Over the last six months, the England and Wales Regional Committee has been involved in some significant changes to policy, education and business planning initiatives. These adjustments have presented both challenges and opportunities and have been received with enthusiasm by our members.
The Committee spent time at the beginning of the year providing input to the launch of the Code for Will Preparation in England and Wales in January, discussing feedback from members after the Code was launched and providing some minor revisions in March. At present the Code only applies to members in England and Wales, with the understanding that other regions such as Canada, Northern Ireland and Australia have also expressed interest in adopting similar measures. The Committee agreed that the Code should be applied across the Society within the scope of respective jurisdictions’ legal frameworks. There will be a six-month review of the Code to assess how it is working in practice, with the expectation that it will be reviewed annually thereafter and revised if required. The Professional Standards Committee will be responsible for future amendments to the Code and its application in other jurisdictions; however the England and Wales Committee will still play a role in this process.
The Committee were pleased to see how well this year’s series of Spring conferences have been received. Delegate numbers for the events have been high with the content both topical and relevant. Wherever I have bumped into STEP members from my own branch over these past weeks, they have all commented on how good the conferences have been — many saying it was one of the best that they have attended.
The UK Practice Committee have been working to finalise the STEP Standard Provisions toolkit. They are now working in conjunction with the Mental Capacity Special Interest Group on a project of testamentary capacity, which will be rolled out in the near future. Meanwhile, the UK Technical Committee has been working on guidance for preventing tax avoidance with charities. Representatives from the Committee recently met with the Office of Taxation to discuss the simplification of trust taxation.
George Hodgson and the STEP Policy Team have continued to provide support on FATCA and have published provisional guidance in cooperation with the ICAEW and The Law Society. FATCA registration commenced on 1 January this year with registrations for the first list of financial institutions completed in early May. A final list will be completed in October this year with penalties applying to financial institutions deemed non-compliant from January 2015.
The Policy Team have also been working on FATF Anti-Money-Laundering regulations and will be doing further work in Europe regarding the establishment of registers for companies and trusts.
STEP is officially launching a new Qualifications Framework in July 2014, which will come into effect in England and Wales in April 2015. This was discussed and debated in detail at the recent Committee meeting on 5 June. Members and students will receive communication from STEP in due course to ensure that everyone is aware of, and understands, the changes.
Other discussions of importance have been around the STEP 2021 Business Plan. One of the main objectives of the plan is to work towards a goal where STEP has an offering for everyone, regardless of what stage they are at in their career. Another objective is to continue to work on STEP’s representation so that the general public understands who we are. We expect that, in order to achieve these goals, STEP will aim to gain wider access to a wider range of university courses and will start working with new educational partners.
At the June Committee meeting we discussed engaging STEP Excellence Awards winners to help us form a focus group that can assist in encouraging the next generation of practitioners to engage with and commit to STEP. It is vitally important for the future of STEP that we have younger members becoming involved in the Society.
At present, STEP England and Wales runs eight major technical conferences in the Spring and Autumn in addition to an Annual Branch Chairs’ meeting and hundreds of branch events. Arguably, until now, there has not been a flagship event for England and Wales members as a whole. With this in mind, a sub-committee will explore the possibility of a two-day National Conference in June/July 2015, which may incorporate the Branch Chairs’ Assembly. There will be more to report on this proposal in the months to come.
Finally, STEP will continue to further develop certificates that will be of relevance to members. The new Advanced Certificate in Advising Vulnerable Clients will commence in October this year. We do not believe that there is any other such qualification anywhere else in the market and we hope that this will be of interest to a number of our members working with vulnerable clients.