Meritus growing with island’s trust industry
Bermuda trust company Meritus has moved to new larger offices — and taken on three new staff.
And Allan Wiekenkamp, one of the founders of the firm and chief financial officer and chief operating officer, said the move reflected the strength of the trust business in Bermuda.
He added: “It's just growth — we've grown in phases and moving premises was the next big step to newer and brighter space which better reflected our brand.
“It's a much better reflection of our brand. Our clients fly in on private jets and they're used to a certain level of service.”
The company, which employs 20 people, was founded in 2010 with just two staff, who worked out of founding partner and managing director Michelle Wolfe's home.
The company later moved to Mintflower Place in Par-la-Ville Road, Hamilton, before moving across the road to the former Bermuda Commercial Bank offices, which gave them around one third more space and has been completely renovated by Meritus.
Mr Wiekenkamp said: “It's a significant investment in Bermuda. We have a five-year lease here and we plan to stay here for a very long time and we do have plans for future growth.
“We're here for the long term and we plan to be in business so the children of our children will be running it.”
He added: “The trust industry is the quiet, stable driver of the economy.
“The clients that are here, it takes quite a bit for them to leave, whether it's legislation or potential onshore issues which require them to move.
“Bermuda is a great trust jurisdiction and the regulators and the Government work to keep it that way.”
But Mr Wiekenkamp said: “I think the industry is being recognised now. The dollar asset in the trust industry is significant — it's a big, big number.
“These jobs are here, they continue to be here and it's a great training ground for young professionals.
“We're growing through new business to the island and we're supporting that by hiring Bermudians. We're growing, but we're also growing locally.”
Mr Wiekenkamp said Meritus was proud that there were only two work permit holders among the entire staff of 20.
The company has just taken on Sara Schroter Ross, former Bermuda Commercial Bank general counsel, in the same role at Meritus, along with young Bermudian Xande Frith as a trust administrator and Lisa Cumberbatch as senior trust officer.
Ms Schroter Ross said that the role Bermuda plays in the trust industry was being recognised by the Transcontinental Trust Forum, which will hold its annual conference at the Fairmont Southampton on Thursday and Friday, with Meritus as one of the sponsors.
She added: “It's internationally recognised as being one of the major trust events, which is good for Bermuda.”
Ms Schroter Ross said that Meritus was not necessarily about “numbers of people” as clients, but about “stability of core families”.
She explained: “You can have a small number of relationships which require your services, but they are ultra high-net-worth individuals.”
Mr Wiekenkamp said: “The reason we started the company was to be a pure fiduciary, just to be a trustee, where a lot of our competition is owned by law firms or banks, so they don't have that luxury.”
He added: “A lot of other companies are volume-based businesses, they have up to 1,000 trusts with 20 to 50 relationships per employee.
“We serve 55 families and we have 20 people, so typically the relationships per person is three to five and we have a dedicated team to each family. I think that's what sets us apart. It's about long-term continuity. We plan to be with our clients a long time.”
Mr Frith, a former student at Dalhousie University in Canada, made the leap to financial services after several years as a personal trainer.
The 28-year-old, who will take the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners exams, said: “I was looking to get into an industry where I could think about my future and have more of a steady career.”
He added that his previous role involved building trust and forging strong links with clients.
Mr Frith said: “The trust industry is working with people and working on relationships. It's what we do, so my skills really transfer well.”