Simon Gorbutt, director and head of wealth planning at Lombard International Assurance, and chair of Step Benelux. Photo: Step Benelux

Simon Gorbutt, director and head of wealth planning at Lombard International Assurance, and chair of Step Benelux. Photo: Step Benelux

ESG has moved up the agenda for private wealth clients, says the chair of the professional body Step Benelux.

An industry conference held next week will tackle “sustainability” and what it means for wealth management professionals and the clients they advise. The confab comes as many clients are ‘rethinking’ their priorities and portfolios.

The event is organised by Step Benelux, a professional body for financial advisors, lawyers, accountants and others who counsel wealthy families. The group was formerly known as the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners, but now primarily goes by Step.

Step Benelux’s “” conference will be held in Kirchberg on Monday 3 October, from 8:30am to 1:45pm.

Simon Gorbutt, director and head of wealth planning at Lombard International Assurance and chair of Step Benelux, shared his perspective ahead of the event.

Aaron Grunwald: Compared to 1 or 2 years ago, how has the conversation around and responsible investing changed between Step members and their clients?

Simon Gorbutt: ESG considerations are an increasingly prevalent part of client discussions, not least when it comes to catering for the differing passions and priorities that are emerging across successive generations. The last two years have also been especially important for ESG in the field of investment. However, in that context the gaps that remain--between legislative standards, but also between ESG aspirations on the one hand and industry and client readiness on the other--are challenging. This said, the direction is clear and clients are helped by the transition from ESG as a question of compliance to ESG as a source of opportunity.

What other changes have you observed in the market over the past couple of years?

These have been turbulent times and they remain so. The last couple of years have seen countries look inwards, not only socially but also to protect themselves financially and economically. This has led some clients to rethink where they wish to spend time and where their wealth should be kept. Meanwhile service providers have had to balance still incessant regulatory change with large shifts in, for example, how clients want to consume information and advice. However, these challenges come with many positives and by embracing new discussions around ESG, digital assets, mobile lifestyles and modern family governance. For example, advisers differentiate themselves and clients are ultimately better served.

How is the current inflation and interest environment changing family wealth management?

Clients are understandably nervous about market volatility, inflation and interest rates, and this can result in hesitation when it comes to putting in place wealth plans. However--whether it be the spread and movement of family members across jurisdictions, age, major life events, the expiry of preferential tax statuses, or exposure to new such liabilities--life and circumstances will not always wait and, for some, the urgency will quickly outweigh the uncertainty. The risks of the absence of a wealth plan are very significant, so now more than ever advisers have a role to play in helping clients take prudent action.

What would you like attendees to get most out of the conference on Monday?

Monday’s event brings together many of these topics under the broader theme of sustainability. Rather than enduring another regulatory update, attendees will hear practical insight from the investor, the industry professional, the adviser and the leader, and be challenged to think differently when it comes to creating sustainable outcomes in private wealth and business.