Aqua published in "The Edge" Magazine
Exclusive interview with "The EDGE Magazine"
Helping high-net worth families mitigate risk, maximise returns
Borne out of a partnership with leading families, Aqua Group provides commercial structuring, strategic acquisitions and estate planning. Speaking exclusively with The Edge, Joanne Luce, managing director of Aqua Group, shares what it takes to make resources work and achieve long-term value and growth.
You became the first privately-owned entity to receive a trust and company services licence in the Qatar Financial Centre (QFC). Tell us what it means for your business and the clients that you serve in Qatar.
We are really excited that Aqua can now provide a unique blend of services to ensure that the families we serve receive excellent service, security, and value, allowing us to mitigate their risk and maximise their returns. Since we got our licence in February 2015, Aqua has enhanced its existing relationships with a small number of key ultra high net worth (UHNW) families while seeking to continue to grow the business. Our team in Qatar has worked together for a number of years, and share a strong understanding of working with clients to secure advantages for family-owned businesses. This brings together a broad and deep understanding of how structuring and service can be used to optimise the client's expectations and returns, and we are glad that we can now offer our services locally under the QFC umbrella.
Tell us about the strategy of your company.
The strategy behind Aqua is to grow and develop a credible financial services business to allow key families, which Aqua assists, to improve their return on capital investment, through providing them first-mover advantage on key strategic acquisitions. We structure our affairs using corporate partnership or estate planning mechanisms to ensure that the families we serve can meet their specific commercial objectives, increasing their value as well as ensuring confidentiality and security for their families.
With the oil price falling, how do you think this would impact the outbound investment from Qatar?
Qatar has been moving towards foreign investment primarily to diversify its investment portfolio, increase revenues from investment opportunities, and promote its national economy. Qatar is among the countries, which has grasped the opportunities that the recession in Europe provided for investment in key sectors such as real estate, sports and the financial markets. While it is hard to predict the future of Qatar's investment outcomes, from what we have seen over the years, the results have been fruitful because the state is carefully choosing its investment opportunities and is dedicated to financial stability and to a discretionary fiscal policy. With the continuing volatility in the world's financial markets, investors and business leaders are looking for alternative solutions that will provide long-term stability and the potential for continued capital gain. Over the years Aqua has developed strategies to address some of these growing concerns, and offers tailor-made solutions that enable our clients to move forward through the changing times, ensuring trust in financial services is restored by going back to the age-old effective management model followed by family-owned businesses, rather than expecting a large institutional bank to stabilise your business or your family. Our range of service offerings provides the platform for these strategies to work for our clients who are almost exclusively family-owned businesses. Qatar remains one of the largest capital investors in the United Kingdom(UK) and Europe, and research suggests that private and non-institutional investors that include property firms, UHNW families, equity and private funds are increasingly becoming major sources of outbound capital from Qatar.
What are the tax-efficient investment opportunities for Qataris and family-owned businesses?
To address volatility of currency markets, we support careful strategies to minimise loss. We assist our clients to look at strategies that get the most from income producing assets. We manage residency options for the European Union (EU) and assist in the acquisition of real estate, vessels, commercial businesses, retail shopping centres, care homes, hotels and leisure, and sign effective inward and external double tax treaties to maximise the return to the investors.
With you having offices in Malta and Jersey, how does that help you better serve your Qatari clients?
Having established Aqua offices in these key jurisdictions has allowed us to broaden our service offerings for our clients by capitalising on the different strengths of each jurisdiction, as well as giving our clients a strong platform to grow their business through Europe and the UK. The specific service Aqua provides depends on the asset strategy and aspirations of those families who are comfortable using core elements of the Aqua service offering.
As family-run businesses in Qatar are going through a transformational phase through adopting corporate best practices, what role are you looking to play in this?
Family businesses are arguably the fastest-growing investment vehicles in the world today, as families with substantial wealth are increasingly seeing advantages in the creation of a customised platform focused on their family ensuring that the right client outcome is achieved. We see our role in helping to create a "plug in and play" strategy, using the best of the offshore structuring and access to the EU, utilising tax mitigation and an effective double tax treaty network to place Aqua as a multi family office and our clients in a strategically advantageous position. We are strong on corporate governance and bring many years of experience of financial structuring into play so that the family business keeps up to date with regulatory and tax issues. We also help developing right relationships between family and external professionals through practical and value-added corporate governance.
What is your future plan?
Looking to the future, we are keen to continue with our sustainable growth plan for our business, to expanding our team in order to provide better quality services for our clients. We are hoping to offer internships in Qatar and continue building and developing.