Spotlight Interview with Rod Smith

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What attracted you to Private Wealth?

Private wealth work is all about people and relationships. You have to be a good listener; everyone has a story and that’s what makes the work fascinating. Adding the challenge of analysing increasingly tricky tax legislation and case law makes it the perfect role for me.

What is the biggest growth area in private wealth/ what does the future of private wealth look like to you?

We live in the global village and so there will be more opportunities for those who can advise across more than one jurisdiction; tax residence and domicile will remain key.

Digitalisation is inevitable and the prospect of, for example, electronic Wills being accepted in the English courts is within reach. I feel that a wholesale review of mental capacity is also on the horizon; the capacity needed to make a gift, marry and make a Will are all different. The increased number of cases of predatory marriage highlight the conundrum; someone may have capacity to marry, which revokes a Will, but nor have the capacity to make a new Will.

Lastly, while it is considered dull, we need to be alive to regulatory obligations and the growing number of registers. Failure to keep the registers up to date will attract penalties but also, significantly, halt transactions.

If you could change one thing about the law, or within private wealth what would it be?

Make access to justice for all a reality rather than a strapline.

What is your proudest professional moment?

I challenged a City law firm on the level of fees charged for the administration of an estate when set against its letter of engagement. Despite the best attempts of its in-house counsel to belittle my arguments, I secured the maximum award possible through the Legal Ombudsman and its fees were reduced by 40%. There was also a separate successful claim for professional negligence which was similarly satisfying.

What is the most rewarding/exciting part of your job?

To achieve success for clients when other professional advisers have told them it’s impossible; examples include challenging HMRC on a deceased’s domicile and removing rogue protectors and professional trustees from three offshore trusts.

You recently joined Brecher as a partner in the private wealth team, what motivated your move?

Brecher has an amazing reputation and an enviable client base. It’s a strong, committed, team based in prestigious Mayfair. The potential for growth within private wealth is huge. Last, but certainly not least, it gave me the opportunity, 25 years on, to work with John again; a no-nonsense, consummate private wealth solicitor.

What does the future of private wealth look like at Brecher?

It’s a relatively new team that has come together over the last 2 years but it’s brimming with expertise, experience and enthusiasm. We will provide advice which is partner-led, discreet and client driven whether the focus is on succession planning, asset preservation or tax efficiency. This means that we are very well placed for the market constituted by clients who no longer meet the very top flight private wealth firms’ benchmarking.

What’s the best piece of advice given to you?

My grandfather regularly advised me ‘to keep my powder dry’ which I have over time interpreted to mean always be ready (for opportunities) and when it’s time, really go for it. It sounds revolutionary and edgy which makes me smile.

If you could listen to just one song for the rest of your life what would it be?

Song for Life by Leftfield. It’s long at over 7 minutes but it’s absolutely worth it; at half way it’s already off the hook.

If you weren’t a lawyer what would you be?

I’d like to run music festivals aiming to replicate Glastonbury in the early 90s, ha ha

A Netflix series you would recommend?

I don’t think it’s on Netflix, possibly Prime, but I love Abbott Elementary. Fantastic writing and comic delivery. The head is my favourite character; she has the best put-downs.