Secure through the storms
Trevor Webster, managing partner at Taylor Brunswick Group
Text by Gavin Blair / Photos by Benjamin Parks
Text by Gavin Blair / Photos by Benjamin Parks
“I like to think what we’re trying to do is create certainty from uncertainty,” explains Trevor Webster, managing partner at independent wealth management firm Taylor Brunswick’s recently opened Tokyo office.
“Clearly, we’re living in a very uncertain world, but irrespective of what goes on in Washington, London or Brussels, the certainty is that night follows day, that we all get older, people get married, have kids and people die,” he adds.
Wealth management takes a holistic approach to financial advising, incorporating investments, insurance, estate planning and family planning, according to Webster, who has been working in the industry in Japan for more than a decade.
“We give our clients the certainty that their family plan is robust enough over the coming decades to withstand the storms and gales of geopolitical events which are beyond our control,” Webster states.
Due in large part to regulatory changes, private banks have mostly pulled out of the business of providing individualised financial advice to all but the very wealthiest.
“Unless you’ve got $10 million to invest — and I don’t mean in assets, but to invest — the private banks don’t want to talk to you,” Webster observes. “We believe there is a gap there.”
Yet, despite the rapidly shifting world and an ever more complex range of investment opportunities, the fundamentals of sitting down regularly with your wealth manager and planning for the future are largely unaltered over recent decades.
“The reality of someone with a family of four who wants to retire in 20 years’ time is no different than it was 10 years ago,” says Webster. “Although how we plan might differ in terms of different countries having differing regulations, the fundamentals are the same.”
One shift in the regulatory environment has altered the industry, though for Webster, this has been for the better. The moves to clamp down on tax avoidance, particularly amongst those who invest internationally, mean that financial institutions now have an obligation to report their clients to the authorities.
“Transparency is the order of the day,” Webster notes. “It doesn’t really matter where your assets are.”
Longer average lifespans are also having an effect on the industry.
“We are going to spend an average of seven years in some sort of home or facility — where we are going to need 24-hour care — and this is different to a few decades ago,” he explains. “The biggest fear is that we run out of money before we die. What kind of burden is that going to be on social security — and on families?”
Whatever a person’s financial situation, planning for the future is essential, according to Webster.
“Do you want to have a succession plan in place to ensure your family is provided for — whether you’re alive or dead — which may result in some tax liability?” he asks. “Or do you want to be working until you’re 80 years old, living hand-to-mouth or relying on the state?”
The single biggest issue for most people is a simple one: people not saving enough. This has been compounded by the wage stagnation that has hit many workers since the last global financial crisis in 2008. Financial and political turmoil can paralyse many people and sometimes give them an excuse to avoid making the important decisions that will allow them to plan for a secure future.
“Our job as a wealth management company is to make sure that the noise, which is frankly peripheral, doesn’t detract from our clients sitting down with us on a regular basis and making sure they are financially robust,” explains Webster. This will help them “look after what they’ve got, provide for the future, and get on with the serious business of life — which is bringing up a family or realising professional aspirations, as well as having some fun.”
Taylor Brunswick was founded five years ago in Hong Kong and opened its office in Tokyo in January this year.
“I’ve known the founding partners for more than 10 years, so we have the same values and same beliefs,” says Webster, who thinks that the firm’s approach to its clients is what sets it apart.
“Clients come back, customers do not,” he adds. “We represent our clients as much as lawyers or accountants do. We have a fiduciary duty to our clients to do the best for them.”
Webster suggests that wealth management is not about excitement — “you can do that at the weekend once you’ve put your financial plan in place” — but his own life has not been short of thrills and spills. Following 12 years in the Royal Air Force, during which time he played top-tier rugby in England, Webster represented Britain in bobsleighing before moving into the somewhat more sedate world of finance.
“You find out a lot about people very quickly when you put them in that sort of situation,” says Webster of careering down a steep, icy course in a metal tube at high speeds.
When he isn’t helping people build a firm foundation for their future, Webster works with Refugees International Japan, which finances cottage industry projects in underdeveloped nations in the Middle-East, Africa and Southeast Asia.
He also serves on the executive committee of the British Chamber of Commerce in Japan. Still with a keen interest in sport, he says he is looking forward to work related to the numerous upcoming sporting events in Japan, including the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, and the 2026 Asian Games in Nagoya. •