International trust expert Robert Clifford has launched a new method of working for the trust industry which changes the emphasis from administration to trustee decision-making.
Based in Jersey, Mr Clifford, a former solicitor and chief executive of a major multi-jurisdictional trust business, has long been an advocate of a different style of trust management and has designed and launched the first online trust management system. Fidusys Online is the result of two years of software design and discussion with the trust industry in Jersey, Guernsey, London and further afield.
“Working practices and systems for trust companies have developed over time, evolving with business opportunities, legislation and regulation in an ad hoc manner. Bit has been added to bit, with a strong skew toward administration and accounting, thereby affecting coherence and making consideration of the whole picture difficult,” he said.
“After 25 years as a trustee, working with very high net worth clients on complex structures, I didn’t want to work in the same encumbered way again.
“I wanted to be able to sit at any desk or use any device anywhere in the world and to be able to find out immediately everything of any relevance about any structure. I also wanted transparency; to know who had done and was doing what and why.
“Most of all I wanted to be able to take a top down view of any structure and be able to drill right down into any detail I chose rather than to have only a bottom up administration/accounting view where I got lost.”
Most trust businesses keep information in multiple different places; administration systems, spread sheets, emails and attachments in personal inboxes, on different drives, in hard copy files, in take-on or review documents, in archive and even in peoples’ heads. Fidusys Online facilitates the collection, classification, storage, retrieval and dissemination of all recorded knowledge in relation to every trust or other entity managed by a trust business. It brings compliance into the heart of trust management and makes conflicts readily apparent. Most importantly it brings to the fore the real issues trustees should be focused on.
Fidusys Online aims to put managers of trust structures in the driving seat by providing a system and support service which focuses all information on entities under management, with trustee decision-making at the core.
Mr Clifford said: “Good administration is critical but, being a trustee, on high value, complex cases, is about so much more than administration or accounting.
“Being a trustee starts with having all the information to hand to make the right decisions for the right reasons. It continues with active relationships and communication – that’s trust management.
“Trust administration should follow as the implementation of clear, comprehensive and auditable decisions communicated and monitored by management.
If this model is adopted there is no reason, in the longer term, why trust management and trust administration have to be located in the same place or even be part of the same business.
Fidusys Online is built for use online and can be hosted in-house or provided as a service to be accessed securely anywhere in the world on any device. The system comes with a flexible interface that facilitates integration with any trust administration or any other relevant system.
The trustee controls which parts of the system each individual, whether an employee inside the trust business or a director of a private trust company, settlor, beneficiary, adviser or other external stakeholder, can see. This brings new options on many fronts.
Mr Clifford said that trusts were complex vehicles and all trust businesses had their own ways of working, terminology and culture. Fidusys Online is therefore designed to be infinitely flexible and can be configured easily by the user to meet the needs of different jurisdictions, businesses and entities. There is no need to go back to the developer to amend or create templates or to make changes in consequence of new laws or regulations.
“What you, the trustee, design is what you get. The aim here is genuinely to provide the trust sector with a tool that is entirely different from what is already in the market but that can ‘speak’ to existing systems without the clunky bolt-on feel our industry currently has to cope with,” he said.
“I believe there is a better way to manage and administer trusts. We need to get to the heart of what it is to be a good trustee not just a good administrator.
“Immediate information, clear communication, responsibility with accountability, genuine documented understanding, real transparency and relevant reporting are all obligatory if we are to become the best trustees we can be.”
Category: Finance & Business