Last week, as part of the STEP 2021 consultation process, I had the pleasure of visiting STEP’s Bermuda branch to meet with members, the branch committee and employers. During this time we discussed the major issues in the next STEP business plan, debated STEP’s priorities for the future, and discussed the trust and estate industry in Bermuda and the global regulatory environment. Most importantly, I was able to hear from roughly 70 STEP Bermuda members and local employers about what they want from the Society.
The feedback on proposals to ensure that STEP training truly is cradle-to-grave was extremely positive, as was the response to plans to make learning flexible to local differences and needs. Likewise, there was strong support for the move to the new Qualifications Framework with its university-style academic point system, allowing people to earn their TEP through STEP and other recognised qualifications, with much greater accessibility and choice but at the same tough standard. There was also clear demand for academic and theoretical learning to be accompanied by more practically focused courses dealing with the skills of day-to-day business management and strategy. In every sense, the STEP offer must continue to be relevant and to be aligned with member and employer needs.
On delivering professional development, STEP needs to make stronger use of technology to support members, recognising that there are cost pressures. There needs to be greater accessibility and flexibility to make courses viable for those in the more difficult to get to jurisdictions. Our members are also eager to receive regular technical updates via day-to-day online offerings, and through the STEP Journal and lecture circuits.
There was strong recognition of the challenges facing the industry due to increased transparency, accompanied by regret that there has been little recognition of the existing high regulatory standards in many offshore jurisdictions. STEP must continue its work in this area.
STEP’s plans to rebalance efforts towards developing existing branches rather than new branches were applauded. We must avoid overstretching the Society’s capacity and ensure we develop more deeply and consistently in our existing jurisdictions.
Members and other stakeholders
STEP’s proposals to work more closely with employers were widely supported. All of the employers I met provided useful input to discussions around these plans and have clear needs. They were supportive of the current offer but felt they were well placed to input on future direction. The importance of understanding regulator demands and how that might drive education was also a common theme, well understood at STEP.
There was also support for STEP plans to use technology and Special Interest Groups to strengthen global networks across borders so that they could function not just locally, but virtually around the world.
Overall STEP Bermuda is a very healthy branch and faces many of the same challenges as other offshore centres. While insurance leads the finance sector on the island, the future also provides a good prospect for private client work, as Bermuda looks to promote itself as a jurisdiction of choice. Additionally, although there was a strong focus on gearing STEP towards lifelong learning with depth and consistency, it is clear that members want a stronger reflection of their institutional trust work. They are also eager to see STEP continue as an effective voice for trust work and related private client business with regulators and government.
Finally, I must thank STEP Bermuda Chair Jonathan Dunlop and his colleagues for both their hospitality and their efforts in facilitating valuable engagement with members, employers and other stakeholders.