Jersey: The Interview: Steve Meiklejohn

Last Updated: 14 September 2016
Most Read Contributor in Jersey, September 2018

This interview first appeared in BL Global September 2016 and was written by Nick Kirby.

With a stellar reputation in the trusts and private client industry, Steve Meiklejohn, Global Senior Partner at law firm Ogier, has seen dramatic changes to the sector in recent years, and believes that they may have worked in the Channel Islands favour.

Give us your personal career history in 60 seconds

I qualified as an English barrister in 1981. I then came back to Jersey and started as a humble legal assistant at Ogier and Le Cornu in 1983, qualifying as a Jersey advocate in 1985. I became a Partner of that firm in 1988, and I’ve been with it ever since. In terms of my work, I had a typical mixed practice between 1985 and 1996, acting for private clients, corporate clients, doing criminal, matrimonial and general litigation and other work. The world started specialising in the mid-90s, so I began my career as an international trust and private client lawyer around the end of 1996. I headed up our trust advisory group until a few years ago, and although I’ve handed over the reins, I’ve continued to be very much a trust and private client practitioner. The most recent news is that I was elected by my fellow partners to become Ogier’s Global Senior Partner from the beginning of this year, which I was delighted to accept.

So what does your new role entail and will your job change as a result?

The role of senior partner depends on what any given firm expects from it. At Ogier, thankfully for me, it’s not a direct management role. I see it as being a figurehead for the firm both internally and externally. For instance, I will chair the partner meetings that happen through the year, and if there’s an issue that arises between management and partnership then I will be expected to mediate in that regard. Externally I have a role in terms of representing the firm in its relationships both with regulatory bodies, intermediaries in London and elsewhere, and making comment generally on behalf of the firm. The reason I’m pleased about it being a figurehead role is that my responsibility to clients hasn’t changed and I continue to do as much client work as I did last year – acting for clients is where I get the most enjoyment.

How has the private client and trust space changed in the time you’ve worked in it?

In one regard, it hasn’t changed in that it’s all to do with helping high-net-worth families create structures that enable their wealth to be transferred from one generation to another. What is different is the internationalisation of the work. We’re now very aware of the opportunities of the Far East, Middle East, South America and so on, more so than 20 years ago when you were acting for clients from these regions, but weren’t overly aware or necessarily interested in their tax and general regimes. These days you need to be very aware of what is possible for a family from another region, in terms of being able to use an offshore structure – so the level of understanding and awareness of offshore practitioners has to be greater.

The other side is the big difference in regulation. It’s astonishing in many ways when you think back 20 years – we didn't have any anti-money laundering rules per se and therefore you would just take at face value a client or family coming to you from another part of the world wanting to set up a trust in Jersey – and there were no rules impinging on your ability to set up that structure and there were no rules necessarily impinging on that client in the country where he lived.

Now that’s all changed. Starting with the Proceeds of Crime Law being introduced in Jersey in 1999, we’ve had countless further regulatory changes. And from September of next year there’s going to be an obligation for a Channel Island service provider under the Common Reporting Standard to provide a minimum amount of information to the tax authorities of any given client’s home country. So we’re moving into a world where there is almost going to be complete transparency in terms of a client’s personal tax affairs and an exposure to what that clients has established in relation to his personal wealth. So that’s the fundamental difference to practice 20 years ago.

Changes to regulation have seemed particularly relentless in the last few years. How has it felt from the inside?

The pace certainly seems to have quickened since the beginning of the financial crisis as governments have sought ever more desperately to collect additional taxes. In many ways it’s not surprising that there would be a focus on tax evasion and even tax avoidance, but I don’t think this represents a massive threat to the Crown Dependencies, or indeed some of the Overseas Territories that our firm practices in – the main ones, Cayman, BVI, Bermuda – because ever since 1998 when the OECD first started its focus on voluntary disclosure of information, those territories have responded very positively to those initiatives. So while the pace has quickened – with FATCA, CRS, the IGA with the UK, and the EU money laundering directive, for instance – all of these things, in many ways, play to the strength of the ‘CDOTs’ in that we’ve made sure we've introduced a set of rules in this area, whether that's collection of data, regulation of trust companies, which are seen to work and which are enforced.

And what of the way the Channel Islands have been reported in the press lately, being lumped in with the likes of Panama?

The level of bad reporting we’ve seen is rather depressing, particularly coming out of the UK over that period. The reality, as we know, is somewhat different in the quality of business that is done in the islands, the quality of regulation. The good news is that the people who matter – the UK government, the US government to some extent, and the EU – have been made aware of and do understand the standards that are observed in the CDOTs are higher than the standards that are adopted and observed by many of the member countries of the EU and the G20.

So does the success of the Channel Islands depend on demonstrating the quality of the services and products available?

I think you’ve hit the nail on the head there. I genuinely think it’s the quality of service, quality of the jurisdiction and its practitioners that are the key things. If you look across most offshore jurisdictions, we’ve all made tweaks, enhancements, improvements to our various pieces of legislation be it trusts, companies, limited partnerships, the introduction of foundations and so on – these are the products, so to speak. Most of the offshore jurisdictions are already offering the same things. Yes, there are elements that might be attractive to one client rather than another, but essentially they are the same.

So if a family is looking to set up a structure, they have a whole world of options available. In most cases the Crown Dependencies will be the jurisdictions of choice when UK intermediaries are looking to place a client, and there’s a reason for that. In our field, in Jersey alone, you've probably got five or six leading law firms, most of the main accountancy firms are here, there’s a good range of banks, we have investment managers on the island as well and we have a very well-regarded court system, with judges of the highest calibre. It seems to me that those continue to be very important factors when we offer our services to the families.

How important is a global footprint to a firm such as yours?

I think as a partner it’s important, because as a group of Jersey partners it enabled us to hedge our risks by diversifying jurisdictions. But also looking at it regards what we could offer a client – if we were able to sell ourselves as global offshore lawyers, we were able to come across as much more well-balanced advisers who weren’t simply pitching for the island we were in. We could place a client in whichever offshore location we though was best for that client.

And obviously since then we’ve recognised that it would be sensible if we were in jurisdictions that weren’t purely offshore – so hence Ogier’s move into Luxembourg and to China and Hong Kong, in addition to the offshore locations we’re in. I certainly think that's why the bigger firms globalise.

Some firms are globalising through M&As, and there has been a lot of activity in the trust and private client space. What’s your take on that?

I look at it from the outside in and I think it's good for the offshore world – certainly a lot of it has emanated from Jersey because a lot of acquisitive businesses have been headquartered here. I say it’s good because it demonstrates huge confidence on the part of the investors in the administration model and also in the offshore model.

That doesn’t mean that there aren’t concerns about the level of activity. You talk to employees within these businesses and some express nervousness. Does this mean there will be some rationalisation of business, that there will be redundancies? People quite rightly are afraid of that. And also people worry that client service might be affected because the private equity model, in particular, would suggest a further sale of a business within three to five years. Does that represent a threat to the quality of service that might be offered to the client?

But it does seem to me that when you have serious investors coming in from private equity firms, that there is a real desire to further professionalise the offering of trust companies, to drive up corporate governance standards, to drive up service levels and again that’s got to be good for offshore generally. So overall, I’m encouraged by recent activity.

What we’re also seeing, that is perhaps less well heralded, is that there are senior teams coming out of those larger firms who are setting up their own, smaller operations, so clients continue to have choice. It’s not just the case that we are ending up with mega-trust companies, we are seeing smaller firms having established themselves who have very good reputations with intermediaries in the UK, offering real choice to clients in terms of the size of firms a client might want to go to.

Also you have some of the smaller firms coming together – so you have somewhere with five or six members of staff joining together with two other firms of a similar size. Suddenly you have a firm that has a bit more substance with 20 members of staff. They’re able to present a much more professional image in order to compete with the big boys.

If you had supreme power, what changes would you make to the trust and private client industry in the Channel Islands?

I actually think that things are working pretty well in the Crown Dependencies. There have been changes already – in Jersey we’ve just concluded the consultation in relation to potentially the seventh change to trust law, and I firmly expect that a draft law will be presented to our States by the end of the year. And I think the government has definitely upped its game in the last three years in responding to requests from industry to introduce a new product or service or to make a change to one of our main laws to make us more attractive. The only thing that really stands out is that we had a new charities law a few years ago. That hasn’t been fully introduced, there have been cost constraints that have prevented government from fully bringing that in. That could have benefits in that we could present the island as a centre for expertise in the charitable and philanthropic sector. I’d give the government a kick on that one I suppose. But other than that I think we’re in good shape.

How do you feel Brexit is going to impact private client business in the Channel Islands?

Overall, I’m not expecting Brexit to have any significant impact on private client work in the CDOTs. If anything, Brexit could have a knock-on benefit. One question being asked is whether the UK government is going to be so focused on Brexit changes that it’s going to have to put back the non-doms changes that are planned for next April. My feeling is they will probably push on with the changes – so in the short term I think offshore businesses are likely to have more work as clients are advised to make changes to their structures.

In conclusion, how do you see the next 24 months in the private client and trust space in the islands playing out?

While there have been huge regulatory changes in the last 20 years, the nature of the work we do has remained the same. I think that will continue to be the case. With wealth generally increasing around the world, I think that the need for the private client industry will always be there. I feel confident that we’ve got a very good future, and I think there are opportunities. You’ve got wealth to be made in the fintech area, and the digital sector is growing. These are going to throw up opportunities in the private client world, in that there will be people making money in the fintech and digital arena who will need their wealth structuring. And as the world becomes more digital and technology driven, the way we deliver our services will change and that applies across all financial services not just the private client sector. But I’m optimistic that we are well placed to deal with whatever comes our way.

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.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions