Last week I was in Zurich for a client. During a meeting I was asked ‘Why do some families have more than one trust?’
My cynical reply was ‘So professionals can make more money!’
Everyone laughed, but, it is not actually very funny.
When I first met Bob, he had more than twenty trusts. He had set up his trusts to protect his hospitality business, and each time he developed a new line – glasses, furniture or bedding he was advised to set up a new company and trust so that if one part of the business was sued, the other parts would remain unaffected.
‘This myriad of trusts and companies may be great for preserving my business against litigation,’ I remember him saying, ‘but I need to consolidate the business so I can expand.’
My advice to him was to set up a captive insurance company in Bermuda to protect him from litigation and to consolidate the twenty trusts into one. At the same time, we explored the idea of setting up a private trustee company which would act as the trustee of his trust. All the Protectors were then engaged as directors in the trust, so all his close advisers remained engaged, but just in different, more suitable roles.
We then hired some competent administrators to run it. Bob took a small office and with the assistance of his strong board he has saved millions of pounds every year. He has since that day run his trust and family office exactly the way he and his board want to.
It never ceases to amaze me why so many UHNW families have trust structures which seem best to serve the interests of the professionals; not the family – and some, rather than providing protection, are in fact a beacon of attention to Governments keen to attack structures the moment they have the necessary information.
Another client of mine, who I will call Rajesh, had eighteen trusts, three for each of the six sides of his family. When asked why he had so many trusts Rajesh said ‘I was told I needed to diversify my assets across three different professional trustees and one for each side of the family’ ‘Why?’ I asked him. He was paying much more every year than he would if he had only one or two trusts.
I advised him to set up his own Private Trustee Company (PTC), put his own people on the board, and then the PTC would contract with a professional trustee, with whom he could negotiate a sensible annual fee. We saved him and his family many thousands of pounds every year.
As part of our Culture of Care we work only with clients who appreciate high quality service, and we engage only the top leading professionals across the world. Furthermore, to ensure we provide the best possible service at the best possible price, we have brought together their expertise into a package which can then be tailored to the particular needs and requirements of our exclusive clients. Quality, hand-picked professionals need not be expensive, if they are doing what they are good at, have clear instructions as to what to do and are unhindered in getting the job done.
The reason why professionals are often so expensive or get away with charging more than is necessary, is because many do so much work outside their comfort zone or in areas in which they are not specialists.
Clients need to engage specialists if they want to get the best possible outcome, for the best possible price.
Clients often fail to grasp this basic premise and merely add to this expensive merry-go-round, asking professionals who they already know to engage in work about which they aren't experts in. Let’s take Josh, he has used Serge for many years as his lawyer and CEO of his family office. Serge is very skilled and knowledgeable about corporate matters and in particular on acquisitions and mergers, Josh trusts Serge. Josh asks him whether his trust would be better located in Cayman Islands rather than in Jersey. Serge does not know. Should Serge accept the instructions and start to do some research or say ‘This is not my specialist area, but I know someone for whom it is.’
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