Citywealth speaks to Kelly Whiter
Citywealth speaks to Kelly Whiter, partner at Fladgate, law firm about her work and Unexplained Wealth Orders.
Tell me about your role at Fladgate.
I am a partner within the immigration team at Fladgate. I assist HNWIs and UNHWIs and their businesses with their immigration needs, such as covering investors and entrepreneurs, British nationality, family related applications, sponsor licences and Tier 2 visas and applications under EU law. I also assist clients with applications under citizenship and residence by investment programmes in Europe and the Caribbean. We are a two partner immigration team currently as I joined at the end of 2017.
How has the private client industry changed?
HNWIs and UHNWIs are more mobile than ever with the unprecedented ability to access and live in multiple jurisdictions, made possible in large by the growth of citizenship and residence by investment programmes. This is against a backdrop of increased regulation, a renewed focus on ‘source of wealth’ with the introduction of Unexplained Wealth Orders in the UK at the end of January this year. This means that the government can seize money if believed to be connected to crime. There has also been a tightening of immigration control, particularly in the UK so there is a lot of work.
What lessons have you learnt in your career?
I initially sat the Bar as I had wanted to be a criminal barrister. However, life took me in another direction and I cross-qualified as a solicitor in 2002. I started out my career in boutique law firms and that is where I first started working on immigration law, mainly with asylum and human rights cases. I was working with clients who often spoke little or no English, in highly charged and emotional situations. I learnt to listen to the client, understand their needs fully and then advise.
Later I wanted to expand my focus and moved into corporate and private client immigration. I was managing a team as well as having my own clients, which required a totally different skillset. I moved on from boutiques to the Big Four where I spent the last six years before joining Fladgate, focusing exclusively on private clients and private business, heading up the private client immigration team there.
I’ve learnt that it’s not always a straight road to your final destination. What is important though is that you keep moving forward. Set goals, achieve them, set some more and keep going. With hard work and determination anything is possible.
Has the Russian crisis impacted the private client sector?
The Home Secretary Amber Rudd asked officials to conduct a review into the Tier 1 Investor programme, which has been much publicised in the media recently with the focus of the story being on Russian nationals issued with visas under this route between 2008 and 2015. In fact the scope of the review is not fully known, nor is it known if the review will particularly focus on Russians or if it will be broader than that. I have received a few phone calls from clients already in the UK asking what the review may mean for them, but currently there is insufficient information available on which to comment meaningfully. So far I have not had any clients completely change their minds about coming to the UK as a result of recent events, as the main reasons for them deciding to relocate to the UK remain political stability, rule of law, education standards for their children, culture and language, among others.
What challenges are your clients facing?
The main area of concern seems to be certainty over their position, whether that be non-EEA nationals concerned about changes to the Immigration Rules or EEA nationals concerned about their position post-Brexit. The immigration rules change frequently so I find myself increasingly doing scenario-based planning with clients to cover the “what if” questions.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received?
The importance of respect, earning it and giving it, and to always remain authentic and true to myself and my beliefs.
What was the last book you’ve read?
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman which examines why we make the choices and decisions we do and how that is determined by the two ways in which we make choices: fast, intuitive thinking and slow, rational thinking. I am fascinated by how the mind works and the fact that you can use techniques to slow your thought process to make better decisions at work and in life.
How do you relax after a long day?
Working full-time and having two very active young children aged seven and four, it can often be hard to switch off and unwind. However, I try to put some time aside on a regular basis to have dinner or drinks with friends or take a trip to the theatre or the cinema.