STEP Caribbean Conference, Cayman

George HodgsonI have just enjoyed a highly informative STEP Caribbean Conference in Cayman from May 1-3, which attracted well over 300 delegates from across the STEP world.

Presentations ranged from the emerging theme of cryptocurrencies, which I suspect is a wholly new topic to many in the audience, to the use of firewall provisions in fending off matrimonial claims.

What really stood out, however, is the changing mood across much of the Caribbean regarding transparency and the rising regulatory burden. Yes, these developments are providing major challenges, particularly in driving costs up sharply across the board.

This was a theme very clearly evidenced in STEP’s Offshore Perceptions research report last autumn. But the message from a string of eminent speakers is that the time is gone to complain about this; it’s time instead to ‘get on with it’ and ensure that businesses adapt to the new environment they are now working in.

This obviously echoes the mood in the UK regarding Brexit, where whatever the views of STEP members on the issue, I sense most agree that we need to now accept it is going to happen and plan on that basis. Indeed Brexit and its potential implications for the offshore world was another key issue which attracted a full house.

The Caribbean Conference, which is now in its 19th year, remains one of the flagship STEP events in the calendar and I look forward to next year’s meeting in Barbados.

 

George Hodgson is Chief Executive of STEP

STEP England & Wales Biannual Statement – December 2016

Alex ElphinstonSix months ago we were all stunned at Brexit. Now we are also wondering how a Trump presidency will unfold and what further shocks national electorates may give across Europe, given the various elections ahead.

STEP is monitoring the situation closely and is in discussions with other relevant professional bodies as well as maintaining lines of communication with civil servants and the like to do all we can to ensure our and our clients’ interests are taken into account. We have certainly begun to see decisions being made by the EU Commission where the UK is no longer being consulted as previously – such as negotiations around the Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive.

As a professional body, STEP seeks to remain at the forefront and be the gold standard for practitioners dealing in trusts and estates and related private client work. As such we have an enviable reputation for the high-level discussions with government and other departments with which we are involved about a variety of matters, and proposed or actual changes, that may affect our work. This will be all the more important for us as practitioners as the new domicile rules and consequent changes to the tax regime come into play. The UK Practice and Technical Committees will be keeping a close eye on these issues.

A number of members have expressed concern over the delays and poor service being given by HMRC, and the Probate Registry in particular. These continue to be matters the committees and STEP team seek to address. Clearly there is only so much they can do, but please let us know of any improvements or deterioration. Actual case studies can be more powerful than general observations.

Sometimes it may seem as if STEP sends out far more surveys than other organisations. However we work in a world where ways of communicating, delivering training and news are constantly changing. We want to remain as a trusted organisation whose members are equally trusted for their integrity and advice. It is vital that we remain relevant for members in a crowded market. We also want to remain nimble and not create yet more layers of regulation for members. However we can only do that when members engage and flag up matters.

In November, STEP held a worldwide Symposium which looked at a number of issues including views on perceptions about offshore work and centres: a number of England and Wales members participated in a survey which forms the basis of the Offshore Perceptions research report. While this may not directly affect many members in this region, it does impact on STEP as an organisation and so on our region indirectly. We also looked at staffing across the regions and resourcing. We remain lean in terms of staffing, not least as a result of their commitment and dedication for which we are grateful.

One of the main points of discussion was presenting STEP and TEPs to the public. This has been a theme for some time, and a number of plans were unveiled on how STEP will address the issues and raise public awareness. You will be hearing more on this, as plans develop.

The importance of the branch network was recognised, alongside the need to avoid volunteer fatigue by assisting local committees and encouraging new members. If you are not involved in your local branch do consider this: it is a great way to make new friends, develop new business opportunities and build your profile within the industry.

In January, Rita Bhargava TEP takes over as regional chair. I have very much enjoyed my time in the role and wish Rita all the best. I would also like to take one final opportunity to thank the STEP staff for their fantastic support and assistance – not just the committee and myself, but all of us as members.

Finally may I wish you all a Happy Christmas and prosperous New Year.

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

Brexit: Focus must be on cross-border families

passport control

The UK’s historic vote on 23 June to leave the European Union has caused huge uncertainty, particularly for the three million EU citizens currently living in the UK, and the two million or so British people who live in other EU countries.

Brexit has huge implications for cross-border families, both in the UK and in Europe, but the practical consequences are not yet clear. Many families are worried about their futures: will they be able to stay? Will they need a visa to visit their families? Will they need work permits? What about reciprocal public healthcare arrangements? Will there be restrictions on studying and doing business? Will they face higher taxes on foreign property ownership, and cash transfers between member states? How will foreign pensions be treated?

It is essential that these families’ interests are central to the negotiations that will take place over the coming months and years. Their position will need very careful consideration and STEP will take an active role in highlighting their concerns to help provide certainty and enable these families to plan for their futures.

 

George Hodgson is Interim Chief Executive of STEP