Wealth Briefing Asia - Q&A
This article first appeared in the August edition of Wealth Briefing Asia.
Q. Your firm is described as a leading international law firm advising financial, institutional and business clients around the world on the laws of the Cayman Islands, Ireland and the British Virgin Islands ("BVI"). Is there any intention to broaden the range of jurisdictions on which you provide advice and service?
A. We are always looking at additional markets from which Maples and Calder ("Maples") can offer advice to best serve our clients. It is important that such jurisdictions complement our current offering and also enable us to maintain the high standards on which we pride ourselves. I would expect that in the next few years the Maples offering will be enhanced – but for the moment it is a case of watch this space!
Q. How much demand have you seen for your services in the Asia-Pacific region and what sort of services do people want, and why?
A. There is a great deal of interest in planning for the future – in particular wealth preservation and succession. Clients are becoming increasingly aware of the issues relating to the transition of wealth from one generation to the next. Clients are living longer; litigation and divorce are more prevalent and families are becoming increasingly international.
Outside of the private wealth arena, we are seeing continued growth in our Cayman Islands funds practice and renewed interest in listing Cayman Islands and BVI companies.
Q. What would you say has been the most important recent trend in terms of the kind of advice you have been asked to give?
A. We have seen increased interest from wealthy families as to how they can manage their own affairs with less reliance on banks. This may be done via the use of private trust companies and other family office related structures. Some wealthy families also wish to establish their own investment fund vehicles. In addition our advice frequently has to relate to client families with connections to multiple jurisdictions whether through residence, citizenship, domicile or investment and this can involve discussions with multiple advisors.
Q. How long have Maples been present in the Asia region? (I see you opened in Singapore in 2012 - did you have any kind of presence there before)?
A. Maples opened in Hong Kong in 1995 and in Singapore in 2012. Lawyers from all of the Maples and Calder offices have been travelling around Asia for many years now including to places such as Mongolia in the North and Vietnam in the South. Prior to the opening of the Singapore office in 2012, Maples consistently had lawyers in Singapore every month.
Q. How many people work in the Singapore office? Who leads it and can you name some of the principal individuals there?
A. There are currently four lawyers permanently based in Singapore. I am also a frequent visitor, as Singapore is a key location for trust and private wealth work. James Burch is the Managing Partner in charge of the office and his team is Tom Katsaros, Jess Stock and Catharina von Finckenhagen. The team provides a wealth of experience from a range of jurisdictions, including other offices of Maples.
Q. The British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands have been in the news quite a lot lately, given statements from the G8 and others about tax havens and the like. Do you have any views on these jurisdictions' robustness, ability to adapt to new circumstances?
A. The BVI and the Cayman Islands are safe and secure jurisdictions, consistently ranked as market leaders for their robust compliance regime and regulatory protocols, offering compliance with the FATF Global Standards and an established and strong record of transparency and co-operation with international regulators, such as the OECD and the IMF.
The G8 proposals seek to enforce a transparency which already exists on these shores. As forward thinking and compliant countries, with a mature framework and reputation for vigorous investor protection and transparency features, further responsible regulatory improvements are not expected to have significant impact on the BVI or the Cayman Islands.
Q. How familiar are clients in the Asia region with the kind of jurisdictions that you advise on? Is awareness changing?
A. Clients are very familiar with the Cayman Islands and the British Virgin Islands – I would say more so than any other jurisdictions. Many clients own BVI companies and are also familiar with the use of Cayman Islands vehicles for mutual funds and as listed companies. Ireland is relatively new to Asia but awareness is changing particularly with recent developments in Europe, such as AIFMD.
Q. Do you have any thoughts about the recent change to trusts legislation by the Hong Kong government, as widely reported in the media?
A. Maples does not advise on the laws of Hong Kong but is very keen that Hong Kong continues to be a leading financial centre. Certainly the changes have been welcomed by the industry and once they come into force we shall monitor closely the level of interest in Hong Kong law trusts.