17 June 2008

Family office news: Withers opens its doors in Hong Kong


Mimi Hutton
Of counsel | Hong Kong

Successful families – whether in Asia, Europe or the Americas – want to preserve their legacies.

For high net worth families, the establishment of family offices has become a worldwide trend. Withers has been on the leading edge of that trend, from its early days working with the British landed gentry to its more recent collaboration with families in the US and Europe. It was
inevitable, then, that the firm would need a presence in Asia, where the number of high net worth families is growing quickly, with the same needs and goals.

“It’s a sad truth, in Asia as in the rest of the world, that significant wealth rarely survives three generations,” says Samantha Bradley, Managing Director of Withers’ newly established Hong Kong office. A family office, she observes, can provide the kind of impartial, expert help a family needs to preserve its fortune and to continue its ability to serve all its members through many generations.

In addition, new developments have added to the demand for family office services. Increased demands for transparency in business dealings, along with more complex regulatory requirements and tax considerations, mean more families need help.

Ms. Bradley has extensive experience with family offices, beginning with her work in the private client group for a leading London firm in the 1990s to acting as direct counsel to international families. She says she loves this line of work because of its variety and the intellectual stretch
it requires. “Looking after a family’s interests requires the full spectrum of our services. It’s never dull,” she notes.

Ms. Bradley’s colleagues in Hong Kong bring a wide range of experience in family office matters. They include:

  • Nisha Chadha, a Registered Foreign Lawyer in Hong Kong and a wealth planning solicitor qualified in England and Wales, with experience in advising Asia-based families in operating family offices, and providing cross-border tax and estate planning advice.
  • Silvia On, formerly a senior consultant with PricewaterhouseCoopers Ltd in Hong Kong, with a background in family office and international structuring issues.
  • Francis Lee, a chartered accountant formerly with Ernst & Young in Hong Kong and Canada.
  • *Mary Ellen (Mimi) Hutton, who joins the team from Bryan Cave in Hong Kong and has more than 30 years’ experience advising in Asia on US and Hong Kong trust and tax matters for both individuals and families.
  • *Guy Facey, who is admitted in England and Wales and also in Hong Kong, and who advises on business interests held by family offices, particularly with regard to cross-border corporate finance.
  • *Kurt Rademacher, a US-qualified lawyer who practices US taxation, including cross-border philanthropy and international structuring issues.

Withers suggests a variety of options for its family office clients. While a single-family office may be appropriate for some, “For many of the newly emerging entrepreneurs in Asia, a multi-family office may make sense,” Ms. Bradley points out. “Such an arrangement can duplicate the
benefits of a single-family office at a fraction of the cost.”

With an ever-growing number of high net worth families concerned about preserving their legacies, the demand for assistance and advice will only continue to grow. In fact, Ms. Bradley points out, the growing interest in the creation of family offices in Asia was a key motivation for establishing a presence in Hong Kong. “It was one of my reasons for joining Withers,” she says, “the focus on the diverse needs of individuals and their family offices and business.”

Those needs, in turn, form the basis of Withers’ presence in Hong Kong and its new stake in Asia.

Mimi Hutton Of counsel | Hong Kong