Andrew is managing director at Rhone Trustees (Switzerland) SA and leads a private client portfolio of trusteeships, accounting and audit mandates. He is chair of the Swiss and Liechtenstein STEP Federation, a member of the STEP professional standards committee, executive committee member of the Swiss Association of Trust Companies and member of the audit and risk commission of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies. Andrew is fluent in English and French.
Accounting and audit mandates for private and corporate clients is becoming an ever-more global speciality. What impact has this had on your practice?
One aspect of my work is undertaking the accounting and auditing of trusts under the stewardship of other (non-Rhone) trustees. This shows the need for better financial reporting of trusts nowadays – a point understood in the context of increased reporting, such as Common Reporting Standards, and increasing taxation of trust income and capital gains globally. Other trustees look to us as a result of my background as a chartered accountant and registered auditor, in addition to my trusteeship experience.
What challenges do the new generation of clients present, and how do their needs differ from previous generations?
The biggest challenge is not necessarily the new generation in itself, but rather the marrying of the new generation to the previous generation(s). The new generation has grown up with computers, speed and related disruptive technology. In the trustee world, I have seen several cases of the youngest generation requesting more from the trust fund now than would have been seen previously. This is where a good trustee comes in.
In what ways does Rhone Trustees distinguish itself from competition in the market?
Rhone distinguishes itself by having a large total value under trusteeship in a relatively small number of families. Part of this is driven by our heritage. However, adaptation is constant, and in today’s market we further distinguish ourselves from others by being independently owned by active partners, and by having highly qualified and experienced practitioners around the world that allow us to deal with the large, complex trusts. The last distinguishing factor I would mention is the ability to undertake complex accounting (eg, IFRS) and auditing of trust structures.
How has your role on the audit and risk commission of the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) enhanced your current practice?
I’ve been involved with the IFRC for almost 20 years now in various capacities, and for the past six years on the audit and risk commission. Those 20 years have seen major disasters, such as the 26 December 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean; a move to International Financial Reporting Standards; increased donor reporting demands; and in general a more complex humanitarian landscape. The experiences gained, particularly those years dealing with management and governance while sitting on the audit and risk commission, have certainly better equipped me personally for dealing with families with a philanthropic focus. It is one thing to know the theory of humanitarian matters, and another matter completely to have spent time in the field and seeing and touching where trusts’ charitable donations are put to use.
What are the keys to success as an effective trustee?
In addition to the obvious traits of being a good listener and communicator, and having attention to detail, increasingly the ability to deal with multicultural and multi-jurisdictional families and their issues within the trustee organisation is a major key to success. Members of families move around more nowadays, have multiple citizenships, and (sadly) divorces happen more often than historically. The ability to keep abreast of technical matters, and to have a large network of experts in the relevant locations is key in this regard. Further, the ability to conduct proper accounting of trusts has increased in importance, both to show the reasonableness of stewardship of the trust’s assets, but also with the drive to increased transparency through matters such as the Common Reporting Standard, where accounting values are now transmitted across borders.
How do you anticipate the Swiss market changing in the next five years? How might this affect your practice?
The two major upcoming events that shall have a direct impact on Swiss trustees are the introduction in 2020 of trustee regulation in Switzerland, and the possible/likely introduction of a substantive Swiss trust last law in the next two to five years.
In the case of the first of these changes, it is likely that this shall cause a shake-up within the industry as a result of the increased compliance costs. I think it is safe to assume that there will be a further wave of consolidation and mergers in the Swiss trustee landscape, and perhaps some trustees shall leave the Swiss market completely, particularly some individual trustees. In one sense, this merely accelerates the move to trustees dealing with more complex, larger trust structures in Switzerland. I think those trust companies that are today members of the Swiss Association of Trust Companies (SATC), of which Rhone is a member, will see the least change in their practice, as the conditions of membership already raises the bar today.
I think the second direct impact, the introduction of a Swiss substantive trust law, will over time become a viable alternative to the overseas trust laws that Swiss trustees currently use by application of The Hague Convention of the Law Applicable to Trusts and on their Recognition.
As chair of the Swiss and Liechtenstein STEP Federation, I welcome the introduction of both changes to the Swiss market; the Swiss legal community should also be excited by these developments as their skills and services will be more in demand.