STEP Caribbean Con­fer­ence a Suc­cess

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

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!”

Natalie Au­gustin

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