Trust Estate

INTERVIEW: New Firm Fidusys Wants To Raise The Bar In How Trustees Do Their Job

Tom Burroughes Group Editor London 8 October 2012

INTERVIEW: New Firm Fidusys Wants To Raise The Bar In How Trustees Do Their Job

A trustee can only be as effective as the quality of the information and communications channels that are available but in far too many instances the industry falls short, argues the creator of a new business for the sector.

One problem is that the roles of trustees and trust administrators are blurred, despite the very different roles they play, says Robert Clifford, who recently told WealthBriefing about his business, Fidusys, which is based in Jersey. The firm, launched a few weeks ago, is described as a “purpose-built online management system for fiduciaries”.

“I would like a really good debate in the trust industry about what is best for settlors and beneficiaries about how best trusts can be managed. Trust systems need to support trusteeship, good decisions, as well as they support administration. Decisions come first, administration follows,” Clifford said.

Fidusys offers online services such as what it calls “trustee/director decision management”; trust management, including any risk rating or associated methodology; a management overview portal; document management; know-your-client compliance support, and automated filings of meetings.

Clifford reckons his business will put more information in front of trustees and in an efficient manner – something that the trusts sector will appreciate at a time when costs of doing business face upward pressure as compliance burdens mount.


The trustee/administrator function split is a key part of his firm’s approach.

“In assessing trust company performance the onset of litigation often reveals a schizophrenic approach by settlors and trustees alike,” Clifford said.

“Before any litigation, the most usual indicators of trustee performance are cost and administrative efficiency. When and if litigation commences there is a sudden sea change in opinion and, unsurprisingly, everything turns on the quality of trustee decisions. It is not a question of fault, but a question of focus, priorities and communication. Decisions, or trust management, need to emerge from the shadows of efficient administration and inadequate information management systems,” he said.

Trustees are decision makers and trust administrators as those who carry out the requirements of trustees. There are clear differences between their roles and the type of support that both groups need, he said. 

“I wanted to create a system [that was] something that trustees could develop and change for themselves. It [Fidusys] puts them in charge of system development and change in place of the software vendor. It also allows other people, such as tax advisors and lawyers to have access to all or any part of the system.”

Clifford brings plenty of experience to the new firm, having worked at firms such as Investec Trust, where he had acted as chief executive of the group for nine years.

“I thought about getting back into the trust industry [after leaving Investec] but did not want to work in the same way as before. I therefore decided to build a system to help trustees fulfil their functions better than they do at the moment.”

The business model of Fidusys can be expanded sharply – it is “very scalable”, he said. 

As far as the business’s impact on the trusts sector is concerned, transparency seems to be a key word. It enables trustees to see what all the different issues and risks are for a trust as part of a single package. It will also help banks understand trusts better, he said. The system can support any type of entity, including foundations, as it is configured by the trustee.


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