Case Study: Cross-border collaboration

An ultra-high net worth family with multiple structures requiring cross-border collaboration provides an insight into the strength and coordination of our multi-jurisdictional family office teams.

We were approached by the members of a multi-billion-dollar, multi-structure family office, who were looking for a new trust service provider.

Our Client Director met with the family office several times and identified that they were looking to Cayman as their jurisdiction of choice. Following a detailed analysis of the family’s situation, objectives, and culture, we identified where we would be able to add value to their family office.

A family office can, and should, have the freedom to choose any appropriate jurisdiction for their wealth structure(s). It is our role as a trustee to understand, and advise on, the benefits of a particular jurisdiction, considering the individual needs of each client, structure and asset class.

This case study explores how we were able to meet the needs of this large and complex family office through cross-border collaboration between the teams in each of our jurisdictions.

Alternative structures

A traditional trust structure is not always the most appropriate, or preferred, vehicle of choice for a client’s assets. We have extensive experience in establishing and administering a wide range of alternative structures, which proved invaluable for this client.

In this case, although the primary beneficiaries of the existing structures consisted of just three family members, there were around 15 wider beneficiaries. The primary beneficiaries were seeking bespoke structuring solutions to better future-proof their assets.

With a complete understanding of the client’s objectives, our Client Director suggested that a Private Trust Company would be the best structure to enable the family to achieve their goals.

Private Trust Company

A Private Trust Company (PTC) is a company incorporated for the sole purpose of acting as trustee for a trust – or multiple trusts – for a single family.

A PTC allows family members – or their trusted advisers – to be actively involved in the administration of the trust(s) as co-trustees. This can be particularly beneficial for succession planning, allowing for the gradual involvement of the next generations of a family in the wealth structures.

In this case, the family office had a sophisticated understanding of working in partnership with industry professionals and had spent years cultivating a network of highly respected and experienced specialists.  Respecting their experience and knowledge, we were keen to integrate and work seamlessly with the family’s existing teams of advisors.

Further, the Chief Operating Officer of the family office was a former trust professional, with a specific vision of how the structure should look. For this reason, a PTC was an appropriate option to allow family members to retain a degree of control over their assets.

Knowing that Cayman had been identified as the jurisdiction of choice, we set about establishing PTCs with the central management and control of the structure sitting with our Cayman team. As the family had a good rapport with the Client Director in Zurich, we suggested that he remain the main point of contact for them.

After exploring the most appropriate solutions, A PTC was established for each family member, held by three purpose trusts, of which Saffery acted as trustee.

The PTCs were established with a board of four members, comprising of two corporate directors – one of which is the standard Cayman corporate director and one which was set up specifically for this client – the Chief Operating Officer of the family office and one of our Cayman Directors.

The establishment of these structures required significant planning, expertise and efficiency. After giving full consideration to tax and regulatory requirements, we worked collaboratively to meet the family’s time frame.

Cross-border collaboration

A key consideration when onboarding any client, is ensuring a team has sufficient capacity to meet the clients’ needs. In this case, onboarding this client required:

  • Establishing and administering three trust structures.
  • Establishing and administering four underlying Cayman companies, including the transfer from existing Bahamian companies.
  • Coordinating the signature of around 90 documents on the same day to complete the transfer. These documents had signatories from all Saffery jurisdictions and had to be coordinated with the Family Office, clients and two other service providers.
  • Taking on the trusteeship of multi-billion-dollar trust funds.

This was a large and complex task with many moving parts, which needed us to coordinate effectively across our Swiss and Cayman teams.

In demonstrating our cross-border capabilities, the client requested that we also take on the directorship of a Guernsey company. This saw the team from our Guernsey office, join the collaborative efforts in servicing this client.

While this family office required the input of teams across Switzerland, Guernsey and the Cayman Islands, we kept a centralised point of contact for the contact in Zurich, who engaged with the wider teams on their behalf.

Understanding our client

Clients with substantial wealth often have several service providers, with their assets distributed across multiple jurisdictions.

A good trustee will invest time and energy in getting to know each family member to develop a comprehensive understanding of the individual and collective needs within any family. The process is continual as objectives and outlooks change.

By working in partnership with the Family Office, we created a bespoke package to support them in meeting their objectives.

Building trust

For this client, a key moment in building their trust and confidence in our service, was how we coordinated the signing day for their structures. This showcased our ability to undertake complex work within a tight timeframe.

As a long-established, “tier one” firm, we had the resources, experience, and ability to cater to this large family office. By offering cross-border, multi-jurisdictional services, we evidenced that we were perfectly positioned to execute a complex process within a short time frame to meet their objectives.

Earning the trust of our clients starts from day one and continues for the entirety of the relationship.

To appoint a trustee is to legally relinquish legal ownership of their wealth, assets and, in some cases, the shares of their business. We appreciate that this is a big step for any client and relies on a high level of trust in the service provider. We build trust through acting with emotional intelligence – alongside technical expertise. By consistently exceeding expectations, we show individuals and families that there is much to be gained by appointing the right trustee.