In this episode of our Coffee Break series, our Laura Blomqvist, Senior Legal Counsel & Wealth Planner for Finland and our Andrea Szymanski, Senior Wealth Planner for the Swedish Market, share their impressions following the two conferences, their panel discussions and the interactions they had with our partners and clients.
ACA Luxembourg (The Luxembourg Association of Insurance & Reinsurance Companies) organised its first ever promotional mission in the Nordics, in Stockholm and Helsinki, respectively on 3 and 5 September 2019. The mission’s objective was to give a view of the current trends and set of benefits that Luxembourg life insurers can offer to Swedish and Finnish HNW individuals and families, in an increasingly complex and uncertain world.
Andrea and Laura were our contributors to the expert panels where they shared their insights on the current hot topics and upcoming changes as well as their impact on wealth and succession planning in their respective countries. This was also a fantastic opportunity to further engage with our local partners and clients, answer their many questions and reiterate our strong commitment to them.
Andrea, Laura, what are your key impressions from these conferences?
Andrea : As we see it, there are currently a couple of structural trends that are creating new challenges for our clients. The fast-evolving regulatory environment as well as uncertainty from a global geopolitical and macro-economic perspective is challenging for our clients and partners when it comes to structuring wealth and plan ahead for future succession. On top of that, the traditional family model has also deeply evolved, creating a variety of new family dynamics. Added to the international mobility inherent to today’s HNW families, including in Sweden, the need for bespoke solutions in wealth structuring and succession planning is increasing. The conferences were definitely focusing on these matters and a key element of our presence there was about trying to answer to an essential question: in the current environment, what can Luxembourg-based insurers offer more to Swedish and Finnish clients?
Laura : I agree, and there are clearly high expectations from our partners. Both of these two conferences were filled to the maximum and we even had people on a waiting list, which illustrates an interest in our solutions and a need for answers. Standardized solutions are no longer suited to the needs of HNW families on the lookout for innovative setups which fit their situation. For Finland, this is even more true, as we have important changes in taxation as of 1 January 2020. As the largest and leading Luxembourg-based provider of unit-linked insurance solutions, our presence was expected and many of our partners were looking for concrete answers. I was glad to be able to address them face-to-face.
Can you tell us more about the changes in taxation in Finland as of next year and how Lombard International Assurance is prepared to address them?
Laura : There are indeed changes regarding the taxation of unit-linked life insurance policies and capitalisation bonds in Finland as of 1 January 2020. To summarize, these changes impact on one hand the taxation of gains at the time of a withdrawal, and on another hand introduces a new look through taxation for policies and capitalisation bonds, where the policyholder maintains certain ownership-like rights on the underlying assets. In particular, the model in which the policyholder self-manages the underlying assets of the policy or capitalisation bond is up for a change. Up until now the policyholder has been able to send instructions directly to the custodian bank, but as of next year, all changes regarding the investment allocation of the policy or capitalisation bond will have to be communicated to us as the insurer and not to the bank. This makes things more complex.
To tackle these changes, one answer could have been to offer only discretionary mandates as of next year. But this is not how we approach the Finnish market. Instead we have invested a lot of resources in order to create a forward-thinking, yet prudent solution, which enables the policyholder to make decisions on the investment allocation of his policy also in the future. Indeed, changes to the investment allocation of policies and capitalisation bonds will in the future be sent by policyholders to us through our innovative digital servicing platform Connect. We are proud to be the first Luxembourgish insurer who have announced that we have an effective solution which enables the policyholder to still make decisions on the investment allocation of his policy. As always, we make sure we stay ahead on what matters the most to our partners and clients.
Who are Lombard International Assurance’s clients in Sweden and Finland?
Andrea : While we address the needs of most Swedish HNW families, many of our Swedish clients are entrepreneurs and some of them are first generation wealth creators. This is a specificity worth mentioning as most of them use a holding company to manage their wealth. We have a unique experience in combining unit-linked insurance held by HoldCos. On the other hand we also support wealthy individuals who hold their wealth and assets directly and whose advisers reach out to us to address complex succession planning, mostly on an international scale. This is where we bring unmatched experience.
Laura : Alongside large families, a high potential audience in Finland are wealthy entrepreneurs and millennials. They are dynamic, with a proactive approach to wealth planning, similar to their approach to their business. We see more and more cases with young entrepreneurs with successful start-ups. They look for expertise but also expect an innovative approach. For example, when we launched our International Life Plan (ILP), a high death benefit solution, it was an immediate success as it is particularly relevant for Finnish-entrepreneur clients in protecting their assets. In Finland, if a key person of a business dies, the inheritance tax must be paid immediately and this sometimes leads to the sale of the business in order to pay for the tax. ILP is a solution that helps providing that needed liquidity to pay the IHT in case of death.
What makes Lombard International Assurance uniquely positioned to meet the evolving expectations of our partners and clients in Sweden and Finland?
Andrea : A lot of the solutions available in Sweden are aimed at serving the mass affluent market, leaving no room for bespoke solutions that can meet the needs of today’s mobile HNWIs and UHNWIs in terms of wealth structuring and succession planning. We are a pure player of unit-linked insurance-based wealth solutions and therefore I think our strength lies clearly in what I would call our intellectual property. We have an expertise on cross-border wealth and succession planning solutions through our dedicated Wealth Structuring Solutions team. In addition to this we have expertise and long-term experience in non-traditional assets (NTA) that is very unique. For example, investing in a private equity fund or in non-listed securities requires heavy due diligence which can be a serious barrier for private investors. Our dedicated NTA team is clearly an asset in that perspective as we can provide our clients with in-house expertise and due diligence proficiency not only on private equity but also on other types of assets, for example real estate or infrastructure. All these fields of expertise combined with our tax neutral and portable solution between different jurisdictions are competitive advantages that make our offering relevant for our Swedish clients.
Laura : All these elements are also essential for our value proposition on the Finnish market. Both Finland and Sweden represent important markets for us, where we have built strong relationships and partnerships locally. Our dedication to these markets can also be seen in the way we are dealing with the upcoming law changes in Finland. We are a very solution-driven company.
Another point worth mentioning is that we are working in an open architecture model. It means that for any defined client we can appoint among any of the 200 custodian banks and over 900 investment managers we work with across our markets. This flexibility is a key differentiator. Last but not least, we have a team of 15 experts dedicated to our Finnish and Swedish partners and clients. The fact that our partners and clients can communicate with us in their own language is a major advantage, and we are constantly finding ways to improve and strengthen our service even further.
About Andrea & Laura
Senior Wealth Planner, Swedish Market
Lombard International Assurance
Senior Legal Counsel & Wealth Planner, Finnish Market
Lombard International Assurance