An update from Phil Le Cornu, Ogier

Date: 24 Jun 2013


Phil Le Cornu is a partner and Group Director at Ogier Fiduciary Services in Jersey where he heads up the newly organised Private Wealth Division. In recent months, the firm has restructured along client service lines, a move, Le Cornu believes, will prove to be successful. Citywealth’s Karen Jones met him.

Jersey has seen changes over the past year or so, with a number of trust company mergers and acquisitions. There has also been a focus locally on sharpening up trust operations to help avoid further front-page reputational headlines from the UK media who seem to have been unfairly targeting Jersey. “Upcoming regulation,” explains Phil Le Cornu, who now heads up the newly organised Private Wealth Division at Ogier, “has had an effect on the trust industry, and with reputational issues becoming key for Jersey on the global playing field, that has led to much of the consolidation locally.‚Äù
The developments at Ogier include a strategic review of the business which has seen it split into three clear lines: Private Wealth, which covers private client, probate, family office and investments which Le Cornu is heading up; Corporate Services, which covers areas such as employee benefits for which Phil Norman is now at the helm; and Fund Administration, which is being led by Colin MacKay from Cayman.
“We felt looking at service lines was a better way than a jurisdiction model,‚Äù says Le Cornu. “In Private Wealth management, where we have 45 staff and 240 clients, we now have two teams. One is for individual private clients and the other is for family offices. We have lead administrators like Ian Rumens (Associate Director) and Roger Bolan both based in Jersey, who would look after a number of key private clients. For family offices we keep one individual per family.‚Äù
Le Cornu says that from his seat in Jersey things are looking good: “The message that we are not just a law firm but a substantial trust operation has really sunk in with London intermediaries and with a reduction in trust companies operating here, it means we have been very busy for the last 12 months. We believe focusing on service is of utmost importance. That is what will keep the London intermediary market coming back to us or ensuring we are on beauty parades. We know from the past that if we do a job well then the person we are dealing with becomes a champion in their organisation and recommendations come from that.‚Äù
Le Cornu offers an insight into the decision-making process. “Clients ultimately decide but intermediaries have to offer a full spectrum of choice in terms of bank or private equity owned trust companies or independent. Personally, I think there is very little difference between the types of trust companies. Constantly saying one is better than the other is to misunderstand the issue for the client. It really comes down to who will provide the best service.‚Äù

Regulatory matters
With regulation becoming a regular companion for everyone in private wealth or private client, I ask about a criticism that has occasionally floated to the surface: is Jersey too regulated? Le Cornu believes that the regulation has had a positive effect: “It’s been a choice for Jersey,‚Äù he says, thoughtfully. “Some thought we were too far ahead of the pack but I believe work has come to us because people want to see that we are regulated. It is a very competitive marketplace but you see the same Jersey names on beauty parades and we are seeing good new work coming to Jersey.‚Äù

Phil Le Cornu’s perspective
Increasing capability in the Caribbean for LATAM clients
“The hedge for us was being in other jurisdictions. The pressure from US regulators means more funds and corporates are working in BVI and Cayman. With these offices, if clients have a footprint in the US, they can now switch their trust structures across our different jurisdictions. We know, for instance, that it’s become essential to be in the Caribbean for Latin American clients. Latin American individuals have to be in regulated funds and trusts in order to move their money from their home country. It’s why we’ve hired a consultant in the region to help us reach this kind of client.‚Äù

“In terms of growth we are betting on Asia. We had a legacy law firm in Hong Kong which is why we set up the trust business there instead of Singapore and the way regulation has gone this has been the right move. Asia is going to take lots of time, but we are going to give it as long as it takes. We have invested in Asia because they are culturally very entrepreneurial which means lots of losses and wins and for us that is opportunity. We have built our team with Serena Kwok as an Associate Director in Hong Kong who was with KPMG and Equity Trust. Serena gives us native language capability. We also have Charlie Sparrow who is ex Maples & Calder and he is developing the local intermediary market for us. He has great knowledge technically on trust structures and then Kristy Calvert in Shanghai who is an ex Legal Counsel at Rio Tinto and is now our China MD.‚Äù

Top tips for operating in China
“You have to have the same processes and procedures. We get external reports on all big new engagements and do a lot of digging understanding where the money is coming from. Once you do this we believe most of the other issues are solvable. We are very reliant on the intermediary market but see a lot of potential even though the language barrier can make relationships more challenging. You have to hire and keep good staff otherwise they just become a valuable hire for other organisations. Pricing of trust structures is an issue because at the moment there is focus on a volume business so charging a price for service puts you outside of the natural, local market. However high profile divorces and a number of disputed wills for major patriarchs have been featured in the media in Asia which is helping to highlight the idea of more consultative planning.‚Äù

Reputational issues for uhnw and corporates
“Reputation has become a bigger issue for individuals and corporations. With Starbucks, they were operating legally but what they did was portrayed as immoral. Not only paying tax but paying the right amount of tax has become important but it is difficult to operate when you don’t know as an advisor where the line of morality might be drawn some time later. I think society’s morals should be reflected in the legal system and planning can only be based on what is legal.‚Äù

Just the credit crunch or a new world?
“We are shifting into a new world. In the BA business life magazine this month they were looking back 25 years at featuring the movie ‘Wall Street’ and their catch phrase “greed is good‚Äù. When you look at that you realise how out of step that zeitgeist is with the current world. It’s just so out of date. I believe job satisfaction is linked to feeling useful. It’s not the world of Gordon Gekko anymore.‚Äù

Next big thing
“Residential property rules with taxes for properties over ¬£2million. It means a lot of clients will be restructuring their affairs. We are going to be working hard until April.

Individual focus
Getting growth in Asia and Caribbean

Advice for dealing with UHNW clients
Respond quickly

Where would you take a client for lunch?
El Tico Beach Cantina in St Ouen’s Bay, Jersey

Advice for those starting out in the private wealth industry
Trust your instincts

What is Ogier doing for People, Planet and Profit?
People: “Training. We have invested a lot of time and have something called ‘my career at Ogier’ which ensures the right training and appraisals are in place.‚Äù
Planet: “We have gone paperless and each department has a charity action group which they are really involved in and are enjoying. It was a main positive feature in our recent interviews with The Times Best Companies to work for survey.‚Äù
Profit: “It’s a fine balance investing for the future and maintaining profits for the current generation. You can’t chase after short term gains. Our big hedges are investing in Hong Kong and Luxembourg. Luxembourg is helping us develop onshore Europe with funds and corporate work. We opened nine months ago in Luxembourg with Francois Pfister as our Managing Partner and the trust licence is due imminently. It is all aimed at helping individuals and corporates with double taxation issues.‚Äù n

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Citywealth Magic Circle Awards: 16th May 2013
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NEW initiatives for 2013

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Karen Jones, Editor

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