Trust experts target top-end clients
Bermuda faces tough competition from other jurisdictions in attracting family trust business, a conference of industry experts heard yesterday.
And Bermuda should be doing more to make it easier for very wealthy clients to establish residence in Bermuda.
Randall Krebs, of Bermuda-based Meritus Trust company, said — due to changes in the trust industry and other pressures — Bermuda needed to ensure it targeted “the top-end client”.
Oliver Court, a partner in London legal firm MacFarlanes added: “We are operating at a high level and we need to be providing bespoke services.”
He said that Bermuda needed to look at high-end families relocating from London — and predicted that the glamour of the America’s Cup “would help present Bermuda as that kind of jurisdiction”.
Paola Fudakowska, of London-based international private client law firm Withers, added: “Now perhaps is the time to embrace these opportunities and perhaps make it easier for people to consider Bermuda as a genuine place to resettle.”
The meeting, organised by the Bermuda branch of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (Step) were told that the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, the Caymans and Bahamas are already in the business — with further competition emerging from Singapore and Hong Kong as economic power shifts east.
During the final panel session, lawyer Oliver Court, a partner in London legal firm MacFarlanes, said Bermuda’s “high-quality trustees, high-quality law and very good lawyers” could give Bermuda the edge over the competition.
He added: “Anyone even looking at setting up a trust for a client, that’s what we’re looking for. Today is evidence of that, because you’re really taking it seriously.”
Mr Court added: “You are the originators of private trust companies — you have got the expertise in providing trust companies.”
And he said that it was important for Bermuda to maintain its “very specific, very excellent specialisms” in the area.
Paola Fudakowska, of London-based international private client law firm Withers, added: “The pragmatism, that experience of having seen it before, we can deal with and lets get the best we can for our clients, that’s very important.”
And she said Bermuda could also take credit for being “very stable, with a high quality judiciary and a relatively quick turn around in judgments”.
Mr Court added that Bermuda had “dropped the ball” on trust for law some years — but had “done a good job of getting back on track”.
Randall Krebs, of Bermuda-based Meritus Trust Company, said Bermuda’s small size meant it was easy to work together.
But he added that could also be a disadvantage because the Island did not have the resources to constantly update its legal framework.
Mr Krebs said: “Experts from onshore entities should be used to help draft legislation.”
And Mr Court added: “What we like, compared to the places like Guernsey, Jersey and Cayman is it’s not just the quality, it’s the breadth. It’s nice to see the legal market opening up. Harney’s is coming in and other firms are getting into trusts.”
Rose Chamberlayne from English legal firm Wiggin Osborne Fullerlove said that Jersey worked hard to market its trust industry with large-scale meetings in the jurisdictions and regular road shows.
She added: “That consistency is something I would certainly promote.”
And Ms Chamberlayne added: “The Bahamas has been quite clever how they have targeted Asians and I think they have benefited from that.”
She added that the Bahamas laws on property ownership had been changed and the jurisdiction also had good hotels and casinos which are popular with Asian clients.
Mr Krebs said: “We need to do more of what the Bermuda Business Development Agency has done to get us together to promote the business in London and elsewhere.
“I think that’s something our competitors are doing better — we need to adopt some of that.”
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