STEP Caribbean Conference a Success
By Doretta Francois
Sandals Grande was the venue for the STEP - Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners - Caribbean Conference 2016 from Monday 25th to Wednesday 27th April.
Natalie Augustin, a lawyer from Financial & Corporate Services Ltd. In Castries, was the 2016 Conference Chair and the success of the event proves that she and the Committee attended to their task with professionalism, enthusiasm and aplomb. Ms. Augustin told the STAR that this is the 18th STEP Caribbean Conference but for the first time in Saint Lucia and also the first time that attendees have been split between hotels - Coco Palm, Bay Gardens Resorts, The Royal, Sandals Grande - given that no one resort could accommodate everyone.
230 delegates attended the conference from the Caribbean, Canada, the USA, South America the U.K., Spain, Switzerland, Singapore and New Zealand. Ms. Augustin was delighted that over 50 of those present were from Saint Lucia, demonstrating strong local support for the Society and its educational aims.
Many visiting delegates arrived last weekend and, to welcome them, a reception was held on Sunday evening at Government House. The building, gardens, views and atmosphere impressed many of the guests who were also delighted to have their photographs taken with Governor General Her Excellency Dame Pearlette Louisy.
The high profile continued on Monday morning at Sandals Grande with opening remarks by the prime minister Dr. Kenny Anthony; Edward Buckland, STEP Worldwide Chair, and Ms. Augustin. Then the fun began. Fun? Yes! Although this was a gathering of financial service providers, lawyers, barristers and accountants, the speakers, who were drawn from the creme de la creme of associated professions and included three eminent QCs, were dynamic, brimming with knowledge, and entertaining.
In the session “You want that held in trust!” we were regaled with examples of some of the more unusual reasons for trusts including making provision for a beloved pet - and its (unknown) future offspring! - and how the concept of cryonics is persuading some wealthy people to make financial arrangements for what they hope will be their future return to life. As we were reminded, no rich person wants to resume life as a pauper!
A fascinating statistic was shared: according to Credit Squeeze data information for 2014 the wealthiest 1% of the world numbered some 47 million people, which sounds high but makes sense when one contrasts it to the billions of inhabitants of planet Earth. More interestingly, to qualify for entry into that top percentile one needed to have wealth of “only” US$800,000 although given average wages in Saint Lucia that number does indeed seem unattainable for the majority of our citizens.
Full marks to the conference organisers for ensuring that lectures were relevant and “of the moment”; there was a deviation from the scheduled programme in order to incorporate a topical and engaging delivery by Kerry Harris on Crisis Management with reference to the recent “Panama Papers” leak. Some of the other sessions delved into regulations and compliance, confidentiality and privacy, Citizenship by Investment, divorce, and the future of the profession.
Ms. Augustin advised that another first for any STEP Caribbean Conference was the incorporation of a debate. Whilst the motion “The trust is dead! Long live the trust!” may not sound riveting to an ordinary member of the public, the proposers and opposers displayed thespian and comedic qualities in their delivery, much to the amusement of the audience. For those interested: the motion was defeated.
Ms. Augustin and the committee ensured that delegates not only worked hard but partied hard too, with a Saint Lucia Showcase Event (i.e. music, dancing and rum cocktails) on Pigeon Island on Monday evening and a cocktail reception on Tuesday.
A comment by Helene Anne Lewis of the BVI who is Vice President of STEP Worldwide summarises the conference: “Great content, great speakers and great fun!”