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EDITORIAL COMMENT: Migrant Crisis Should Be Key Focus Of Wealthy Persons' Philanthropy Offerings

Tom Burroughes

7 September 2015

In such a fast-moving and emotionally powerful a story as the mass exodus of migrants from the Middle East to places such as Europe, it is understandable that much of the focus is on what governments are, or are not, doing about the flow of humanity. It is also understandable, if not always politically edifying, that a good deal of commentary is around the sensitive topics of admission of large numbers of people into the West from very different cultures.

All this tumult might seem far away from the sort of topics that typically hit the desks of wealth managers in the great financial centres of the world. But as readers are no doubt aware, one much-cited “value-added” service provided by wealth management houses these days is philanthropy advice and support. Large banks such as UBS, Barclays, Citigroup, DBS and BNP Paribas, among others, highlight these offerings. They hold conferences and seminars (this publication has been present at many of them), issue reports about trends, and honour outstanding philanthropists in awards ceremonies.

With such activity in mind, it would be good to see high net worth and ultra HNW individuals stepping forward, bringing resources to bear to aid some of the organisations working to alleviate suffering. There are legions of aid organisations that spring to mind (such as Doctors Without Frontiers, International Committee of the Red Cross and International Rescue Committee). Banks should, in conversations with clients, suggest ideas for giving and support; clients who are already thinking of ways to help or in how to add to other philanthropic endeavours may need guidance on the best way to proceed.

It is also worth noting that an important area of business for wealth managers today is handling clients who have themselves crossed national borders. The market for “golden visas” – citizenship/residency schemes – isn’t without critics, and wealthy people taking advantage of these structures are among some of the most fortunate persons on earth. It would be a smart strategy, at the very least, for private client advisors to suggest ways that such holders of “golden visas” can dig into their wallets to help those at the bottom of the financial scale. It is smart, because, if politicians are going to be persuaded to continue such visa programmes, they will find these more sellable to electorates if the wealthy people taking advantage of them are contributing to easing those in dire straits, and be seen to be doing so.

The world is seeing some of the heaviest levels of migration since the Second World War. Whatever the causes and possible solutions to this mighty flow, it is clear that a high number of those moving are in desperate straits, and need help. It will be good if the world’s wealthiest persons do their part to help those far less fortunate than themselves.

(This publication particularly welcomes any comments and details from readers about philanthropy programmes that are aimed at this area.)