In the midst of uncertainty families are putting their houses in orderPublished on 12 Jan 2021
Two minutes with Bonnie Steiner, Partner - Family Office
My top priority as trustee is regular dialogue with my families. I always encourage families to invite their adult children to join the meetings. Unless there are special beneficiary needs, families who engage all generations and create an open dialogue, generally identify and manage the risks to family wealth more effectively.
When a business is involved, it can increase complexity. Recent challenges from Covid have prompted families to put contingency plans in place to address succession. A standalone trust will not provide the solution for a family business. A family-wide understanding of their collective purpose, both of the business and of their wealth, supported by the Next Generation should be the starting point.
The Covid pandemic has been a catalyst for positive change. Tax efficiency is no longer the number one priority. Families are expressing more concern around lifestyle and societal issues - the protection of their personal data, political instability and their impact on the environment and the communities in which they operate.
McKinsey & Company reported that the number of families wanting to engage in philanthropy is at an all-time high. This is certainly borne out in our experience; I am currently working with two clients to assist in the formation of charitable trusts and I expect that number to go up.
Lockdown has given families time to ‘put their houses in order’. Although many had trust structures in place, they started to realise they hadn’t discussed them with their children. In the midst of all the uncertainty, many have had to face their mortality. To quote a Chinese proverb, “the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
Bonnie is a Partner in the Family Office Division. She has worked in the Private Client arena for over 21 years, advising families on wealth structuring and estate planning for their personal and business assets. Bonnie is Co-Chairperson of the STEP Lausanne Switzerland branch. She has spoken at a number of STEP events and contributed articles to the STEP journal and the journal of Trusts and Trustees.