The private client industry was a different world when Walton, the winner of the Spear’s Private Client Accountant of the Year award in 2014, started working at BDO in the late Eighties.
Back then her role was focused on UK individuals and families, whereas international entrepreneurs with complex tax affairs make up most of her client base today.
With over 29 years’ experience in the industry, the type of work Walton does has also changed, particularly in the past decade. The emphasis has shifted from tax planning and tax mitigation to managing tax risk. Recently promoted to global head of private clients, she now makes sure that the tax structures used by her clients are compliant with the rules everywhere in the world and that HNWs are paying the right amount of tax in each jurisdiction, and has also been busy working on the firm’s Global Opportunities report.
The industry, she says, is rapidly evolving. In the information exchange landscape, tax advisers are now beginning to understand the implications of the new Common Reporting Standard on HNWs.
There have also been many changes to the pension rules, which are becoming increasingly important in estate planning. ‘This is a complex area to advise and we must ensure that our clients also seek investment advice, but it’s not something that tax advisers can ignore.’
Furthermore, the recent Panama Papers leak has made clients become increasingly interested in tax-orientated reputation management services, as ‘global transparency’ has become high on their agenda.
Walton says the digital revolution has swept across the tax industry too, with ‘significant impact’, as information becomes more readily available to all. She anticipates more discussions around how tax advisers ‘can add real value’ in this area.
It helps that BDO continues to grow its international private-client services centre of excellence. Having been in existence for over sixteen years, the group allows advisers from the firm’s international offices to meet regularly to keep each other updated about the changes taking place in their jurisdictions and makes sure they provide the best support to their clients. She is proud of the ‘well established’ offering: ‘It enables us to offer a truly joined up global service.’
Walton says the group now has close to 70 members spread across the globe. With clients becoming increasingly mobile, is the UK likely to remain a destination of choice for HNWs post-Brexit?
‘I think not only is there uncertainty about Brexit but, when combined with potential changes in the tax regime, this will have a bearing on people’s decisions where they want to live.’