Suntera Expects More Industry Consolidation - An interview by WealthBriefing

27th September 2022

WealthBriefing interviewed our Managing Director of the Channel Islands, Dan Bisson. Read the interview below to learn more about Dan's views on the trusts, fiduciary and corporate services space in The Channel Islands and about our recent acquisitions.

The trusts, fiduciary and corporate services space in the Channel Islands will keep consolidating, while the sector becomes ever more international in its reach, a senior figure at Suntera Global has told this news service. Suntera, which provides private wealth, fund and corporate services globally, has its head office in Jersey.

Suntera Global earlier this year acquired the Channel Island Nedgroup Trust Limited.

“There has been a lot of consolidation within the trust industry in Jersey and that is inevitable given ever increasing compliance regulations and taxation. The cost of working has increased,” Dan Bisson, managing director, Channel Islands, Suntera, told WealthBriefing.

Bisson is among a number of senior figures this news service has interviewed in Jersey and Guernsey as we seek to assess what trends are unfolding. Common themes are talent shortages, increased business flows from the US, the Middle East and Asia, alongside a need to stress the islands' benefits as conduits for funds for those seeking new routes because of Brexit. (See here, here and here.)

The business is focused on integrating recent acquisitions, which included NeoTrust in Luxembourg and Reference Financial Services – also in Luxembourg, which is due to complete imminently – Socium Fund Services in the US and Nedgroup Trust in the Channel Islands, as previously mentioned.

“There has not been so much of this consolidation in Guernsey yet," he said "although I expect this will happen soon.”

Rising regulatory costs and client expectations, as well as a desire by banks to offload often complex businesses, are reasons for some of the consolidation. A few days ago, for example, Credit Suisse agreed to sell its trust business to Butterfield and Gasser Partner. (In Butterfield’s case, it bought the trust and company administration businesses of the Guernsey-based Legis Group in 2014.)

Suntera is certainly geographically dispersed. It operates from the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Guernsey, Hong Kong, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Luxembourg, Malta, Switzerland and the US.

Such a footprint must have appeared fortunate when the pandemic brought business aviation to a juddering halt in early 2020. Bisson said that in his experience, lawyers, trust specialists and other sectors are keen to return to in-person meetings.

There have been many London-based professionals visiting Guernsey in recent months requesting in-person meetings. The pandemic meant that a lot of firms turned inwards to focus on existing clients rather than finding new ones. Financial businesses are now working hard to expand their existing relationships, he said.

Business development at Suntera Global has had to be more targeted and concentrated, with the pandemic accelerating this trend. “Gone are the days when a business development person visited 193 countries one after the other to client prospect!” Bisson quipped.

Talk of travel raised the topic of links with specific countries. For example, there are strong connections between Guernsey and South African entrepreneurs, banks and other parties. What’s the driving force?

“By evolution there has been a concentration of South African client assets in Guernsey and, to a lesser extent, Jersey. This can be put down historically to a number of large South African-facing businesses being based in Guernsey and a strong reputation for service, quality and ease of doing business developing from there,” Bisson said.

What clients want
Among other trends, Bisson noted how their younger clients are more focused on broader social issues. They want to work with organisations which not only work responsibly with their clients but extend that support to the environment and their communities as well.

Technology is increasingly present; clients might ask, for example, how to structure a digital wallet?

“You need to strongly invest in people and a strong digital infrastructure as well given the ever-evolving digitisation and increasing global reach of business.”

Getting tight
Echoing the views of other people this news service has spoken to in Jersey and Guernsey, Bisson remarked on the difficulties firms have in finding quality staff in the numbers they need.

“The labour market has become more challenging as industry demand has increased for specialist employees,” Bisson said.

He said that Suntera wants to grow at a “sustainable and responsible” rate. This means that there must be a comprehensive and thorough integration programme and it cannot buy businesses without considering every element such cultural fits, complexities, different IT systems, etc.

*This article was featured in WealthBriefing. To view the article, click here.