EFG’s Wealth Solutions Expert Gerard Gardner Surveys Singapore’s Role in Wealth & Legacy Structuring
Gerard Gardner is Global Head Wealth Solutions for EFG Wealth Solutions and joined a panel discussion on estate and legacy planning on June 8 at the Hubbis Asian Wealth Solutions event in Singapore. From his Jersey base with EFG, Gerard has a 360-degree view of the world of wealth, estate and legacy planning and offered delegates this global perspective. He told delegates that Singapore is clearly advancing in terms of a jurisdiction for planning and structuring, but that it still needs more drive from the private sector and the regulators to move it to the same sort of level as long-established centres such as in the Channel Islands or in Europe. We have summarised some of his observations in this short review.
As Global Head of EFG’s Wealth Solutions businesses, Gerard has responsibility for fiduciary platforms in Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean. He has been a director of various EFG group companies for almost 30 years and is a member of EFG’s senior management group. Gerard also serves as a director of a number of EFG and private client entities.
Gerard opened his commentary by remarking on the fascinating environment that specialists and clients inhabit these days, both globally and in specific jurisdictions. “The pandemic has drawn a considerable amount of attention to what we need to do as both an industry to service our clients and the clients themselves in relation to their needs for succession planning,” he reported. “I think what is driving this particularly is we now have younger generations coming through that are very savvy. The rather simplistic approach of 20-30 years ago is no longer sufficient.”
He said this in turn means the advisory experts in the wealth industry must innovate, aware of the needs and expectations of, and focused on engaging with, the upcoming generations at an intellectual level, which is increasingly demanding.
He expanded on these comments, noting that not only is there more interest amongst the future generations, but they are flexing their muscles to exert more influence over how the family affairs are handled. “But we are at the same time seeing some failures of communication from amongst the first and second generations, with too little clarity on the actual assets owned or indeed the legacies planned.
“I have seen this first hand,” he reported. He had been involved in meetings in recent years where this lack of disclosure had caused dismay amongst the different generations. He said the issues can be quite different in Europe and Asia, but in all locations, he is convinced that the estate and legacy planning and advisory efforts must be boosted across the board.
“We absolutely need to ensure that we up our game, and that we become much more innovative,” he stated. “The driving force is often in the younger generation. We need to contribute actively and proactively to the discussions, and not simply react, as perhaps was the case in the past.”
“And all of the jurisdictions, whether it's the Channel Islands or Singapore, or the Caribbean, need to be involved in and engage with that process.”
Expanding on his comments on different jurisdictions, Gerard observed that EFG has bases in the Caribbean, including the Cayman Islands, and that, perhaps surprisingly to some, those markets continue to prosper and expand.
Meanwhile, the traditional trust environments, jurisdictions such as in the Channel Islands, and those in Europe continue to thrive, he reported.
Gerard turned his attention to Singapore, and what might need to change or improve in the foreseeable future. “Change comes about best where it is driven forward by the service providers,” he observed. “So, we should not sit back and leave it for the regulators or the legislators to have to determine what is needed. It has to be driven from the service providers, whether on the legal side or the trust side. And here in Singapore, things are gradually, slowly improving in terms of what we have been hoping for over the past five or six years, with a more interesting environment in terms of the product offerings.”
Specifically, he still hopes for a variety of further changes. For example, he cited the need to improve PTC provisions and to consider purpose trusts.
“But I think that generally a concern for Singapore, is that we do pretty much the same thing as we and other industry participants have done traditionally,” he reported. “The more complex solutions end up being funnelled back out to locations such as Jersey, where a very long established and tried and tested legal system provides clients with comfort. Moreover, from my viewpoint, I see Jersey, for example, moving to the next level. I think there is huge potential in Singapore, but for things to really develop we do need a level playing field with the other leading jurisdictions.”
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