Private Wealth Interview Series, JANE FREER, ASSOCIATE CLIENT DIRECTOR at Highvern
What attributes do you feel are important for a trustee to have?
I would say that collaboration, integrity, and empathy all play a key role. There are many different elements to a trust, so a trustee must be prepared to work with others to provided that rounded service. Whilst a trustee should have good all-round knowledge, it is realistically not possible for a trustee to be an expert in all areas (law, property, investment, and accountancy for instance). It is therefore essential to be able to work well with others to achieve the right outcome for clients.
“It is expected that a trustee acts with integrity. This is vital to build a relationship of trust with clients as well as to protect both the company you work for and the reputation of Jersey as a financial jurisdiction.”
Lastly, empathy is required to understand a client’s decision to give up ownership of assets they own as well as to support beneficiaries, particularly those which are second or third generation. It is important to understand their position, explain the purpose of a particular structure and support the ongoing management of a trust structure.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking about becoming a trustee of a discretionary trust what would it be?
There are many different aspects to the role of trustee and some very complex situations in which a trustee may find themselves. However, it is essential to remember that a trustee must act impartially, considering all beneficiaries of a trust when making decisions. Whilst a settlor may have settled funds into a trust and be a beneficiary of that structure, from the point the funds have been placed into the trust, the settlor can no longer make decisions. A settlor may provide a letter of wishes to the trustee. Whist it is not binding, it is a guide from which a trustee may give consideration to the wishes of the settlor.
What is the most challenging aspect of your role?
A trust may have a long lifetime. During that time the beneficiaries often change with the introduction of next generations. As a result, the likelihood is that the beneficiaries and their needs will alter. It can therefore sometimes be challenging to reach to decisions which support the differing needs and circumstances of beneficiaries. This is where it is essential to make reference to the trust documentation, consider the ongoing relationship with the clients and seek support form external advisors.
What is the most enjoyable part of your role?
Trust structures are usually expected to have a long lifetime. This provides the opportunity to build relationships with clients which continue through to the next generations. It is very satisfying to be able to be part of a team that supports these settlors and future beneficiaries through the years as their lives change. I also manage a number of charitable trusts and particularly enjoy being able to assist and support those beneficiaries.
“Covid has been an extremely challenging time worldwide for so many. As with individuals, charities have been significantly impacted by the pandemic so to be able to provide support to them is very rewarding.”
What is the greatest change you’ve seen in the Private Client world?
In my view, the greatest change in recent years to the Private Client world has been change itself. The most significant and constant has been that around transparency and reporting. There have been many key reporting requirements around this including FATCA, CRS, data protection, beneficial owner register and economic substance and as the years pass these continue to occur and evolve. Most recently has been the introduction of the Financial Services (Disclosure and Provision of Information) (Jersey) Law 2020.
“It is essential for finance companies to quickly understand these changes, develop internal procedures and systems to implement and submit reporting as necessary.”
As a top international finance centre, Jersey has a strong reputation for implementing change in respect of reporting and transparency. Whilst this may add further actions and reporting, it is important to ensure continued compliance to retain the reputation of the Island.