The concept of а ’family office’ is not new. For a long time, all over the world large family capital and the affairs of wealthy families have been managed by professionals. But recently, multi-family offices have started to appear in Cyprus more often. These family offices serve the interests of several families at once. Is this an advantage or a disadvantage? Does Cyprus meet the requirements of the modern world in this area, and is it competitive in comparison with other countries? Successful Business speaks with the founder and CEO of Fiduciana Trust (Cyprus) Limited, Anna Homenko, about why choosing the island to establish a family office is growing in popularity and how this industry is changing.
The concept of a family office exists all over the world. Yet, until recently, it was not very popular in Cyprus. What changed? How is it developing on the island?
Previously, only people with a capital of over 20-50 million had the opportunity to create family offices. Now, those with 2-5 million can either open a family office on their own or join an existing multi-family office. The reason for this is that our reality is changing rapidly. Many hi-tech entrepreneurs are making fortunes at a relatively young age. They understand that it is necessary to manage assets from the very beginning, increase or at least preserve and correctly reinvest income. The family office entrance ticket has become cheaper and more popular. In addition, many families choose to do business with the same family offices. They already have a ‘caste’, and they feel comfortable among people who have the same income and tasks. Some even write a family constitution.
What is that? Please tell us more about it.
The family constitution defines how the family business should be run. In other words, who deals with what issues; who, when, and how uses the assets; how these assets are allocated. In essence, the family constitution is a system that governs family relationships and controls family assets. Today all this has become fashionable and in demand. Family offices are now prestigious. Several family offices can combine their assets and jointly invest in large projects.
How do they determine with whom to unite?
With the help of consultants. The cost of maintaining a family office is usually 1% of the assets. This is not a lot of money for the amount of work that the office does. After all, the family office serves as a system for coordinating all processes, a communication system between all centres of the client's life. Modern family offices have a family health manager who ensures that all family members go to the best doctors, undergo regular check-ups, and access the best medical schools. Some specialists work in the field of investment or acquisition of art objects, investments in precious metals, and stones. A new niche has appeared. Young oligarchs think differently. They form a so-called matrix of powers and are ready to delegate certain tasks to managers. By the way, recently there has been a tendency to move from the south of France to Cyprus precisely to register your family office here – not only for doing business but also for more or less permanent residence of the family members on the island.
Why do these people move to Cyprus?
They don't take root in France. In Cyprus, people are more hospitable, ready to accept foreigners into their social circle. Moreover, it's easier to organise life here. In the south of France, family offices form teams of cooks, cleaners, service personnel who are brought in from abroad since it is very difficult to find decent and loyal local personnel. The problems in the field of labour legislation should also be noted. After working for several months, employees often sue the employer, trying to get compensation. In Cyprus, the problem of forming a team is solved by recruiting personnel from the CIS countries. These people easily take root in Cyprus and value their place of work.
What are the parameters for establishing a family office in Cyprus?
As a rule, people prefer to set up family offices away from the country where they do business. Asian clients mainly choose Singapore for establishing a family office, while many Europeans prefer Switzerland and Cyprus. When deciding on a location, attention is paid to many parameters. One of them is the family lifestyle. It is necessary to consider where all family members live, work, study, travel. Cyprus – as always – turns out to be a convenient point, a crossroads for those families whose vital interests are focused on the European continent. If the family is in America, for example, then creating a family office in Cyprus may not make sense.
Another parameter is office administration. The country selection phase evaluates the structures, resources, personnel, and processes that will enable the family office to operate most efficiently. And, of course, the financial component is very important: the types and location of the family's financial assets, how much it will cost to maintain an office, apply for visas, etc.
Cyprus is one of the fastest-growing economies in the EU. Many professionals in the corporate and legal sector understand the Russian mentality. From a financial point of view, Cyprus is also convenient: it is not as expensive here as, for example, in Switzerland. It has a favourable tax climate and a developed Russian-speaking community. All these factors contribute to the opening of family offices in Cyprus.
What is your opinion on the latest changes in the legislation? What is changing for the better in Cyprus?
In Cyprus, they realised that it was necessary to welcome a business that would bring profit to the economy. Look at the metamorphosis that happened to Limassol, after a lot of businesspeople moved here, working and spending money here, creating jobs for others. This has become a big advantage. The government has responded relatively effectively to the coronavirus situation. Now many companies have transferred their personnel to remote work. This means that it is possible to attract those not tied to a specific place of residence to the island. The business motivation system for moving to Cyprus remains attractive. Let's hope that all new and coordinated changes to the legislation will be implemented quickly. What is being done now will be based on the best practices of European countries. It will lead to further growth of the Cyprus economy and make the business climate even more favourable.
Founder and CEO of Fiduciana Trust
(Cyprus) Limited, Leisure Life
Graduated from the Institute of International Relations at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Faculty of International Law, and Keele University (UK), Faculty of Law and International Politics. Completed a Legal Practice Course (LPC) in Chester (UK).