Dear Members, 

 

Lots have happened since my last message but what comes fresh to mind is my trip to the Hong Kong STEP Asia conference, which event happened right smack in the midst of the Hong Kong street protests. I had some scheduled meetings but not all attending made those meetings-quite understandably as taxis in Hong Kong were not able to make the usual routes because of road blocks. Thankfully, the conference went smoothly with all delegates thoroughly enjoying the STEP offering and certainly the great Hong Kong food during our stay there! I’ve just had a STEP Branch committee meeting and we’re all hyped up to do an even better STEP Asia conference in Singapore in 2015. 

Another thing which I discovered was that business calls on you when you travel and when you least expect it, like in the middle of a seminar! So you don’t have to be in the office all day- tell that to your bosses. I was happily interrupted in Hong Kong with new business prospects, one of which was to on-board real estate into a new trust. Concerns with issues of punitive stamp duties payable for real estate settled into trusts were dealt with satisfactorily.

Coming round the corner is the STEP Global Conference in Miami (6th -7th Nov). My offer still stands that if I see any of you at this event, I’ll buy you a drink. To make up for the long haul trip there, I await gleefully for any new business coming my way while travelling. Talk to you soon.

 

Lee Chiwi 

Chairperson, STEP (Singapore Branch), 2014-2015

Dear Members, 

Its been a hectic month with various matters juggling on my plate. At work, there were new things that were being looked into and implemented such as amending company’s materials and documents and informing clients about PDPA policies and also the registration for a GINN for FATCA purposes. I’m sure your own organizations were also similarly engaged in these aspects too. I also had the “experience” for the first time when I recently appeared as witness in a case (some 3 hours) where we were suing on behalf of an estate for a medical negligence claim. It’s a reminder of the times when as a young lawyer, I was the one doing the cross-examination but now, its the other way round. On STEP, with my recent STEP S’pore Branch chairperson appointment, I’m glad we managed to get off on a good start with the seminar on international and cross border succession on 31st July. On the same day, it was the graduation ceremony of those who completed the 2014 STEP Cert in Estate Planning and Trusts for Financial Services. Heartiest congratulations to those graduates! Quite soon on the STEP horizon, there will be two major conferences: The Asia-Pacific Conference in Hong Kong in Oct (8th -9th) and the Global Conference in Miami (6th -7th Nov). Hope to see you in either of these events and I’ll buy drinks for the Singapore contingent if you’re there! Finally, I do a few estate planning and trusts talks now and then. I now tell the audiences that lately there has been a jump in our wills business- no wonder, with aircraft disasters happening one after another, this is something very fresh in everybody’s minds. With the frequency of travel these days, when clients are about to travel out of the country, they are more than anxious to get their wills executed. At a recent meeting, I was with some advisers figuring out the complexities relating to the deaths of a foreign couple, based in Singapore and who unfortunately died in the recent MH17 tragedy. Remind clients that life is fragile. 

Lee Chiwi

Chairperson, STEP (Singapore Branch), 2014-2015

(Outgoing Chairman Message)

Dear Members, 

The three years as Chair passed very quickly! When I first took up the challenge, I was asked if I was “serious” and if I had the time. I recalled stating that STEP Singapore Branch needs a Singaporean representation and as for time, I have lunch time to spare.

As I look back at the past three years, three things came to my mind. Firstly, the great network and resource STEP has as a global organization. The Branch could access to subject matters expert from the region and from afar to bring interesting topics to our seminars and bi-annual conference. In the midst of learning, Members networking is also important to bring the Branch to life. The STEP Asia Conference 2013 was memorable as it was the first time the topics shifted to Asian region topics. It was well attended and received positive feedback.

Secondly, the importance of STEP Singapore to stay connected with regulators here. The regulatory environment is changing rapidly. As professionals in the trust industry, I feel that STEP Singapore has a role to play to be the voice to represent Members to provide feedback on issues that would affect their professional life. Members who are from trust companies, law firms, accountants and assets management firms, have their perspectives on issues and need to be represented.

Thirdly, I learnt that things could be made simple if we apply ourselves accordingly. Here, I am talking about the folks in the Committee whom I have the privilege of working along during my tenure. It was great to have their candor at Committee meetings. It helped to make meetings efficient so that we could have a proper lunch and could complete the meetings in good time to return to our day jobs. The generosity of the Committee members’ time and effort made my lunch time job rewarding and I dare say, fun.

In summary, it has been a great privilege and pleasure to serve as Chair to STEP Singapore. It was a journey for me to learn professionally and personally and make new acquaintances and friends in the process.

Passing the baton to Chiwi and wishing him well for his term of office and that he enjoys his journey.

Goh Seow Chee

Chairperson, STEP (Singapore Branch), 2011-2014

Dear Members, 

I trust you are galloping well into the Year of the Wood Horse with high spirit. This year promises to be a year of prosperity and good luck. 

We started 2014 with a lunch talk on automatic exchange of information, a new frontier to exchange of information. Automatic exchange of information was initiated by the G20 to facilitate international tax co-operation and level the playing field. This month, OECD published its brief on global standards to automatic exchange of information. It is modelled closely on the US FATCA agreement but it is not citizenship-centric. As advisors, we need to stay ahead of the game. We need to educate our clients on the new rules to the game. 

The Business Families Special Interest Group ("SIG") subcommittee was formed last September. This subcommittee has made progress in discussing and sharing knowledge on subject matters around business families. This subcommittee will be presenting a seminar series surrounding governance issues of families, challenges and pitfalls of structures and so on. There will be two lunch seminars in the coming months, stay tuned to this space.

In May, we will be organising a one-day symposium with the SMU (Singapore Management University). At this symposium, we will be examining issues that are pertinent to the Singapore environment. We will be covering topics on law and practice, mental capacity and using case studies to dissect legal and fiduciary issues. We will be sending out the flyer very soon.

With the world changing quickly, we strive to bring to you relevant talks by tapping into the resources in the STEP global network. We will be very happy to receive your suggestions as well if you feel there is any area of interest that we have not covered. We look forward to hearing from you.

Goh Seow Chee 

Chairperson, STEP (Singapore Branch), 2011-2014

(Incoming Chairman Message)

Dear Members,

May I first thank those Members for making time to attend our AGM last week. I’m conscious of the duties and tasks ahead as the incoming chair of the Singapore branch. At the same time there is also much enthusiasm as I look ahead to the coming year.

I must first thank Seow Chee for her service as Chairman over the last three years. It’s been a pleasure to support Seow Chee in the committee. With her continuing in the role as vice chair, many of the initiatives and good works will remain. I should also like to acknowledge other predecessor chairpersons, namely Bill Lexmond and Angelo Venardos whom I had the privilege of working under previously in the earlier years.

Looking ahead to my own year of Office as Chairman, I hope to engage with fellow members and see how they could contribute and participate in various initiatives. There are sub-committees like the editorial sub-committee and opportunities to assist in organizing committees for our conferences e.g. the prestigious Asia-Pacific STEP conference which will be held in 2015. This particular conference attracts a world-wide audience and we want to continue to build on its success to put Singapore on the map. I hope to steer the STEP Singapore Branch and our members as the industry experts in trusts, fiduciary and estate planning services. 

To be recognized as such, we need to inculcate relationships with other professionals from the legal, tax, accounting, banking, investment and financial industries. Accordingly, I hope to roll out high quality STEP seminars and workshops that are of interest and relevance to members and to such professionals.

Our industry continues to face increasing standards of compliance and other regulatory changes. Hence, we need to raise awareness of best practices in many new unchartered areas and we will work to make STEP Singapore branch remain a point of contact for dialogue and a communication channel to regulators and other agencies. 

Finally, I would like to thank, in advance the several committee members who have “stepped” forward to serve with me on this committee. From all of us, we look forward to all members’ support in our forthcoming activities and events.

Lee Chiwi

Chairperson, STEP (Singapore Branch), 2014-2015

Dear Members, 

It has been an eventful 2013 for STEP (Singapore).

The STEP Asia Conference held on the 13 and 14 November closed on a high note. We received positive feedback from delegates with regards to the conference content. It was also a great opportunity to network with professionals from around the world. Many particularly enjoyed the regional content of the conference and found it refreshing. We welcome feedback so that we can make the next conference better.

At the Branch Committee, we have two of committee members leaving the Branch. Alexis Medina, our Treasurer, is returning back home to Panama while Mark Smallwood has relocated to Hong Kong. They had served the Branch very well with their dedication and diligence. They have been valued members on the Committee and will be missed. I would like to thank both of them for their contributions and wish them well for the future.

When I look back on the lunch seminars the Branch organised this year, I must say the success of the seminars was due to support from members. Your attendance at our seminars and events was a great encouragement to me. I am grateful for such support as I strive to serve you better. Looking into 2014, there are areas of law (for example taxation, mental capacity and arbitration) and trust practice that we could all benefit from continuing education in. STEP’s global network is an excellent platform for us to leverage on in getting good resources and presenting these to you.

When I look back on the lunch seminars the Branch organised this year, I must say the success of the seminars was due to support from members. Your attendance at our seminars and events was a great encouragement to me. I am grateful for such support as I strive to serve you better. Looking into 2014, there are areas of law (for example taxation, mental capacity and arbitration) and trust practice that we could all benefit from continuing education in. STEP’s global network is an excellent platform for us to leverage on in getting good resources and presenting these to you.

In the meantime, I just want to let my hair down and enjoy my vacation. May I wish you a Merry Christmas and a wonderful, healthy and happy 2014. See you next year. 

Goh Seow Chee

Chairperson, STEP (Singapore Branch), 2011-2014

Dear Members, 

We want to keep the momentum of the Branch activities to bring members closer. The Branch has been holding an event every month and plans are made all the way to July. Education continues to be our main thrust as we plan our calendar, but not forgetting fun events for networking purpose.

We celebrated the Lunar new year with our traditional “lo hei” networking event. The next networking event will be on 27 May. We invite members to find out more about STEP Advanced Certificate in Family Business Advising. This course will be conducted here in Singapore in November. You can learn out more about the course at the event from Ken McCracken, the lead author of the course.

Around the theme of tax compliance, which has been a flavor for many months now, we had a comprehensive analysis of Singapore’s first tax anti-avoidance case, AQQ v CIT, presented by S Sharma. It was interesting to read the Court of Appeal judgement on the case and the Court’s approach in applying Section 33 of the Income Tax Act. Around the globe, FATCA is being signed up rapidly, G5 is signing a pact to effect automatic exchange of information after 2015 and OECD’s BEPS recommendations are streaming out progressively. We have to stay tuned to this development to appreciate the challenges of the environment.

We are organising a symposium with Singapore Management University (SMU) on 26 May. This is an inaugural collaboration with SMU to discuss problems relating to investments, mental capacity and issues on Asian family succession.

Leading on to our AGM on 26 June, the Special Interest Group Business Families subcommittee will be organising its first seminar since its formation last September. There will be further information about this seminar in due course. The AGM will be followed by drinks, so mark your calendar for 26 June.

Goh Seow Chee

Chairperson, STEP (Singapore Branch), 2011-2014

Dear Members, 

The past couple of months have been particularly busy for the Branch. We were involved with regulatory issues, educational and networking events.

We were engaged with our response to the public consultation on the amendment to Income Tax Act on exchange of information. Following on, we attended a briefing session hosted by MAS. It was a useful meeting to understand the policy intent in this changing regulatory environment that we operate. You would recall we submitted comments last December on our views with regards to the “accredited investor” definition under section 4A of the Securities and Futures Act (Cap 289). In due course, there will be a public consultation paper on this issue. We look forward to your comments and will consolidate our collective response to the relevant authority.

We launched our Business Families Special Interest Group sub-committee (aka Business Families SIG) in September. At the moment, the sub-committee comprises of seven members. This sub-committee will be discussing topics and issues surrounding business succession. In due course, the sub-committee will share their findings and roll out a seminar series on the subject matter.

The STEP Asia Conference is drawing very close. This year’s conference has an Asian focus covering challenges of succession issues for families residing in this region. The conference will also discuss current hot topics such as exchange of information and thinking ahead, how would automatic exchange of information impact the operating environment for families and their advisors. Look forward to seeing you at the conference.

Goh Seow Chee

Chairperson, STEP (Singapore Branch), 2011-2014

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