60 seconds interview with Wayne Elliott
Tell me about your role at Stonehage Fleming?
I joined the firm in 2014 as a Senior Associate and in 2017 became Director in the Family Office Division in Neuchâtel. I have three ‘hats’ at Stonehage Fleming; acting as relationship manager for families using our fiduciary and family office services; sitting on the board of our corporate trustee/director companies and managing a team of seven trust officers working for our Swiss administered clients. As a UK qualified Solicitor, I review and monitor my team’s work whilst also providing guidance and direction on transactions and drafting. I have also been tasked with designing and implementing IT workflows and procedures to increase efficiency for our families. The programming and development are still underway but is very exciting.
How has the private client industry changed?
The industry has become driven by the anti-money laundering and know your client (AML/KYC) rules in which we all now transact. This is more noticeable when working in a global environment, where you are dealing with numerous parties in different jurisdictions who can often have dramatically different requirements despite being involved in the same transaction and quoting the same rational for the request. The need to ensure AML checks are properly undertaken has had a positive impact on the industry and should limit any reputational damage going forward. However, it has created a ‘box ticking’ environment where funds, banks and others must show to regulators that they have asked the right questions. The upside is that we are reducing the parties with whom our families are involved; allowing processes to be streamlined with trusted partners.
What lesson have you learnt?
I must ask difficult questions, whether it is about the viability of client investment proposals or about succession planning. Avoiding such discussions may be the easier path but ultimately, it adds significantly more value to the relationship.
Tell us about any interesting client instructions.
One of our families have been clients of Stonehage Fleming for over fifteen years and have a fiduciary structure to manage the family’s ‘nest egg’ assets separately from their trading businesses. They recently enquired about relocating one of the family members to a different country where they wanted to buy a farm with a co-investor. Our approach was as follows: We obtained advice from the country on the proposed move including VISA requirements and tax status and then discussed the options and their impact upon the fiduciary structures with the family. Having agreed the way forward we engaged local advisers to begin and subsequently complete the VISA application process. We then identified two options in different countries. We obtained legal and structuring advice from legal advisers in both; the advice in one country was to ensure no adverse consequences arose. After weeks of engagement with the family and the co-investor and having reviewed crop history, weather, transport and political security, a decision was made to acquire a farm. We engaged structuring specialists in the country to advise and establish a holding company with two locally registered companies to maintain the investors’ respective interests; with the local family member appointed to the Board.
What challenges do your clients face?
It is our job to protect family wealth and reputations. There is an increasingly negative perception of wealthy families and it is important that they demonstrate what they are doing to help society. Many of our families undertake philanthropic activities but the ease and speed in which an opinion or comment can spread means we must always be aware of activities which may damage the wider family’s reputation.
Succession planning and the transfer of responsibility to the next generation.
Technology/ cyber crime
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
“A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.” As a multi-family office, we are constantly facing new challenges and experiences and it would be easy to fix all problems independently. As a group we have a significant breadth and depth of knowledge, built up over a lifetime of careers, so it is about knowing when to reach out for advice and assistance and to whom.
What was the last book you’ve read?
I have an 11 month old baby who was struggling to sleep so “The Happiest Baby on the Block”.
How do you relax after a long day?
Cooking, Squash and spending time with my daughter. I also don’t look at my phone after 9pm as without this break each evening I take my work to bed.