International Women in Wealth five minute interview: Catriona Syed, Partner, Charles Russell LLP

Date: 02 Dec 2011


What signature taxation, laws, trusts or investments do you think really work?

Any tax that is clear, reasonable and fair is acceptable to the majority of clients these days. Jersey and Cayman both have very good trust laws.

Are there any private clients in the world you would like to work with?

My clients! I am lucky to be able to work with them.

Are women really going to take over the world, if so how?

No. They are not sufficiently focussed, and to take over the world you have to be prepared to make the sort of sacrifice that most women or men are just not prepared to make. You do not take over the world if you are also running a family, a home and a nanny.

What size of client do you generally work with?

My clients are worth £10million upwards. I can have 30 or 40 active clients, but possibly 300 Р500 clients who are not so active.

What is the most interesting or unusual private client deal you have ever been involved with?

Structuring the acquisition of a stately home for a client who wanted to keep it in perpetuity, only to become bankrupt five years later.

What lessons have you learned that you could share with women starting out in the finance industry?

Be focussed, work hard – you cannot get by guessing the answer. Listen to people and don’t antagonise people.

What initiatives do you think there should be for women?

Women should not get more favourable treatment than men.

Do you think the British government should legislate to bring women on boards?

No. I have heard that there are now more women entering the legal profession but there are very few women judges. In another 20 – 30 years, when those women are senior then the balance will change.

If you had to win a wealthy new client where would you take them to impress them?

To the races, to the opera, to a nice restaurant or a wine tasting.

What are your three USP’s for working with uhnw clients?

None of us is unique. I try to speak to clients in straightforward, commercial terms.

What is the best thing that has ever been said about you or you have done or won?

I think the best thing I have done is to help with advice to a client, be responsible for its implementation and then to assist the client’s executors when the case was taken by HMRC all the way to the House of Lords as it then was and the clients won. To be involved from beginning to end was amazing.

What is your individual focus in terms of countries and uhnw clients?

Middle East, Europe (including former Soviet Union), Asia (including India) and Africa.

How much do you travel on business and where do you tend to go?

About once a week. Switzerland, the Channel Islands, the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

What is the next big thing?

The corporate world! Increased regulation, lack of privacy and concern about who owns the bank with your money in it.

hat would you tell a divorcing woman in the UK?

Next time, consider a pre-nup!

Is the glass ceiling still with us?


What charities do you admire and why?

Charities which alleviate the conditions of life for those less advantaged than me. They remind me that there are still good people in the world.

What is the dummies guide to making it to the top in finance or pwm?

Work hard. Put yourself in the client’s shoes when you are explaining something to him.

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