Five-minute interview with Michelle Wolfe, founding partner at Meritus Trust
Michelle Wolfe is a founding partner at Meritus Trust in Bermuda. Citywealth caught up with her to talk about new trends in the local trust sector and the advantages of working in an owner-managed trust company.
What is your role within the business?
I am a managing director and I see myself as the conductor ensuring that all the areas of the business are working together well. My background as a Canadian chartered accountant with a human resources Master’s degree has provided me with the opportunity to work with some of the top financial institutions such as Coutts, Rothschild and Butterfield and gave me access to great mentors. I am also involved with the industry sitting as Past President of the Bermuda Association of Licensed Trustees (BALT) and sit on the Bermuda Business Development Agency (BDA) Trust Focus Group. I spend approximately twenty-five percent of my time on industry initiatives.
What are common themes running through your client work?
Families want to preserve and grow their financial wealth but even more important to most of them is to preserve and develop the family human and intellectual capital. We spend a great deal of our time educating the next generation and implementing good family counsel governance. We are seeing more families setting up foundations and charities. Whilst setting up a solid structure is still an important consideration for families, they are more interested in protecting the wealth from problems including divorce, children or step-children. Trusts help transferring the wealth to the next generation.
Do you work with other wealth professionals?
We work closely with the legal, accounting and investment industry, as well as family offices, art dealers, real estate and insurance agents, or shipyards. As an independent trust company, we can select the best professional for the particular situation. We are always careful in our selection and perform extensive due diligence. We also like to have fun and our goal is to work with likeminded people. That includes the Meritus Team, the families and organisations we represent and advise. Being owner-managed means we have the flexibility to take on relationships that are a good fit.
What is the difference between a private trust company and a stand-alone trust structure?
In very simple terms, a private trust company (PTC) is the family’s very own trustee company. In Bermuda, a PTC is very simply a company which is restricted to acting as trustee for the family’s trusts. No license or exemption application is required. Bermuda was one of the first jurisdictions to develop and market this vehicle.
Are you seeing new trends in your client work?
As a company and indeed collaboratively as an industry, we have worked hard over the last few years to improve the awareness of our services and legislation to overseas advisers. Families and their advisers are rediscovering that Bermuda offers both traditional and innovative tools, together with decades of expertise to address these challenges. In addition to seeing more interest in philanthropic structures, families are looking for additional value-added services that we like to put in our toolbox, including reputational risk management and cyber security management.
What do you like to do when you have time away from the office?
I love spending time with my two very athletic teenagers, enjoying music and whenever possible attending rock concerts. My other dream job would be as a singer in a band whilst riding my Harley Davidson.