Alexa Saunders is a dedicated private client practitioner and a “pleasure to work with and is able to gain a quick, confident grasp of the issues”. She is highlighted for her extensive know-how on a range of matters including pension and private family trusts.
Alexa is a partner in Carey Olsen’s trusts and private wealth group, and has a broad non-contentious and semi-contentious trust practice. She regularly advises in connection with private family trusts, employee benefit trusts and pension trusts, including establishing new trust structures, drafting trusts and ancillary instruments, and advising trustees in connection with the ongoing administration of trusts. Alexa has also dealt with numerous applications to the Royal Court of Jersey.
What is the most interesting case you have been a part of?
In my first seat as a trainee in London, one of the very first cases I was involved in was a special sitting of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council before nine judges. Listening to some of the best legal brains in the country argue the finer points of law over several days was an extraordinary introduction to the law and has been pretty hard to beat!
What did you find most challenging about entering private client practice?
I remember a particular case where we were acting for a very bright lady who was a beneficiary of a trust and mid-divorce. We advised her over a number of years and I was the main fee-earner on the case. We got on well – she liked and trusted me – but quite often when I gave her my view on a particular point, she would say: “Yes, but what does Robert [the supervising partner] think?”. I would then have to speak to Robert, check he agreed (luckily he usually did) and confirm that to the client. This was difficult to accept initially, but then I realised I would probably be the same in her shoes. We were dealing with a difficult situation at a difficult time of her life, and how good our advice was would dictate in large part her financial security in the future – it was extremely personal for her. Learning to view things from a client’s perspective in private client practice was an important lesson.
Have the needs of the new generation of private clients changed from those of the previous generation? How has your practice adapted to this change?
There are two types of next-generation clients: those to whom wealth is being
transferred by the previous generation and those who created the wealth themselves. In my experience, both are different from previous generations – they are more sophisticated when it comes to technology and there is typically a desire to invest in a wider range of asset classes (impact investing being one example), so any structures created need to be sufficiently flexible to allow that. For those who created the wealth themselves, they typically want to continue to have a role in the wealth-holding structures they establish, which requires more bespoke planning. For those who inherited the wealth from previous generations, they often want to create their own relationships with private wealth advisers rather than “inheriting” the advisers to the previous generation, so again, there is opportunity there. I think it is fair to say that private client practitioners will in future (if it is not already the case) have fewer clients, but those clients they do have they will know well and, all being well, will be clients for the long term.
How has covid-19 affected clients and your practice? How do you think the private client market will respond to a post-covid-19 world?
I think it is too early to tell, but I do think it will have an impact – it can’t not. The private client market has typically rolled with the punches and adapted over the years. I anticipate that it will do the same in a post-covid-19 world.
What challenges does the global drive for greater financial transparency pose to trusts specialists like yourself and how can they be addressed?
The tension between privacy and transparency is ongoing and the drive for greater transparency does present challenges – there is no doubt about that. What is important in my view is to have in place a system that allows and ensures accurate reporting to competent authorities. Jersey already has such a system in place and continues to enhance and develop its beneficial ownership regime. I believe Jersey is well placed to continue to adapt as international standards change.
What makes Carey Olsen stand out from its competitors in the market?
We pride ourselves as a firm on being responsive and providing technical yet practical advice. We have significant strength and depth across all departments – particularly so in our private client department, when compared with our competitors. It is a great firm to be part of.
What advice would you give to younger practitioners hoping to one day be in your position?
Take pride in what you do; work hard (but not at the expense of all else that life has to offer); and don’t be in too much of a hurry.
What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
Where do I start?!