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Special Interview with Citywealth Future Leaders – Part II

1 February 2022

Silvia Ricciardi

Silvia Ricciardi interviewed some of the winners of the Future Leaders Awards 2021 to discuss about how successful leaders in the wealth sector are managing the workload in the present scenario.

Citywealth Future Leaders give an overview of their roles, dwelling upon present challenges in terms of relationship with both their clients and junior members of staff, analysing how the workplace has changed following the pandemic.

Citywealth wants to thank for their collaboration Partner Katie O’Callaghan, Family Lawyer of the Year (company: Boodle Hatfield), Private Client Tax Partner Adam West, Accountant of the Year (company: Smith & Williamson) and Senior Associate Katie Baxter, Lawyer of the Year IFC (company: Ogier).

 

Partner Katie O’Callaghan

Family Lawyer of the Year (company: Boodle Hatfield)

 Katie O'Callaghan

Could you tell me more about your clients?

I am primarily working on financial remedy cases and there is a particular trend in trying to avoid going through the court system, using instead private routes to reach settlements. I think there has been a huge uptake in using private forums since the pandemic began as the courts were and are currently under resourced. This results in a much smoother mechanism which can be also cheaper as we can solve matters more quickly. It’s a much more civilized way to resolve disputes. There has also been an increase in looking at arbitration, which is the binding process within the private sphere. We are very busy with prenup and postnup work as well. I also do a lot of art-related divorces at the moment as a new niche that has taken off in my practice, which involves working with the big auction houses for valuation purposes. We have a dedicated art team within the firm and it has been great to work with them, using their knowledge and experience when needed.

How do you liaise with juniors in the present era?

It’s very difficult to replace that education that you get from being immersed in an office environment. When I was a trainee the best way to learn was simply through listening to your senior colleagues on the phone and discussing about any work-related matter. It has been a challenge to replicate that remotely and it really is just about communication and ensuring that you have regular catch-ups and brainstorming sessions with junior members of your team to help and monitor them. One of the benefits of the pandemic is actually being able to involve juniors in lots of telephone and remote hearings. It’s easier for them to learn in this way than if you are in a physical court building as you can have more people attending in a remote environment.

Did your company implemented any new measures in the workplace?

We do lots of team-related Zoom calls, whether they are social events, marketing meetings or general catch-ups. We always want to ensure that an efficient communication strategy is in place. Now it’s easier for me to work really closely with all our associates. As you can’t do the traditional face-to-face meeting as frequently in the office, you have to think outside the box. I have personally done a few podcasts, interviews on the phone and articles, lots of innovative ways to keep in touch with clients as well as colleagues.

Could you describe any changes and challenges you have to deal with on an ordinary basis?

The nature of our work is so personal. When the pandemic took over we had to adjust the way we worked to ensure that we still provided the same level of support and service to clients without being able to meet them as regularly as in the past. I found extremely challenging dealing with court hearings that suddenly were happening remotely. In the very early stages of the pandemic we couldn’t be in the same room with our clients, we were all working remotely, including judges. At present, if we have a court hearing we usually do everything we can to ensure that all the members of our team are in the same room as that makes a huge difference to the client. In terms of new trends, a deeper commitment to ethical financial policies and ESG principles is becoming an increasing area of focus and importance for clients. Sometimes we see that if clients receive a divorce award which provides them with a lump sum, they prefer to use at least some of that money for charitable purposes. We have definitely witnessed a growing number of clients who want to carefully consider where they might invest their money.

 

Private Client Tax Partner Adam West

Accountant of the Year (company: Smith & Williamson)

 Adam West

Could you tell me more about your clients?

At the moment, we are working on company reorganisations, all kinds of transactions, trust planning and more. We couldn’t arrange all the face-to-face meetings we usually had, but Zoom and Teams certainly helped deal with restrictions. We could see the client’s natural reaction during a physical meeting, so it was better in terms of understanding the situation and properly act on it, but we can’t complain about how we handled the situation so far.

How do you liaise with juniors in the present era?

From February we are going back to an hybrid model which is pretty flexible. The main idea is that all employees spend at least two days in the office while for the remaining days we are open to flexible solutions. We had many new graduates joining the team during the pandemic and we tried to let them fit in, offering a welcoming working environment. We got at least one mentor who is available to assist juniors, from technical issues to general admin. We have been conscious to put some time in the diary of every employee to socially interact with colleagues, from brief catch-ups to virtual coffees, as we want to make sure that people get a break from their daily work. It’s important for us to let juniors and all employees know that we are there for them.

Did your company implemented any new measures in the workplace?

There was the need to learn how to produce work as a team despite not being in the same office, but now everyone is working and reviewing projects from home, so all operations go on pretty smoothly. We have had a lot of work even during the pandemic and I don’t think it has been impacted negatively. Promotions are still going through, we are recruiting at all levels to grow internally. Considering recent changes, I can mention that the way we approach feedback is not the same as it was before. We receive and give more immediate feedback, whether it’s face to face or virtual: instead of waiting several months to compile a detailed report on a specific employee, we tend to opt for more instant feedback and immediate appraisal so that people can act on it straightaway.

Could you describe any changes and/or challenges you have to deal with on an ordinary basis?

I can see that clients have changed their priorities. While in the past there was more attention just towards personal profits, for instance their major concern was trying to pay less taxes, right now it’s completely different. In the present era clients spend more time not just investing money, but understanding where their money is invested in. They have been more strategic about whom they give their money to, if it’s a charity or foundation, and they prefer to invest in companies which concretely act on ESG. They are generally more inclined to do good for the world.

 

Senior Associate Katie Baxter

Lawyer of the Year IFC (company: Ogier)

 Katie Baxter

Could you tell me more about your clients?

During lockdown I think the biggest issue we had in the relationship with our clients was related to technology, for instance people were unable to sign things. Here in Jersey we were incredibly lucky as our infrastructure kept going, people were able to work from home easily. We didn’t see a huge change in the way we worked, there was no transition period, especially getting in touch with our local clients.

How do you liaise with juniors in the present era?

Our company is aware that working from home can work perfectly for some people while for others is not the best solution. I am in a position where I have been in the office more than I have worked from home. Most of the people within the firm split their time quite evenly between the office and home. We are very keen to have juniors working from the office as much as possible as it’s an on-the-job process.

Did your company implemented any new measures in the workplace?

We had a flexible working policy already in place before Covid19 hit. We had laptops at home. When we were in lockdown and we were all working from home, it was quite important for us to have regular chats with all our employees. We arranged Zoom calls on a daily basis to make sure that everyone was ok, not feeling too isolated.

Could you describe any changes and challenges you have to deal with on an ordinary basis?

I don’t think there were any tangible changes in terms of our team structure. My team is generally very good at keeping in touch, but I can see in the general market that the present scenario is having an impact on promotions. Bringing new business in has been much harder in the last couple of years, so I suspect there has been a knock-on effect on getting promoted. There is definitely a trend towards ESG. We have a new service line specialised in ESG as we witness that especially younger generations are more aware of the impact that their investment can generate. We also noticed a growing interest in crypto and NFT. Thing are changing and there is a lot of uncertainty around it.

 

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