Private Wealth Partner, Clare Stirzaker was recently invited to partake in a STEP Journal roundtable, sponsored by RBC wealth management.

Clare was joined by chair, Sarajane Kempster, Head of Fiduciary Clients and Fiduciary Specialist Team Lead, RBC Wealth Management; Chris Nutter, Associate Director, Fiduciary Specialist Team, RBC Wealth Management; Julie Kleis TEP, Director, Fiduciary Specialist Team, RBC Wealth Management; Sianne Haldane TEP, Chief Impact Officer, Maanch; Emily Osborne TEP, Partner, Private Wealth and Tax, Stephenson Harwood; and Dhana Sabanathan TEP, Partner, Winckworth Sherwood. The expert roundtable examined how global events are influencing attitudes to wealth & philanthropy and how this is changing the dynamics of global families and in turn, altering the way practitioners advise their clients.

During the roundtable discussion Private Wealth Partner, Clare Stirzaker adds:

‘Everyone has suddenly become very aware of their own mortality. There’s been a shift from clients looking at jurisdictional movement and investment to conversations that are concentrated on estate planning and futureproofing. Recent geopolitical events have certainly focused clients on how well their wealth is protected and structured. There’s also a growing debate around wealth preservation: to what extent should family wealth continue to be accumulated and preserved and to what extent can families use that wealth to give back to society and address the wealth inequality question.’

Stirzaker agreed that many families have looked to restructure their assets for impact investment with an ESG focus and that poses a particular issue for trustees. ‘It can be challenging for them to balance their investment duties to develop a portfolio that both meets the needs of beneficiaries from a morality perspective and provides the required level of investment return without incurring greater investment risks,’ she said. Citing the recent Butler‑Sloss decision,[1] she added: ‘It will be interesting to see how this develops in the private client world because there will be pressure on trustees to look at portfolios not just from the return‑on‑investment perspective but also from the return‑to‑society perspective.’

Stirzaker commented that a growing area of scrutiny focuses on a lack of transparency and accountability around such philanthropy, because of the political control it can hand to wealthy families. ‘The great debate between the role of private philanthropy, and the change it can bring about, and the role of government, taxes and accountability can lead to negative commentary about philanthropy and a philanthropist’s so‑called “real agenda”,’ she warned. However, in a world of fast‑moving social media and connectivity, such families are realising the power of eschewing some privacy to take ownership of the good that their philanthropy can do, she added.

A full write up of the key themes from the discussion can be found in the recent edition of the STEP Journal or in digital copy here. Clare's comments were first published by the STEP Journal on Tuesday 30th August 2022.

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