with the members that we already have – we need to strengthen those relationships.’

Regulation

The third challenge the Society faces is regulation. Should STEP become a regulatory body? What will it mean if it does? We live in a world of increased regulation, but it’s not so much the rules that are tripping people up as much as the pace of change. In the past two years the number of initiatives coming from supra-governmental bodies has taken off: the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) has exploded and intergovernmental agreements have proliferated. That pace of change isn’t going to reduce. ‘The playing field has changed. Offshore is seen through a different lens. The whole ethos of trust and estate planning and tax planning is seen in a different way.’

STEP has to consider how it’s going to react. The Society has been actively engaging with authorities and Edward thinks it is vital that it continues to do so. ‘Our members need to have a voice at the table with Brussels, the OECD, the Treasury and Home Office.’ Public policy engagement is a huge service for members, but one Edward thinks is underappreciated. ‘I don’t think STEP members realise the extent of our involvement and I don’t think they realise how important it is – FATCA affects us all.’

STEP’s 2012 Member Survey illustrates his point. When asked when they thought automatic exchange of information was going to happen, 92 per cent of respondents answered ‘three to five years’, ‘five years’ or ‘not at all’. Less than a year later, automatic exchange has arrived. Clearly, there is a problem: ‘People are not in step with these developments and they need to understand how important the public policy work is. These are really serious issues and we need to make people more aware of what we do internally.’

The issue of regulation is huge and is something that members will be increasingly grappling with in their jobs. But for STEP to keep its place as an organisation that supranational bodies and governments engage with, will there be pressure to evolve into more of a regulatory body? Will STEP have more credibility if it follows this course? Edward thinks this challenge will come and that it will be tough: ‘Becoming a regulator in any shape or form is potentially a huge step. If you put that question to members just now I think you will get very different answers from different regions, and as many in favour as against. Navigating the waters that will come ahead will be a huge challenge for the society.’

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Hannah Downie

Hannah Downie is Managing Editor of STEP Journal and its supplements.

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