Introducing Equiom Private Office

Monday 23 April 2018

By Richard Tribe, Head of Business Development - Europe and Head of Private Office and Nina Johnston, Client Services Director.


International professional service provider Equiom has been serving multi-generational families and corporations for decades. With the recent launch of Equiom Private Office, it aims to meet the individual needs of ultra high-net-worth individuals (UHNWIs), wealthy families and international businesses better than ever. We talked to Client Services Director Nina Johnston and Head of Private Office Richard Tribe about their experiences with these discerning audiences.

How has the UHNW market changed over the past decade?

Richard: 'Since the financial crisis in 2008 I feel there has been a real flight to quality for clients seeking advice and assistance from professional services providers, and this applies both to the jurisdiction of the firm and the firm itself. Private clients want the reassurance they are dealing with an experienced and trustworthy individual who operates from a well-regulated and co-operative jurisdiction, and with whom they can look to develop a long-standing working relationship and work towards that ‘trusted advisor’ status. As wealthy families continue to see family members disperse throughout the world – whether for education purposes, work opportunities, or just lifestyle choices – they want to work with an advisor firm which has an international reach, and can continue to work with and support the family wherever they may be located. Similarly, most corporate clients have an ever-expanding international marketplace and continue to seek opportunities for new markets around the world, so having a firm that can assist them internationally is an attractive option for them, especially where there can be one main point of contact within that firm that can coordinate matters. It is this desire for a trusted professional adviser that I believe has come back to the forefront of importance for our clients.'

Nina: 'The traditional model of investing in a conservative stock portfolio is rarely seen as the norm these days. Developments in technology over the years have opened doors to more sophisticated cross-border investment opportunities, and it is not uncommon to find that UHNWs hold a diverse range of assets, comprising, for example, real estate (both long-term investment and development projects globally), interests in start-up or well-established trading entities, artwork and antiquities, and digital currencies. UHNWs want to stay current with the latest trends and initiatives and generally follow what their peers are doing as they don’t like to miss opportunities.'

Which services/structures have become more popular as a result of the changing market?

Richard: 'In respect of offshore structures, the ever-changing tax laws internationally mean that you have to be flexible with your solutions and incorporate the very best tax and legal advice to ensure the solution meets the needs of the client, but is also fit for purposes. For trusts nowadays there are no, or very limited, tax advantages, but the fundamental purposes of asset protection, succession planning and confidentiality are still extremely important and are now seen as the main driver for such wealth planning. In markets such as the Middle East and Asia we have seen much higher interest in private trust companies (PTCs) over the last 12-18 months, as clients can retain a certain amount of control over their assets while still achieving the aforementioned objectives.'

Nina: 'Our offering has evolved by becoming more global. Continual growth across multiple jurisdictions means that we are not only able to serve new markets, but can expand our offering to current clients. For example, the addition of our offices in Inverness and Tokyo have enabled us to offer new types of business services such as payroll and accounting, which clients can utilise in relation to their various business interests. Through Links Group in the Middle East we can also help clients to obtain their trading licences in the region, spanning a variety of industries.'

What is Equiom Private Office?

Richard: 'As the needs of UHNWIs have changed, so have the services we offer. Catering to more discerning clients with complex requirements and wealth interests all over the world, we have to be quick to develop a sharper focus on each individual’s needs. We realised that for families, individuals and corporates, every circumstance is unique and each situation requires the attention of a bespoke and expert service team. Equiom Private Office addresses this need with a team of specialists across each of our European offices and a further network of global professional contacts spanning the US, Middle East and Asia. It is a truly global solution that allows us to offer all our core and specialist services with the highest level of professionalism and personal service.'

Nina: 'It’s about providing the most experienced people to deal with the particular case at hand. We understand that UHNWIs want to concentrate on developing their business, not dealing with what they may view as administration matters so they come to us to take on the management function. They want to know that their assets are being managed and demand full confidence in their advisers – we have the commercial experience, knowledge and capability to fulfil those requirements. With offices in many of the world’s major global financial centres, we can cater to those individuals and companies that have an international interest.'

What services do you offer to corporate clients?

Nina: 'We have a diverse range of corporate clients holding assets such as real estate, yachts or business jets, and stock portfolios. An important area of business for us is to support international companies with a global employee base in managing their retirement benefits. Some of these corporations have thousands of employees with hundreds of different nationalities, so the additional work of dealing with pension regulations and tax regimes in those countries becomes a large-scale process. By setting up a structure in the Isle of Man, our clients can rest assured that the assets within the scheme are being managed professionally, in a well-regulated jurisdiction, and the complexities of multi-jurisdictional pensions administration are therefore simplified by centralising the administration in a tax-efficient manner.'

And finally, what are the challenges within the UHNW market?

Richard: 'For any type of service, the UHNW market is difficult to reach. Most of our clients come to us through personal contacts or our strong network of intermediaries. The family office space is very competitive, with each provider fighting for its market share. What’s great about our offering is that it is not a traditional family office service – with the Equiom Private Office we have the freedom to decide which experts are best for each individual situation, based on their experience and where they are located globally.

The good news is that there is a lot of growth predicted in the global UHNW market. For professional service providers like Equiom, this signifies a greater need for more structuring with an increasingly global reach. I look forward to what the future holds for UHNWIs and exploring all the ways Equiom Private Office can support them.'

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Learn more about Equiom Private Office