Looking ahead

  • Author : Mimi Hutton
  • Date : June 2010
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mimi Hutton TEP is a Partner and Philip Munro TEP is an Associate at Withers Hong Kong. Mimi Hutton is also the Chair of the STEP Hong Kong.

The STEP Asia conference has been confirmed for 9 to 10 November 2010, to be held in the JW Marriott Hotel, Pacific Place in Hong Kong. Attendance at this conference has been growing year-on-year, with the attendance at last year’s event in Singapore totalling 320. The conference’s increasing popularity is in response to the recognition of Asia’s growing economic significance and status as a centre for privately held wealth. This year’s conference has a programme that recognises not only the global interest in Asia, but also Asia’s growing interest in the world.

Last year’s STEP Asia conference had a strong attendance from Europe and North America. This interest in Asia is understandable in light of the statistics on Asian private wealth. In this year’s Forbes list, 54 billionaires from China are noted (more than any country outside the United States) with India having two industrialists within the world’s top five richest people. Across Asia, Hong Kong and Greater China, Indonesia, Singapore, Taiwan and, of course, Japan, all have vibrant economies driven by owner managed businesses. Asia not only has a captivating blend of cultures but it also has a mix of legal systems and tax regimes that make it a challenging environment in which to operate.

This year’s conference will be organised slightly differently from prior years, in that the afternoon sessions will consist of six smaller, in-depth presentations from which delegates will choose one, with the six topics being repeated twice. The smaller afternoon groups will allow for more in-depth treatment of the various topics and permit some group discussion.

A number of speakers at the conference, and a number of the afternoon sessions, are specifically Asian focused. There will be in-depth sessions on planning issues for clients from China and India, and a session on Taiwan tax issues, to be given by Wellington Liu of Tsar & Tsai in Taipei. There will also be an update on the trust laws in Singapore, Hong Kong and Labuan, which should be fascinating in light of the changes made to the Labuan trust law to make it even more competitive as an offshore financial centre, and in light of the proposed amendments to modernise Hong Kong’s trust law.

Globalisation has brought Asia increasingly into the heart of the Pacific Rim. Recognising the strong Asian links with North America, there will be a an update session on Canadian tax issues led by Steven Sieker from Baker & McKenzie and Patrice Marceau from DLA Piper, and a session on US tax developments by James Tsang at Squire Sanders & Dempsey LLP. Australasian connections are also strong in Asia, and a parallel New Zealand and Australia section will be run.

The conference will feature a number of cross-border sessions of global interest. These include an update on recent trust cases by Richard Pease of Lenz & Staehelin and updates on tax information exchange, double tax agreements and anti-money laundering rules (with speakers including Richard Hay of Stikeman Elliott in London). There will also be applied tax sessions, with Withers’ Hong Kong office leading an analysis of an actual piece of post-grantor trust planning, and other speakers addressing cutting edge planning ideas and products. As well as ‘pure’ tax and trusts events, wider practice areas will be discussed with, for example, Bernard Rennell (CEO and Global Head of Private Wealth Solutions at HSBC) talking about meetings with settlors and family meetings following the death of a principal.

The conference’s closing address will be given by Michael Mansfield QC. One of the UK’s most prominent lawyers, Mr Mansfield’s career at the bar has seen him involved in many high profile cases including, for example, his representation of those wrongly convicted of the IRA bombings in Guildford and Birmingham, Mohamed al-Fayed in the inquest into the deaths of his son Dodi al-Fayed and Diana, Princess of Wales, and defendants at the Hague. Mr Mansfield will be speaking on ‘privacy as a civil right’, a subject to which he should bring insight from his role as an expert on human rights and the criminal process and which is increasingly relevant in today’s age in light of increasingly invasive investigations by fiscal authorities.


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