Steve Le Seelleur, Managing Director of Equiom Jersey, sat down with Connect Magazine to share valuable perspectives regarding his professional journey and the company's commitment to maintaining a delicate equilibrium between global reach and adaptable solutions tailored to meet the ever-evolving needs of clients.
Leaving school at 16 with ‘a handful of O-levels’ is not the typical career path of a senior executive at a major financial services firm these days. However, Steve Le Seelleur’s journey from banking cashier to Managing Director has brought with it a wealth of experiences.
“School wasn’t for me,” Steve said. "I left with a handful of O-Levels and went straight to work as a cashier, studying for a degree further down the line. It was a great early experience as it taught me about the importance of customer service from the very start of my career.”
Steve’s ‘clients’ may now be vast corporate institutions and some of the world’s wealthiest families; however, the principles of exceptional customer service are the same.
“You can only look after your clients properly if you know what their needs are, not just when you start working with them, but all the time. Clients’ requirements change. At Equiom we have an in-depth client care programme and regularly meet our clients and speak to them directly, wherever they are based.”
When Steve joined Equiom Jersey in 2019 after 23 years with a private bank, his remit was to grow the business, expanding its corporate and private wealth services in the island.
“We are known for our private wealth and corporate client services and have made key strategic hires in these areas, such as our new CEO Jon Jennings, and Claire Le Brocq who works closely with Jon, to ensure we have the expertise and focus that our clients rightly deserve. Our focus is on strategic growth in our core markets, elevating customer service excellence and nurturing employee growth.”
The Jersey office now has nearly 60 employees, part of a group which includes over 500 colleagues in 13 jurisdictions, with assets in excess of £150 billion under administration. Founded over 45 years ago in the Isle of Man, Equiom is now headquartered in Jersey. The Jersey business is divided into Trust, Corporate and Crewing services, along with support personnel for wider activities across the group.
“We offer clients a wide range of professional fiduciary services, drawing on expertise from around the group. Our client base includes international families based in the Middle East, Asia, and the UK in addition to our international corporate client base. A lot of wealth has been generated out of China and Asia in recent years and these clients are looking to provide for the next generation, planning what will happen to their businesses and private wealth. We have also seen growth in the UAE over the past few years and in Saudi Arabia, where there is significant wealth passing to the next generation.”
Equiom Group has a broad market leading footprint across the Middle East for many years. From the Dubai office, Equiom provides the master trustee for the Dubai International Finance Centre Workplace Savings plan (DEWS) which has over 40,000 employees across 17,000 participating employers in the DIFC and Dubai Government. This month Equiom is sponsoring PCD (Private Client Dining Club) Dubai, a professional networking event for intermediary partners such as legal and tax advisors, investment managers, and accountants.
“Trusts are solutions, rather than products and our role is to support our clients and their families. Once a client has placed assets into a trust the trustees manage the assets, acting in the interests of the beneficiaries. Sometimes this can be challenging if there are family disputes, however we must remain impartial, helping families negotiate through the difficulties.”
While many of Equiom’s services such as tax, accountancy, or administration, are similar for private and corporate clients, for corporates - of the FTSE 100 scale - the Group also provides governance, risk and compliance services, and a full suite of company secretarial services such as preparation of minutes and returns.
“The level of service and the way we look after private or corporate clients is the same. We aim to build long term relationships with all our clients so we can understand their business needs, offer solutions, and be a partner they can rely upon and trust. This is particularly important for private clients who have worked all their lives to build their wealth and are effectively giving away their assets to a trustee in a different jurisdiction. Reserved Power Trusts allowing the settlor of the trust to retain some degree of control, typically the management of the trust assets, are a useful solution we are able to offer.”
Building scale is part of Equiom’s growth plan, however, Steve is mindful of the business retaining ‘the goldilocks factor’ – a balance between being big enough to have a global spread of expertise and services and being flexible enough to stay nimble and tailor those services for clients in a truly client centric and solution focused manner.
“The global reach of Equiom ensures the Jersey business can provide corporate and private wealth clients with a broad range of services in whichever locations they need them while remaining true to our foundation of success, which is to at all times provide that traditional ‘boutique’ bespoke service. Client needs can change – the pandemic made this very clear. The lockdowns affected everyone’s priorities, in many cases forcing clients to focus on how they spend the time they have left, encouraging succession plans. Equally the ever-increasing landscape of regulation and legislation presents a minefield for corporate clients which we can also assist with in the most complimentary and efficient way.”
Trusts may be vehicles for stability, protecting assets for the long term, however, investments are not immune to wider trends.
“ESG has become a key consideration for clients over the years. More clients are keen to ensure that their investments meet a high standard of ESG criteria and the increased focus on climate events mean investments continue to step away from fossil fuels towards renewable energy.”
Steve starts his days early. He’s up at 5am to read reports and have quiet time before checking emails and heading into the office - where the door is always open for the team. Evenings end with a 45-minute run.
“We have a brilliant team, and my role is to listen to them. We want everyone to contribute, and we have regular lunchtime forums where everyone can speak up and offer ideas. We are part of the community and support numerous charities, with employees nominating the causes we contribute to each year. As a business we want the best for clients, colleagues and the community and have held the Jersey Good Business Charter since 2019. This was a great recognition of how we operate.”
The boardroom at Equiom’s One Esplanade office affords a shimmering view of the marina and out into the ocean. It seems like a long way up from the bustle of workers and tourists, shoppers, and traffic, three floors below. Yet, this juxtaposition of blue sky and sea, in the heart of a town, is not unlike the relationship between a local business, and a global organisation, a small island with international clients.
“My biggest source of inspiration is seeing the feedback we get from our clients about the service we are delivering and seeing how dedicated our teams are to helping clients and guiding them through their challenges. It’s all about solutions. Solutions for our people and our clients. That’s what we are here for.”