STEP Caribbean conference

The Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners is known for its active schedule, and this year was no different, kicking off the spring with the 11th STEP Caribbean Conference which took place from 4 to 6 May at the Gran Melia Puerto Rico Resort.

The event featured three days of networking, sharing of ideas and strategies for senior trust professionals.

The planning committee includes nine jurisdictions throughout the Caribbean and South America with STEP Chairpersons from the Bahamas, Cayman, Turks & Caicos, Miami, British Virgin Islands, Barbados, Bermuda, Panama, and Mexico branches. Walkers partner Andrew Miller was part of the conference steering committee and said he was pleased to report the conference was a success despite trying economic times.

“The STEP Caribbean conference is one of the leading international trust conferences and, accordingly, many of the key players in the international trust industry were in attendance. The Cayman Islands were well-represented this year, with approximately 30 from Cayman in attendance, including three speakers,” he said.
With over 30 speakers, the conference provided attendees the opportunity to attend technical and practical break-out sessions.

“Whilst, unsurprisingly, the state of the economy was discussed, the mood was generally positive, especially taking a longer-term view,” said Miller.

The economic meltdown’s impact on the industry merited much attention and the conference kicked off with an update on the latest decisions, followed by a presentation from Peter Larder of the AMS Group and Kerry Harris of Weber Shandwick on dealing with the media when complications arise.

Subsequent presentations on the options available for trust dispute resolution, fraudulent dispositions and a presentation on managing investments in a bad market, along with how to bill clients properly and still keep them happy, were also timely.

Cost-effectiveness was also on the table, with a presentation from Cheryl-Ann Mapp of Compliance and Anti-Money Laundering Solutions on squeezing additional efficiency out of a company’s compliance function. Compliance also featured in a presentation that had BVI regulator Simone Martin of the BVI Financial Services Commission debating the issues that drive compliance and their impact on trusts, trustees and beneficiaries with senior compliance officer Marcus Thompson of Walkers.

Cayman was represented by Miller, who was part on a panel on purpose trusts and their creative uses including the various pitfalls and issues which surround them.

Fellow Walkers partner and Cayman representative Ingrid Pierce discussed current issues and solutions related to commercial trusts.

In addition, Cayman’s Carlos de Serpa Pimentel of Appleby was part of a panel of experts considering a number of issues that arise when one trustee takes over from another.

Some other presentations included Kenneth Morgan of Rawlinson & Hunter and Tim Colclough, Butterfield Bank (Bahamas) who discussed the challenges and opportunities for independent trust companies and bank-owned trust companies in relation to positioning themselves in these difficult times.
Some regionally specific topics included a presentation on how trusts may be used in insurance planning in Latin America, and the challenging and ever changing issues encountered by trust professionals who deal with high net worth Latin American clients.

Another presentation from Jacob Rigg, STEP Worldwide and Lorna Smith of LGS & Associates tracked the impact of likely US legislation on the provision of financial services by Caribbean financial centres.

Understanding what is going on in the online, digital world now being a necessity for today’s trust professional, digital expert Bonin Bough of PepsiCo provided an overview of popular media like Facebook, Twitter, blogging and YouTube.

The conference also featured discussions on the benefits and pitfalls of letters of wishes, along with a look at the trustee’s duty of confidentiality and drafting techniques that should be considered, as well as how to treat trust contributions, while another presentation tackled the role of IFCs in the global economy, and another tackled structures involving PTCs and reserved power trusts.

“The conference concluded with a fascinating talk given by strategic planning, marketing and business strategy specialist Ken Wong on the importance of maintaining advertising expenditures in a challenging economic environment,” said Miller. Wong, an award-winning speaker, educator, researcher and consultant who has written for the Financial Times, the Globe & Mail and Strategy magazine, discussed how firms can not only manage their way through this recession, but also come out stronger than ever before.

“This year numbers were inevitably slightly down, however, it was a very successful conference, certainly with regard to the quality of the speakers and attendees,” said Miller.

“Once again the conference proved to be an excellent forum for members of the international trust industry, from all corners of the globe, to congregate, network and exchange ideas.”