What is the risk?

This Note is dedicated to Simon – my insurance broker for my professional indemnity cover. Last Friday he invited me to lunch in the City which was delicious to introduce me to my Lloyds broker – David. On arriving at the restaurant, I asked Simon who the fourth person was going to be since the table was laid for four, ‘No-one’ he said. ‘I always book a table for four even if I have only one or two guests – I like the extra room and privacy!’.

I usually prepare for meetings – I believe it is courteous and produces a better outcome, but on this occasion I assumed, since both Simon and David knew everything about my business, I did not need to. I was a bit thrown when David said ‘Tell me a bit about what you do?’ I fluffed thinking about claims and premiums.

The truth of the matter is, that working with high net worth clients in a family office is more than being a highly qualified technician. I set up GFOS because I am passionate about my clients. Sometimes they need educating, sometimes they need to be told that they cannot do what they say they would like to do, and sometimes there is a better solution than what they have suggested. The consistent theme is we put put the best interests of our clients first.

Sadly, this is not the attitude throughout the industry. Most clients do not know enough about tax, cross border succession, security, governance, philanthropy, setting up family offices, dispute resolution or whatever other issues which affect them and their money, to know when they are being given a sales pitch and when they are being given good advice.

Our ethos is to operate a ‘Culture of Care’. Much of my work is therefore educational. In my view each client needs to understand the nature of their issue before deciding what they want to do. If what they need is outside our area of expertise we will introduce them to other professionals who we will then instruct, negotiate the best possible price and monitor progress.

On occasions however a situation is serious, I will then nag a client to take action, even if at that time he or she may not see the seriousness of their situation.

One of my clients who I will call Saud wanted to set up a structure while still in his mid-fifties, because he wanted to run it with his family while he was still alive. I persuaded him to start with a simple trust and private trustee company but to set it up swiftly; we could sort out the details over time.

Three years later, his former business partner Ahmed sued both Saud and another business colleague Sacha. Saud’s business interests were in trust and so he was untouched by the claim, however, Sacha faced five years of litigation; his assets were not in trust and therefore not protected.

Another similar case, involved a trust structure which was governed by a lengthy letter of wishes, which I advised was not fit for purpose. My client, AT, prevaricated, but I insisted that he incorporate some simple family governance changes immediately. Eighteen months later he came to see me ‘Thank you so much for pushing me to make the changes’ One of the advisers on the board had taken sides in an unwelcome family dispute. Under the new family governance structure, this adviser could be removed. If we had not made these changes, the family would have had to negotiate a settlement which would have been costly and difficult and could have jeopardised the family harmony.

In another situation, I was approached by a family keen to know what to do with their house in London following the changes in tax legislation for non-UK doms. His situation was convoluted and tricky, but rather than write a five-page report on his options, I simply advised him what the tax position was and to take out life insurance. I then introduced him to the best person I know, and negotiated and monitored the process. It was the right solution for this problem.

So in answer to David’s question the simple answer is ‘GFOS is highly qualified to deal with a whole range of issues faced by high net worth families; we are not always the best people to deal with the concerns of our clients, in which case in accordance with our culture of care, we will introduce the client to the best professional we know and will ensure he gets a very good service at the best possible price’.

If you would like to book a meeting with Caroline contact Svetlana on 020 3740 7423 or e mail her on svetlana@garnhamfos.com.

You can buy Caroline’s book “When you are Super rich who can you Trust?’ from Svetlana or from Amazon.