What’s been happening at STEP in England and Wales?

Rita Bhargava TEPIt’s been a busy few months at STEP.

Our public-facing website advisingfamilies.org marked its first birthday on 22 May. Launched as part of a wider campaign to raise public awareness of STEP and TEPs, the site has clocked up over 130,000 visits, and over 700 followers on social media. Members and their firms have done much to contribute to the 74 articles posted, and we are always looking for more.

In recent months we launched a new global member recruitment campaign, Grow with STEP. It focuses on the benefits of STEP membership for your career and your business. The campaign follows the introduction in February of three globally consistent routes to membership: exam, essay and expertise. If you help spread the word and grow STEP’s network by referring a colleague, you will be entered into a draw to win an iPad.

GDPR had been on many people’s minds long before its 25 May introduction, and you’ll have received an email from STEP about your own data. STEP is working hard to ensure its systems and processes are robust and fully compliant.

GDPR has thrown up some interesting and complex question for practitioners, in particular regarding firms’ responsibilities to notify beneficiaries of trusts and wills about the information held on file. The Data Protection Act 2018, which recently passed through parliament, is also in the spotlight, as unlike its predecessors, it removes the legal advice exemption. STEP is looking to assemble a working group that can examine this and other issues in this area. If you are interested in being involved, please let us know at standards@step.org.

Many members have voiced their concern over HMRC’s online Trust Registration Service (TRS), which was introduced in late 2017 to implement the requirements of the EU Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive. All trusts and complex estates which generate a UK tax consequence are required to register, and then update information on an annual basis. Following initial teething problems, HMRC has confirmed it will take a ‘pragmatic and risk based approach to charging penalties’ for trust registrations made after the 5 March 2018 deadline, particularly where trustees or their agents have made reasonable efforts to meet their obligations under the regulations.

The European Council formally adopted the Fifth Anti-Money Laundering Directive in May, bringing in further changes to trust registration. 5MLD will extend the TRS to all UK express trusts and non-EU trusts that own UK real estate or have a business relationship with a UK Obliged Entity. The new Directive will require HMRC to share the trust data with Obliged Entities and anyone with a ‘legitimate interest’ – a term yet to be defined in full. You can read more about the latest developments with the TRS in an earlier STEP Blog post. STEP is liaising with HM Treasury on this, so watch out for further updates in the UK News Digest.

Finally we have a packed autumn ahead. The UK Tax, Trusts and Estates Conference series starts in Manchester on 4 September, moving to London on 21 September, York on 2 October and finishing in Bristol on 16 October. And for those of you looking to network with members from across the world, our third Global Congress is in Vancouver on 13-14 September.

Back in London, the Private Client Awards are being held later than usual on 7 November at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge. We were delighted to receive more than 250 entries from 23 countries, and the finalists were announced on 6 August. Good luck to all of you who have entered, and don’t forget to book your place at the event before it sells out.

Rita Bhargava TEP, Chair, STEP England & Wales Regional Committee

How to win a STEP Private Client Award

George Hodgson

George Hodgson

The Judges’ Panels met last week to whittle down the entries for this year’s STEP Private Client Awards to a shortlist for final consideration. Given that we had a record number of entries (240) from a record number of jurisdictions (21), their task was not easy. Many entrants will, inevitably, be disappointed. For those that are disappointed, however, I have drafted some simple notes on how you can improve your chances of winning an Award next year.

  1.   Apply for the right Award

It was a constant surprise to the judges how many people seemed to be making submissions for the wrong category. One submission for Firm of the Year even began with the bold statement that ‘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.

  1. Answer the questions

Probably the most common reason for submissions going by the wayside was that the judges felt that the questions and criterion laid down in the Awards application pack had 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. Even with the most upbeat story, simply cutting and pasting your latest PR pack will seldom impress the judges relative to an entry that gives clear responses to the questions asked.

  1. 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 claimed to be ‘client focused’, but some gave real-life examples of how they achieve this and what they have done to go that extra mile for their clients. They tend to attract the judges attention far more than simple assertions of client focus.

  1. 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 applications receiving relatively short shrift.

  1. Use your 1,000 words

Brevity is a strength, but several submissions fell by the wayside because there was little clear detail on key issues and yet the submission was significantly below the 1,000-word maximum. Wasted opportunities?

  1. Remember we are choosing ‘Firm 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 your 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 this year’s STEP Private Client Awards is proving very competitive. Submissions across the board were often of a very high standard. Congratulations, therefore, to those who have made it to the shortlist for final consideration, and commiserations to those who haven’t.

STEP PCA 2014/15 Logo

George Hodgson is STEP’s Deputy Chief Executive.  

Time to acknowledge excellence

David Harvey

On Monday STEP announced that nominations for the 2014/15 Private Client Awards (PCA) had opened. Now in their ninth year, the PCAs are our opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the professional achievements of our peers in private client practice, be they solicitors, attorneys, accountant, barristers, bankers, family business consultants, trust managers or financial advisors. This year there are 19 award categories for individuals, teams, chambers or firms to enter and, for the first time, all categories will be open to practitioners worldwide.

I strongly encourage you to consider submitting a nomination for a STEP PCA. All entries are rigorously evaluated by the Presiding Judges and to be recognised as a top-tier performer in the industry is an occasion you can be proud of. Given the broad range of jurisdictions and respective regulatory frameworks in which practitioners work, I expect to see contrasting nominations that all share the same hallmarks of excellence.

Nominations close on 30 May with finalists announced on 1 July. The awards night will be held in London on 17 September and I look forward to seeing many of you there.

View the 2014/15 Private Client Awards website including award categories and nomination forms

David Harvey is Chief Executive of STEP

STEP PCA 2014/15 Logo