In our 60 second interview series, Citywealth speaks to Naomi Rive, group director and head of family office at Highvern Trustees about completing the management-buy-out of Highvern from Coutts in 2016, and demonstrating substance over form to her team.
Tell me about your role.
I am one of the owner managers at Highvern; a leading independent private client, family office and fund administration business based in Jersey. As well as helping to ensure the smooth day-to-day running of the business, I am Head of Family Office. In that capacity my teams partner with a number of HNW and UHNW families to provide family office services that complement their own family office proposition, if they already have one, or create bespoke family office structures to meet a family’s individual needs.
What does a typical day look like for you?
As a business owner with a background in law, I find that I am often called upon by different parts of the business and try to help out wherever needed. Sometimes this involves assisting with regulatory or compliance matters or giving someone a steer on a complex legal issue. I am never happier, however, than when working with clients and the most rewarding days are those when I receive an email or a call that allows me to do something that really adds value for a family. This can relate to a specific transaction, such as the sale of a family business or acquisition of an asset, but it can also relate to supporting the family through much more sensitive issues.
Tell us about interesting client instructions.
I enjoy working as part of a team alongside other professional service providers and my most interesting instructions tend to involve specialist legal and tax advisors in multiple jurisdictions. One case that I am working on at present involves two entrepreneurs who have built up a successful business and are now looking to put in place a structure to help them to grow and protect this asset against the backdrop of political instability in the jurisdiction where the asset is located. To their credit, the clients recognised the importance of investing in robust and comprehensive advice at the outset. This is an absolute must and a message that I am constantly giving to prospective clients.
What challenges do your clients face and how are you helping your clients to overcome them?
Over the past few years my clients and their families have become much more international and are often located in and have assets situated in multiple jurisdictions. This makes the need for advance planning and good regular communication with professional advisors of key importance. Thankfully, many families nowadays really value the relationship they have with their trustee and are increasingly keen to invest in it. This is because it gives them re-assurance that they aren’t inadvertently breaching any tax reporting or other legal or regulatory obligations. The clients that I work with all hold their reputation in high regard and want to do the right thing. One of the most important things that I can do is help them to achieve this.
What is your proudest professional achievement?
Completing the management-buy-out of Highvern from Coutts in 2016 was a fantastic achievement for me. I have very strong views on the qualities and attributes that a trust and fiduciary business should possess and being an owner-manager of a robust, independent business puts me in a great position to provide my clients with a high-quality service that is always aimed at serving their best interests in a compliant manner. This is becoming increasingly difficult for many service providers to deliver in the context of their ownership model and this is something that clients are becoming acutely aware of.
What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a leader?
Leading by example and demonstrating substance over form is very important for me. I always seek to ensure that I understand the demands placed upon my teams and the length of time it can take to do even the most mundane of tasks. By doing this I try to support them in their day-to day roles as well as helping them to develop the wider skills needed for career advancement. This might involve them attending client meetings, participating in pitches for new business and building their own profile through business development. I try and encourage a good team spirit where everyone is committed to delivering the best for Highvern and its clients. This involves everyone taking individual responsibility but at the end of the day the buck stops with me and I will always be there to support them.
Who do you most admire and why?
This summer I was fortunate enough to travel around California with my family. We spent a few days in Yosemite National Park and during that time watched Free Solo - the awe-inspiring film about rock climber Alex Honnold's journey to climbing the world’s most famous rock wall—El Capitan —without a rope or safety gear. Although not a risk taker myself when it comes to extreme sports, it was impossible not to be inspired by the mental, as well as physical, strength needed for this amazing achievement, which left absolutely no margin for error.
Where was the last place you travelled to for work or pleasure?
I have recently returned from a business trip to Asia during which I visited clients based in Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. I have travelled to this region for over a decade now and thoroughly enjoy working with Asian families. They have an extremely strong work ethic and impressive family values. I also love the food and culture but admittedly still struggle badly with the jet-lag!
If you weren’t in the wealth management industry, what else might you be doing?
If I wasn’t in wealth-management then I think that I would like to try my hand at teaching. I did do some lecturing at the Jersey Institute of Law a few years ago but think that I would most like to work with secondary school students who are still selecting their careers and are ambitious to learn.
How do you relax after a long day?
After a long day at work I like to research future adventures with my family. Living on a beautiful Island such as Jersey we are lucky to have access to lovely coastlines, walks and beaches but as a family we do enjoy experiencing new cities and cultures. Increasingly this is combined with sport and most recently we were fortunate enough to watch our first baseball match - San Francisco Giants v Philadelphia Phillies.