STEP England & Wales Biannual Statement – December 2014

aewpThere have been some important changes in the England and Wales Regional Committee since the last Chair’s statement in June. Most significantly Patricia Wass has recently finished her term as Chair of the Committee. As will be evident from the Committee’s recent statements Tricia has steered the Committee through a number of important discussions and decisions; not least as we face continued changes on regulatory and disclosure issues, legislative changes and the need to make sure that we meet the needs and aspirations of all our members. We are very grateful to Tricia for her commitment and contribution during her tenure as Chair.

Tricia will now be Vice Chair along with Rita Bhargava and I have taken on the role of Chair for the next two years.

Over the last six months the England and Wales Regional Committee has considered a number of policy, education and business development initiatives and opportunities. In all of this we are immensely grateful to the staff at STEP and those on various other Committees. I am extremely glad to be part of an organisation where we can call upon experts in a range of practice areas to make robust and considered responses to the many consultations, the outcome of which could significantly affect us and our clients.

FATCA is one such example and has occupied time at each of our meetings over the last six months as we grapple with its implementation in all its detail, what is ‘in scope’ and what is not. I am aware that the STEP Policy Team have spoken to practitioners about FATCA around the country and have worked closely with other professional organisations in producing updates and helpful materials.  We will now start to consider the Common Reporting Standard and how that will affect members and their clients.

On the topic of consultations, the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement indicates Treasury and HMRC have taken on board everyone’s comments about the proposed ‘settlement nil rate band’ and how unfairly that would operate, which is welcome news — even if we have yet to learn how new targeted rules will apply.

In the last Chair’s statement in June, Tricia referred to the new Code for Will Preparation in England and Wales. We will shortly be reviewing the Code to make sure that it is meeting its objectives as well as being workable in all respects. Mindful that we wish to be perceived as a gold-standard professional body, the Practice Committee will seek to be proactively involved in the Law Commission project looking at potential changes to the law around wills. We hope to have a guidance paper shortly as a first step.

Since June, STEP has also launched the Qualifications and Membership Framework with helpful information including FAQs on the STEP website. The new qualification system is simple and enables STEP to standardise entry requirements and create flexibility in how an individual can achieve membership of STEP through examination. This is an exciting initiative as part of STEP’s commitment to providing training for life designed to assist members in their career development.

The Committee have also had discussions around the 2021 Business Plan over the last six months and will continue to do so as we look at ways of strengthening the STEP brand and its offering, making it relevant to all members but especially younger members as we prepare for the future.

Once again the Autumn Conferences have been well received and attended and, again, our thanks are due to the STEP Events Team for the administration and coordination of these valuable occasions. In addition to the educational subject matter, these events allow us to meet with old friends and make new ones.  So much of our work is built around our network of friends and contacts and it is great to have these opportunities. The second annual SIG Half Day Conferences were also held over the past two weeks at the STEP Worldwide office in London. Just as last year, they all proved to be stimulating occasions and were well attended.

No report on conferences would be complete without reference to STEP’s inaugural Global Congress in Miami last month. While many of us were not able to attend, it was, by all accounts, a great occasion and highlights our role as a truly industry-leading international organisation. As we continue to expand, and with a growing number of our clients facing industry imperatives across many jurisdictions, and with a number of regulatory changes such as FATCA, anti-money laundering initiatives and the Common Reporting Standard impacting our work, the skills and expertise of our members is of paramount importance. Events like the Global Congress help us keep our finger on the pulse of industry changes around the world and maintain a professional edge for our clients.

September brought about the ninth annual STEP Private Client Awards, which saw 700 professionals from around the world celebrate the excellence of our peers. This year set a new record for nominations with 240 submitted across 21 award categories. I was very pleased to see so many practitioners from England and Wales take home a coveted PCA.

Finally, Branch Chairs should have received notification of the forthcoming Assembly at the STEP Offices on Friday 13th February when we will hear more about some of the initiatives mentioned above as well as welcoming guest speaker Professor Elizabeth Cooke from the Law Commission who will talk about the Law Commission project around wills.  I look forward to meeting the Chairs or a representative from their Branch then.

Wishing everyone a peaceful Christmas and prosperous New Year.

Alex Elphinston TEP is Chair of STEP’s England and Wales Regional Committee

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