Suzanne Gujadhur Bell, Managing Director, International Proximity

Interviews - Delegates at Family Office Fourm

November 7, 2015

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Biz@India

March-April 2014



Making Mauritius an investment route into India

Suzanne Gujadhur Bell, Managing Director, International Proximity

Suzanne Gujadhur Bell, Managing Director, International Proximity

Practised for four years at the London Bar and for five years at the Mauritian Bar where she specialised in corporate/commercial law, Suzanne Gujadhur Bell advises International Proximity’s client list of premier financial institutions, hedge funds, banks, private equity firms, high net worth families and multinational companies, on structuring and facilitating their investments in the emerging economies of Africa and Asia (including India).
 
• Tell us something about your organisation. When was it initiated and how has it evolved over the years?
 
International Proximity is a Mauritius-based management company which specialises in advising individuals and family offices, multinational corporations, investment funds and financial institutions on maximising the opportunities offered by Mauritius as the key international financial services centre bridging Asia and Africa.

Founded in 1995 shortly after the creation of the offshore regime, we are one of the longest standing of the licensed management companies in Mauritius. We have been fully engaged since 1995 in the development of the use of Mauritius as a key investment route into India and other Asian markets , working regularly with the leading international professional firms, including the ‘Magic Circle’ and ‘Wall Street’ law firms. With the passage of the years, we have built up considerable in-house expertise in the structuring and administration of tailored wealth-preservation and investment vehicles which leverage off the benefits that Mauritius offers of an established trust and company regime, over 20 years of financial services experience and expertise, good network of tax treaties, no exchange control, well reputed court system, and excellent reputation internationally.

• What kind of services do you provide and how can these benefit the UHNWIs?

We provide a comprehensive and one stop shop service in the formation and administration of Mauritian trusts, foundations, global business companies and investment funds, full back office tax, accounting and administration services and corporate advisory services. We specialise in running Mauritius domiciled inbound and outbound investment holding structures for Africa, China, India, Singapore and many other countries using Mauritius’ network of tax treaties.

• Are your existing clients single family units or multiple families?

Our existing private clients are generally single family units. Our client list also comprises many India, Asia and Africa focussed private equity and hedge funds in which family offices are often substantial investors.

• What is your firm’s investment philosophy?

We provide trustee and administration services to family holding structures and in this capacity we seek to engage investment advisory firms with an approach to investment which is commensurate with our clients’ investment profile and risk profile.

• How are your teams structured to deliver services to the clients? Do you have different services for different UHNWIs – inheritors, selfmade and professionals?

Each of our teams handles a portfolio of clients and we ensure that each team has the skill sets available – experienced trust and corporate administrators, tax and accounting professionals – to handle structures for all types of UHNWIs however the family wealth has been achieved.

• What are the top three characteristics that distinguish your firm the most from your competitors?

We are known in the market place for our customised and pro-active service that leverages off the international and local experience of our staff. We are able to bring innovative solutions to the table based on the culmination of the years of industry knowledge that our personnel have built up.

 

We have a ‘client first’ attitude. We obtain client feedback at the senior and administrative levels to ensure that a seamless service is provided between ourselves as administrators and our clients

We have a ‘client first’ attitude. We obtain client feedback at the senior and administrative levels to ensure that a seamless service is provided between ourselves as administrators and our clients

We constantly monitor quality as we are very conscious of the mismatch that can develop between the client’s expectations and the service provider’s deliverables. We conduct detailed briefings with our clients on the basis of which we draw up clear operational procedures. We constantly monitor operational flows to highlight opportunities for improvement in procedures and operations. We have designed procedures to ensure that, in a business environment in which we are continually growing in size, we maintain the same level of client responsiveness and allow for continued staff involvement at the most senior level, which we believe are key to the service we provide.

We have a ‘client first’ attitude. We obtain client feedback at the senior and administrative levels to ensure that a seamless service is provided between ourselves as administrators and our clients. We aim to develop strong and lasting relationships with our clients and we make a constant effort to understand their businesses and objectives. We view our clients as partners and we put considerable effort into streamlining procedures with the aim of avoiding duplication of cost and ensuring that we operate in a cost effective manner.

Of the 150 or so licensed management companies in Mauritius, we believe that we are ranked in the top 10 in terms of quality of our client base and professionalism of service.

• Do you provide any client education programmes? Please mention.

We keep our clients informed by email, by our newsletter and through our website on a regular basis of legislative, tax and regulatory developments in Mauritius which may have an impact on their use of Mauritius as a domicile for their family structure.

• What is your approach towards risk management?

We maintain a very robust compliance structure and all new mandates are subjected to rigorous risk assessment. In the case of existing structures, our internal control department conducts regular file reviews to ensure that our client structures are run within the risk parameters agreed with our clients and the dictates of Mauritian law.

• Is there any impact of economic slowdown on the demand? Are clients more cost conscious or quality conscious in the times of slowdown?

There was a definite slowdown in demand post the 2008 financial crisis, although there has been a gradual picking up since then. It is correct that clients are more cost conscious and look for value for money and a flexible charging structure usually with a fixed component and a tightly controlled variable component.

• What kind of potential do you see for the Indian family office business? What is your outlook? What are the current trends and opportunities?

As Indian companies go global and invest outside India, the families that own many of these companies are increasingly seeing the necessity of putting in place more sophisticated structures to preserve and grow the family wealth to achieve the dynastic and philanthropic goals of the current and future generations. There is considerable potential for specialists in setting up and running family offices to tap into the Indian market provided they understand and factor in the particular cultural background of India and the role of the extended family structure and provided they work hand in hand with the family’s trusted local advisors. Our perspective at International Proximity has been on providing Indian families and investors with a platform in Mauritius that leverages off Mauritius’ well-established position as domicile for India and which is conducive to holding their international assets in an optimal manner taking into account their international tax position and their family goals.

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