60-second interview with…



Sandy Shipton TEP, Head of Private Office of ADIB Private Banking Group, Abu Dhabi


Why did you join STEP?

The STEP Arabia Branch was established in Dubai in 2004. I joined when I was asked to assist the team due to my role in the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC).

How does being part of a branch add value to your membership?

During the initial years many international banks and law firms moved into the DIFC. I was able to introduce interested individuals to the membership team. I played a significant role in the introduction of the DIFC Trust Law and jointly with Stephen Cutts worked on the DIFC Single Family Office Regulation, both of which were recognised by being nominated and subsequently winning STEP awards in 2007 and 2008.

What do you think links practitioners/STEP members around the world?

Through the STEP Journal, articles of specific interest reach a wide audience. Moreover, events put on by the local branch enable members to meet up and exchange ideas and best practices; often visiting international lawyers address the membership on matters of interest.

What do you feel are the main challenges facing your organisation/practitioners in the Middle East region?

Firstly, we need more specialised practitioners in the region and training focused on the needs of Muslim clients. Secondly, governmental support to pass appropriate legislation to facilitate meaningful estate planning for non-Muslims.

How will you deal with these challenges?

The DIFC is successful in attracting a wide range of practitioners.  STEP members are actively lobbying local government agencies on legal reforms.

You will be speaking at the STEP International Conference in Dubai in March on Sharia compliant structures for Middle East family offices:  why have you chosen this topic and what are the key issues in this area?

There is a clear knowledge gap in the regional market. Most institutions and practitioners offer conventional non-Sharia solutions to their Muslim clients. These solutions are widely used but only for assets held outside the region. GCC Muslim clients hold up to 80 per cent of their wealth locally and need Sharia succession and estate planning solutions designed to fit their needs locally.

What jurisdictions/regions are currently important to your work and why?

The DIFC as well as Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

Never accept what you hear at first as the facts may be clouded.

What’s been your career highlight?

My DIFC career, where apart from the Trust Law and Single Family Office Regulation, I was directly involved with the development of 25 other pieces of primary legislation which played an important part in developing the DIFC.

Who has been your greatest mentor and why?

Peter Stradling was the CEO of RoyWest Trust Corp where I started my offshore career in 1977; Joe Field (Withers), mentor since mid-80s, who I believe is the all-round best private client lawyer I have had dealings with.

What do you do in your spare time?

Play golf, travel and study Mandarin.

What’s the best book you have read this year?

Ask for Forgiveness Not Permission by Howard Leedham MBE

What’s your favourite quote?

Coincidentally, ‘Ask for forgiveness not permission’, as it sums up my philosophy in achieving corporate goals.



Sandy Shipton TEP is Head of Private Office of ADIB Private Banking Group, providing advice and guidance to ultra-high net worth clients and prospects in the areas of wealth structuring, estate planning and family offices within a Sharia compliant framework. Sandy has previously worked as Executive Director of Wealth Management at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) and a member of the DIFC Executive Management Team. He has been in the UAE since 1997 and has spent over 25 years in leadership roles with Merrill Lynch and RBS Coutts.



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