An interview with James Heathcote

James Heathcote is Associate Director of Private Client Advisory at Lancaster Knox, which he joined in March 2019 to build and grow the firm's tax services to HNW and UNHW clients and families. He is based in York and London, and works with clients and their advisors across the UK and abroad.

Lancaster Knox is a member of the Knox group of companies - an independent, dynamic group of businesses. Employing over 250 people, this innovative group offers wealth planning, investment sourcing and fiduciary services to both corporate and personal clients. In addition, it offers asset management, financial and family office services to a diverse and expanding client base.

Why do you work in tax?

Believe it or not, being a Chartered Tax Advisor was never my childhood dream! My passion is languages and, whilst they may seem worlds apart, the similarities between the two fields is what keeps it exciting and fresh. With a specialism in international personal tax, I have worked with clients and colleagues across the world and have been able to use my background in linguistics to bring a fresh perspective to clients' affairs.

Working with private clients, particularly large and complex family offices, brings a set of challenges that requires skills beyond interpreting tax legislation (though I do enjoy that, too!), which is where I feel Lancaster Knox and myself can really add substantial value.

Why did you join Lancaster Knox?

I began my career in Yorkshire with one of the 'Big Four' accountancy firms. There followed a spell working in London, before moving back to Yorkshire with another Big Four firm. The experiences I had at these firms - from facilitating a course for next generation business leaders at a world-leading business school in Chicago, to working with some of the most high-profile names in the private client world - were invaluable.

But what really attracted me to Lancaster Knox was the group's focus on HNW and UHNW clients; with access to an award-winning trust provider, an expert tax compliance team and even a debt advisory business, I felt the group's offering was the perfect fit for even the most discerning private client. That said, because we are all autonomous businesses, I still have the opportunity to work with outstanding advisors across the private client space - so I really do get the best of both worlds!

What features highly on private clients' agenda?

There is an immediate temptation to use the dreaded 'B word', but it can't be denied that political uncertainty is sending shockwaves through the private client world. Party politics aside, there is serious concern amongst many over the direction a future government - from whichever party - may take when it comes to tax, particularly in the international space. Clients and advisors are currently hard-pressed to find solutions that are truly 'futureproof', especially when the goalposts could change dramatically from one administration to the next. That said, we are spending a lot of time discussing with clients how to make sensible preparations that can accelerate their plans for restructuring businesses, transferring assets or even leaving the UK; whilst retaining sufficient flexibility to respond to political and family changes.

Certain areas of the market have been hit with more changes than others, particularly resident non-doms, non-UK trusts, and those owning UK real estate. These are all highly topical areas that have undergone significant reform in recent years, but that also present substantial opportunities in the right circumstances.

So, what next?

Good question! No one can have missed the increased press and public interest in tax planning - although much of the front page tabloid rhetoric is misguided (and often simply incorrect), we are already seeing a real shift in clients' attitudes. HNW and UHNW clients still want to avail themselves of all available reliefs and legitimate structuring opportunities, and quite rightly. But perception is playing an increasingly important role in formulating clients' thoughts and attitudes towards their own affairs.

The world is becoming smaller, and the days of secrecy are almost a distant memory. Automatic Exchange of Information regimes may seem daunting, but appropriate structuring should not rely on privacy and secrecy. Transparency and openness is increasing, but opportunities for clients to broaden their horizons have never been greater.

Where will fellow PCD members spot you?

I try to attend as many PCD events as I possibly can, some of which I attend with my colleagues from Knox House Trust. One which particularly stands out was the inaugural Shanghai launch event earlier this year. For me, they serve as a great way to develop contacts and strengthen existing relationships, so great for exploring new jurisdictions! Future events already in the diary include catching up with people in Leeds, London and the Isle of Man. Plus a trip to Jersey is most definitely overdue.

When you've switched off your computer for the day, where are you most likely to be found?

A big step was made recently when I bought my first pair of walking boots - I've even used them! But my real passion is flying, and I'm slowly working towards my Private Pilot's License (for which no walking boots are required).


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