Interview with Ellen Hibbs

PRIVATE WEALTH INTERVIEW SERIES, ELLEN HIBBS, TRUST MANAGER AT HIGHVERN

How did your move to Highvern come about?  

I’ve always actively monitored the industry, following who is moving where, what corporate changes are happening such as mergers, acquisitions, rebrands etc and in early 2017 I noticed a new kid on the block, Highvern (who I later discovered was not so new). I was intrigued as they seemed to have a fresh, modern style, they were independent plus I’m a sucker for good branding. I kept an eye on Highvern, watched their presence grow, did my research and later in the year when a position became available that matched my skill set, I followed my gut and applied.

“From the start I was really impressed by how efficient, innovative and personable they were, Highvern seemed like a great fit for me and I was right. The rest as they say is history!” 

What attributes do you feel are important for a trustee to have? 

Decisive:  

As a trustee, you are constantly faced with different decisions. These can be anything from deciding on the most suitable investment mandate, choosing the most appropriate manager for a property or quite simply, deciding whether to approve a distribution request from a beneficiary. Such decisions require consideration and cannot be taken in haste but once made you need to stick with them. Experience and knowledge will enable you to make an informed decision but you should always be decisive and act with confidence.

Empathetic:

Being empathetic, really understanding the needs and circumstances of others is crucial for a trustee. There are many occasions where we need to put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes to enable us to fully evaluate a matter.

Collaborative:

Teamwork and acting in a collaborative manner comes into play every day. The role of a trustee is so varied and calling on colleagues with different experience and working collaboratively with them to share knowledge is critical to ensure a high level of service is provided to clients.

Trustworthy:

And last but definitely not least, it is really important to have a trustee that is trustworthy and reliable. Being genuine with your clients and getting to really understand their needs will encourage them to trust you, which is the foundation for any strong relationship.  

What is the most enjoyable part of your role?

When I started out in the trust industry, I initially worked within the finance department and I recall my mum telling me to try and get into the administration side of the business as it would be much more varied and she was right.

“Every structure, transaction, client and as a result, day, is different an that is what I enjoy the most. Having an element of unpredictability to each day, keeps me on my toes, continually learning and engaged.” 

What is the most challenging part of your role? 

The most challenging part of my role is juggling all my responsibilities. As the role of a trustee is so diverse and, unpredictable, it takes real skill and organisation to manage your time. A large proportion of my day is spent liaising with clients and working with colleagues on projects so forward planning is required in order to ensure that I have sufficient time to focus on the behind-the-scenes administration elements. My approach is to start each day with a list of things that must be completed when the day is out. It took me years to find a method of managing my work that worked for me and this will always evolve as my career progresses.  

What do you see as the key challenges for the sector? 

Our sector is constantly changing with new regulations and legislation being implemented. Over the last few years alone we’ve seen the introduction of economic substance, changes to data protection legislation and the introduction of beneficial ownership registers in various jurisdictions. These changes require a lot of work in the background and as such can become costly for businesses. Managing the application of these changes to ensure it is completed in the most effective and efficient manner an important challenge for us all.  

Cyber security also continues to be a challenge for our sector. With hackers becoming even more sophisticated, businesses need to make sure they are prepared as we’ve all seen the damage that a breach can cause. Investing in technology to mitigate the risks is of course important but upskilling staff in this area is vital as they are the best defence mechanisms for businesses.   

What is the greatest change you have seen in the Private Client world? 

Since starting my career in 2012, the biggest change I have seen is with regards to the clients. The younger generations are becoming increasingly involved with family wealth which is shaking up some of the traditional ideas and approaches. Our clients are becoming more tech-savvy which has in many ways improved communication, with “face to face” meetings, which may have previously been held yearly, now being achieved at the click of a button.

“We are also seeing much more focus on a holistic approach to investing and managing wealth. Whilst traditionally, financial benefits were the core focus, social and environmental factors are now forming a larger part of discussions and impacting strategic decision making.”

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