Focus on Powerwomen and debunking gender myths

Date: 14 Sep 2018


Citywealth is proud to support #Powerwomen in the private wealth management industry. Herewith our selection of past interviews with our IFC Powerwomen to celebrate their achievements and as an introduction to some of Citywealth’s 2019 contenders for our #Powerwomen awards.

Michelle Wolfe, founding partner, 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.

Patricia White, managing director, Vistra

Patricia White joined Legis, now Vistra, nine years ago, after working in the Cayman Islands and at Butterfield Bank in Guernsey. Citywealth spoke with her about the challenge to develop what, at the time, was a little known fund administration practice, and the latest trends in the sector.

Tell me about your role as managing director?

As well as ensuring we are on track to meet our strategic goals I am involved in BD, sales, marketing activities and am a non-exec director on a number of funds and client companies. I also manage the day to day operation of the Guernsey office. No two days are the same which I enjoy.

What are you proud of?

Our growth. I have been part of the company for nine years, originally recruited in 2007 with the objective of growing, what was then, a very small fund administration business at $600k assets under administration (AUA) with revenues less than $1m and eight staff. The Guernsey team now comprises forty eight staff and AUA is in excess of US$12bn.

What are the advantages of being an independent fund administrator?

The advantage of being independent is the speed and versatility of decision-making, enabling us to adapt quickly to changes in market conditions. As part of a global service provider we now have the jurisdictional reach that was previously lacking.

What common themes do you see?

As a regulated industry the fund sector has seen a plethora of new local and international regulation. Corporate governance is also a significant theme as directors are more aware of the burden of responsibility in their roles.

Are you seeing new trends in client work?

There is more interest in private equity and real estate funds and less in traditional equity and fund of funds structures. What aspect of your work gives you the greatest sense of satisfaction? I get a lot of pleasure when I see young, ambitious members of the team develop their careers and earn promotions, often passing professional qualifications along the way. I enjoy building and retaining a strong team who are engaged, experienced, qualified and committed to client service.

How many women work on your team?

There are around twenty females in our team, a number of whom hold senior roles.

Is fund administration still a male-dominated sector?

The balance is gradually being addressed and there are a solid number of highly experienced professional women are increasingly occupying senior roles.

How can the financial industry be more inclusive of women?

I think that the industry is inclusive of women. It will take time for the full impact to work its way through the industry but it is moving in the right direction. Boards of directors are demonstrating a more balanced approach to the selection process with the demonstrable benefits of gender diversity on boards being a proven benefit in the approach and style of decision making.

Farah Ballands, CEO, Estera

Farah Ballands, CEO, Estera, talks to Citywealth about her role at the global trustee operation Estera.

Tell me about your role as chief executive of Estera?

I oversee our fiduciary and administration business across many jurisdictions including Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cayman, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Jersey, the Isle of Man, Mauritius, the Seychelles and Shanghai. That business is broken down along four service lines: corporate, trusts, funds and accounting.

How did you get to where you are today?

I joined Estera, formerly Appleby, as a partner in 2003 and become the global head of the fiduciary and administration service practice group when law firm Bailhache Labesse merged with Appleby in 2006. As our business has grown, my responsibilities have increased and a key aspect of this has been the identification and implementation of new business initiatives for our group. Most recently, I led the management buyout of Appleby Fiduciary Business from the Appleby Group, backed by private equity business Bridgepoint. The buyout completed in December 2015 and led to our rebrand as Estera in April 2016.

Which jurisdictions do you find yourself working in most often?

Each of our jurisdictions presents its own unique selling point, which allows us to cater to the needs of our clients. We work with international clients and we were among the first international businesses to be permitted to provide offshore fiduciary services from our Mauritius and Shanghai offices, so we are well positioned to service our clients based in Asia and Africa.

Do you cross into the area of philanthropy when advising your UHNW clients?

Yes, often we have clients who wish to use part of their wealth to help a good cause. Sometimes they support existing charities, or they might want to establish a new charitable foundation. Either way, we are there to help.

Are you seeing new trends in your client work?

The focus is now very much on success planning involving private trust company structures set up for families and other groups who share a

Debunking gender myths – what can hold women back?

Muna Jawhary, author and coach shed some light on the myths about women and men including what holds women back from reaching their full potential in the workplace. She said: ‚ÄúMany believe men and women are fundamentally different human beings. For example, women are often viewed as carers while men are considered to be agentic or natural leaders.‚Äù Jawhary said that ‚Äúanother common belief is that masculinity and femininity are mutually exclusive, so men have no feminine attributes and vice versa. But perhaps the most dangerous myth many still buy into is that masculinity is superior to femininity.‚Äù Jawhary explains that because of these myths, the workplace is still designed in masculine terms. Given that our societies invariably assign the childcare to women, this means the workplace is biased against women. ‚ÄúThe workplace needs an urgent redesign and the single most important aspect of any new design should remove the care bias,‚Äù added Jawhary. ‚ÄúEqually, we have to remove the stereotype that it’s women who should care. It robs them of their ambition.‚Äù But, as she pointed out and many women Citywealth has spoken to confirmed from their own experience, there are two sides to sexism. Several studies have shown that flexible work is thought of as something for women with children and men worry about perceptions if they take paternity leave. There is a belief that working part-time and caring for children is not something ‚Äòreal men’ do. Helping fathers to adjust their workload and encourage them to care for their children is just as, if not more, important than promoting women into leadership roles. A further note from Dr Almuth McDowall, senior lecturer at Birkbeck University, who speaks about behavioural pay research on business leaders found that pay was not the ultimate motivator and that primarily employees just wanted to know they were being paid at the same level as their counterparts. She said, ‚ÄúI see no evidence why we should have a ‚Äòwar on talent,’ there is so much untapped female talent in all of the organisations I work with. We just need sponsors to encourage them to step forward.‚Äù

Inspirational #Powerwoman: Bonita Norris

The youngest female climber of Mount Everest, Bonita Norris, spoke to Citywealth about conquering fear in order to reach the summit. She said that taking one step at a time, helped her during the many frightening situations she encountered. Small steps it turned out were important in driving her forward and it was something she took away from the experience to help others in life.

The Powerwomen Awards highlight the female leaders in the private wealth industry and celebrate individuals and companies who support caregiving responsibilities, female leadership, and promote diversity. The awards also create a platform for best practice and positive social influence on the sector. Every year, the event attracts over 180 attendees from blue-chip wealth management organisations. Attendees this year included Citi Bank, Credit Suisse, Deloitte, KPMG, PwC, RBC, Stanhope and UBS.

Vote for this years Powerwomen Awards contenders on this link

back to news