First Name Tom talks teamwork

22 April 2016

It is a cliché but there is no “normal” day in the fiduciary industry - at least not when you’re an Associate Director at First Names Group. But who wants a normal job?

Headed by James Muir our Client Services Director, our seven-strong team has a broad range of expertise and personalities - from Senior Manager Stuart, who has worked for the Group for 25 years, to Jade, a Junior Administrator who joined us two years ago. At First Names Group, our teams are not limited to certain geographical areas and we encourage people to gain a wide level of knowledge and expertise; rather like GPs - although, as Stuart points out, our hours are slightly more accessible and we always answer the phone. For example, everyone on my team is involved in administering a variety of structures for global clients, from a straightforward trust for a UK resident non-domiciled individual to the more complex multi-jurisdictional multi-entity structures for high net worth families. In our

In our experience, the majority of new clients today are truly global with assets located throughout the world. However, our desk does seem to have a large number of clients from Russia and the Commonwealth Independent States, which requires a great deal of travelling for me between London, Switzerland, Cyprus and of course Russia. In fact, I’ve just returned from an intense four-day trip to Vladimir, during which I successfully navigated the extreme cold (for a Hampshire boy) and the current geopolitical climate. My advice to anyone travelling for work in potentially sensitive regions: be prepared, make sure you’re up-to-date on current affairs and be able to discuss, or not discuss, certain issues. Despite reservations on the part of my team - Ashley in particular – no international incidents were created during my stay! I enjoy the travelling, meeting new people, hearing the gossip and, as Jade says, generating my own. Being a qualified lawyer, I am naturally inquisitive I suppose. Over time, I have found many contacts become friends, making it much easier to discuss industry and legislative changes but also to refer work to each other.

Another key aspect of my role is to develop new business for the Group. Indeed, all directors are expected to have their own network and contacts among other professionals like lawyers, accountants and other intermediaries that refer business to us. Of course it’s important to grow the business organically from existing clients, but new clients are the lifeblood of any professional services provider like First Names Group. We operate in a hugely competitive market and getting that call or email from an intermediary asking me to pitch for some new business is still thrilling. Again the message is be prepared: you need to know your audience, know how to talk about our business and our expertise and know and trust the skills and experience of all the team involved.

As an Associate Director, I play an active role in the management of the Jersey business through the senior management team, which gives me a great insight into wider Group priorities. With seven hundred people, it is impossible to know every ‘First Name’ but we are lucky that with our largest office in Jersey so many colleagues from our other 13 locations come here for meetings. Although I hear that given our recent weather there has been an upsurge in interest in working in Cyprus, Singapore and our Hong Kong office.

I am also investment qualified and heavily involved in our investment committee so I spent quite a bit of time reviewing investment updates, meeting investment managers and discussing potential investment managers with my co-committee members. Although it can be frustrating when investment managers (or indeed anyone) pull open a 40-page presentation, claim they are not going to go through the whole pack but then say “if we could just turn to page 3..”, that’s an aspect of my job that I also get rather geekily excited about.

When it comes to work life, there are two attributes without which a director cannot function. The first is being able to trust the team who are administering the structures and liaising with the clients. They need to be committed and professional (two of First Names Group’s core DNA principles) while also being proactive and commercial. I am very lucky that my team function extremely well without me (I can hear Greig saying sotte voce even better without me, but I will ignore that). The second key attribute is being able to make the right decisions quickly and having confidence in the support from both your team but also your fellow directors, particularly James, from whom I continue to learn so much. We spend a long time ensuring our policies and procedures are well written, efficient and above all followed and that is reassuring for both me and my team.

At the end of the day and at our monthly meetings, the team spends time chatting about recent events and discussing ways to improve but we spend most of this time thinking ahead. On-boarding new clients, improving procedures, liaising with support services and dealing with the myriad internal projects is all in addition to the day to day client work we undertake and this all requires a fantastic team ethos. They say that "behind every great director is a great team". Paul (or “Iceman” as he likes to be known) is convinced our team is like Top Gun - “the best of the best”. I couldn’t agree more.