Leaders List interview: 60 seconds with Kevin T. Keen, Katten

Date: 22 Jun 2022

Silvia Ricciardi

Kevin T. Keen, Katten

Tell Citywealth’s readers about your role.

As a Private Wealth partner at Katten, I advise my clients on a broad array of tax, trust and estate planning matters spanning both the United States and abroad. I routinely serve ultra-high-net-worth individuals, and their private businesses, family offices and fiduciaries throughout the world, and work with them on designing and implementing strategies geared toward tax optimization and fulfilment of various non-tax goals. Such strategies traverse traditional estate and wealth transfer planning, including in the context of international, multigenerational families; pre-immigration and expatriation planning; and structuring of foreign investments into the United States.

My practice also focuses on the formation and operation of private trust companies and family offices, premarital planning, and global mobility matters generally, including expatriation and exit tax mitigation, application of favorable residency regimes abroad, and attainment of additional passports.

By joining Katten’s Dallas office, I was able to help expand the firm’s Private Wealth footprint in Texas and establish a new client offering there. At the same time, I also maintain an active client base in Florida, and can assist clients transitioning from Florida to Texas, or viceversa, or from other states or countries to either Florida or Texas, with regard to their personal and business planning.

‘Private Wealth’ in Texas: any trends in the sector?

Growth! The global pandemic has propelled an influx of mobile UHNW clients from other, high-tax jurisdictions, as well as public and private companies alike relocating headquarters or expanding operations into Texas. 

There has also been an increase in Texas-based clients who have sought to explore alternative residency or citizenship regimes as a means of hedging geopolitical risk, facilitating tax optimization, and achieving diversification more generally.

Finally, families, founders and family offices persist in remaining agile. One constant is that tax and legal regimes constantly evolve, as do family and business circumstances. The past few years have highlighted that reality. Having the right team of internal and external advisors on board can help families plan for the present while keeping structures flexible for the future.

ESG: Are your clients familiar with ESG? Are they behaving differently in the present scenario?

Historically and pre-pandemic, my clients were generally more focused on adopting an exclusionary investment approach – avoiding investments that conflicted with their ethics. More recently, and particularly among younger clients and family offices, there has been an affirmative shift toward deliberate investing with a broader focus than ROI alone. These clients have sought to engage in more purposeful investing to shape society and influence long-term value creation and preservation.

What are the most important skills and personal qualities for an expert working in Tax, Trust and Estate Planning?

Client service is a top priority for me personally and more broadly at Katten. To work with the world’s most affluent clients, it is essential to be a patient and active listener, creative and solution-oriented, and a responsive and trusted advisor. Not only it is important to command deep knowledge of the law, but also to provide strategic and commercial solutions that advance clients’ big-picture, personal and business goals. That requires us, as practitioners, to stay on top of ever-evolving complicated estate and tax laws.

Best and worst parts of your job.

What I find gratifying is being able to ingrain myself into my clients’ lives and businesses, gaining a deep familiarity of their various activities and goals on a broad level and developing trusted, long-term relationships with clients that allow me to serve as their first resource whenever any issues arise. If I can facilitate creative and value-added solutions that significantly improve the way my clients are able to do business, provide for their families, engage in charitable endeavors and achieve their goals, I know I have succeeded in my role.

The variety of work and issues that clients present also keeps things interesting, as does the dynamic legal and tax landscape. 

In a private client practice, especially one where you are serving a broader range of needs than simply estate planning, the constant juggling can sometimes present itself as challenging. Some days, I might have four or five meetings, exchange seemingly countless emails, and review and send out client deliverables such as slide decks and memoranda, that span 10-15 different clients. That daily diversity rarely happens in most other practices, so on balance, it is perhaps more of a positive.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you have been given?

Pursue your passions. That advice I received early on has truly resonated with me throughout my career. If you pursue a career in an area about which you are passionate, you will naturally work harder, smarter, and better. Being a trusted advisor to help shepherd business owners through a succession planning process, or to help families protect and preserve their wealth, has been such a rewarding experience for me.

Kevin Keen is a member of our Leaders List.

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