Saffery Champness Guernsey works in partnership with a number of family offices by providing resource, administration, management and strategic and operational expertise in Guernsey with family offices based elsewhere, typically London. For example, we work with a substantial Middle Eastern client with a dedicated family office located in London, with custody and banking arrangements primarily in Guernsey and Switzerland.
Saffery Champness works in partnership with the family office, which deals with the entire affairs of the principal, to provide strategic input and administrative support. All the client's global investment assets are managed by Saffery Champness and held within a trust structure – comprising commercial and residential property, hotels, hedge funds, private equity, fixed interest investments and various businesses.
The client and its advisers chose Guernsey due to the jurisdiction's proximity to the UK, its established legal precedents, robust court system in dealing with Guernsey and foreign law trusts, infrastructure and experienced staff. The long-term working relationship with Saffery Champness director Lisa Vizia and her team also played a key role in remaining in Guernsey. Low staff turnover, longevity and expertise of staff have contributed to Saffery Champness' reputation with family offices.
Many of the local law firms have qualified lawyers from other jurisdictions who provide in-depth knowledge and expertise in multi-jurisdictional matters. Also, other international firms with local offices assist in the audit of the structure. The family office in London focuses on the delivery of the personal needs of the client and his family and predominantly on the investment strategy, asset allocation, as well as research. Saffery Champness' role is to ensure that everything runs smoothly and is proactively managed utilising the team's expertise, as well as providing an administration, reporting and accounting resource for the family office. The client's structure has 55 entities in 15 jurisdictions for which Saffery Champness provides directors who actively manage and administer the underlying assets.
Saffery Champness has used Guernsey companies within the structure to own various assets in the UK and elsewhere, and the firm also act as director to and administers various non-Guernsey entities. Guernsey's investment funds sector is particularly relevant. A private unit trust was utilised to own UK commercial property and fund structuring has been used for hedge fund and private equity investments.
"We are a trustee so we are one of the parties around the table. It's not just about processing. We add value by offering strategic input to the overall position of the client. We are thought-led and proactive," Miss Vizia said.
Lisa Vizia is in London regularly so she can be at the family office or meeting with advisers and physically have a seat around the table. The family office representatives visit Guernsey where all the management decisions are made. The key benefit the relationship of these visits is the opportunity to see the service provider in situ and meet the wider team together with local legal advisers and auditors.
Lisa Vizia heads up Saffery's dedicated Family Office Team in Guernsey, which manages offshore structures for ultra-high net worth families, with a particular focus on the Middle East. She is also responsible for business development for the firm's fiduciary business
An original version of this article was published in Familia, Issue 3, February 2015.
For more information about Guernsey's finance industry please visit www.guernseyfinance.com.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.