How to win a STEP Private Client Award

George HodgsonEntries are open for the 2017/18 STEP Private Client Awards until 28 April 2017. The Awards are widely acknowledged as being one of the premier events in the private client industry calendar. Winning an Award is also a very clear and recognised hallmark of excellence.

How then, do you go about winning an Award?

The Awards are free to enter (we simply ask entrants to consider a donation to charity) and open to all firms and practitioners in the industry.

There can sometimes be a perception that the Awards are only for larger firms, but almost every year smaller firms impress the judges by demonstrating innovation, an exceptional focus on a particular area or an outstanding rapport with their clients. Applications from all sizes and types of firm are therefore welcome.

Similarly potential entrants away from the major industry centres sometimes feel they might be disadvantaged. The judges for the awards are nevertheless increasingly international and drawn from across the spectrum of the private client industry. Strong entries will always attract attention from the judges, wherever they originate from.

Don’t just copy and paste from marketing materials!
You will be judged by fellow senior industry professionals and the language and tone of your entry needs to reflect that fact. Cutting and pasting from your website or marketing material will usually not impress the judges. Neither will excessive use of superlatives and hyperbole. What will go down well is an evidence-based entry that gives a clear exposition of what the firm has done over the past year to make it stand out from the crowd.

Apply for the right award
It is a constant surprise to the judges how many firms enter the wrong category. One submission even began with the bold statement: ‘We are a leading (another category all together) firm…’. Read the category criteria carefully, and if you think the judges might have difficulty understanding why you are applying for a particular category, help them by explaining your business better.

Answer the questions
Probably the most common reason for submissions going by the wayside is that the judges feel that the questions and criteria laid down in the Awards entry pack have not been answered. It is standard advice to every student sitting an exam to read the questions carefully and make sure you answer them. The same holds true for anyone drafting a submission for a Private Client Award. There are typically five criteria on which each award will be judged. Judges are asked to score entries on each of those criteria, with each carrying equal weighting. If your entry does not cover one of the criteria, you are likely to be penalised.

Give examples and evidence
Solid evidence and real examples demonstrating why you think your firm deserves an Award always go down well with the judges. To illustrate, most entrants in most categories claim to be ‘client focused’, but some give real-life examples of how they achieve this and what they have done to go that extra mile for their clients. This attracts the judges’ attention far more than a simple assertion.

Be consistent
The judges are both curious and cynical in equal measure. They will check what you say in your submission against what you say on your website and other sources of information. Glaring inconsistencies tend to result in entries receiving relatively short shrift.

Know your (word) limits
Brevity is a strength, but submissions sometimes fall by the wayside because there is little clear detail on key issues and yet the submission is significantly below the 1,000-word limit. Equally, don’t go over your 1,000 words: the judges have a lot of entries to read!

Remember we are choosing ‘Xxx of the Year
Your firm may well be successful and very good at what it does, but the Awards are intended to highlight those that have achieved particular success over the past year. General statements about historic successes are therefore far less relevant than what you have actually achieved over the past 12 months.

From the above it is probably clear the STEP Private Client Awards are very competitive. Submissions across the board are usually of a very high standard. That is why the Awards remain so prestigious and the Awards Ceremony on 6 September 2017 remains one of the networking highlights of the year for many senior practitioners.

George Hodgson is Chief Executive of STEP

Why the Private Client Awards stands out – a judge’s perspective

Sally EdwardsThere are many awards in the financial services sector these days – barely a fortnight goes by that I do not see an article or press release about an award being given to some deserving individual, firm or jurisdiction.

However, the STEP Private Client Awards stands out for two reasons: firstly, the fact that STEP itself represents a recognised quality watermark in our field; and secondly, because the industry understands the rigour of the assessment and judging process for the awards.

It’s worth considering for a moment the first point, being the strength of the STEP brand. STEP membership is an important benchmark for practitioners, and STEP provides quality training sessions and conferences for members, as well as a respected and effective lobbying voice for the industry.

STEP’s reputation is based on rigour and expertise, so the second point about the judging process is hardly surprising, but bears underlining – the STEP awards are meticulously judged through a practitioner-led process, and a serious amount of effort goes into even preparing a shortlist.

So, when asked to be a part of the judging panel for this year’s awards, I was delighted to accept. Having been on the Panel of Experts for a few years, I had an idea of how much work would be required, but even with that experience I was genuinely impressed at how much effort is involved, and how seriously the judging process is taken.

The judges were given a significant amount of ‘homework’ to get through, over and above the meetings at which the shortlists and winners were selected, some after lengthy debate – with real efforts made on the parts of all of the judges to be scrupulously fair.

Having been a part of the judging process and seen it from the other side, I am even more proud of Ogier’s Awards last year, and I am now looking forward even more to next month’s event.

It’s not just a fun evening with a great host, it’s also a good networking event, and from the point of view of a team based in Jersey, a great opportunity to meet face-to-face with some of those who we deal with mainly by phone or email.


Sally Edwards TEP is Head of the Private Client and Trusts Team at Ogier, which won the International Legal Team of the Year in both 2015 and 2012. This year, she is a member of the judging panel for the STEP Private Client Awards.