Two years is a long time to be away from home. That’s how long since Ana Ventura was last in her native South Africa, but then Jersey has been home for Ana and her husband and daughter for the last five years.
Like many graduates, Ana left South Africa with the intention of working in London for a couple of years before returning home. That was more than twenty years ago and since she started at Stonehage, she’s lived in London, Zurich and now Jersey where she heads up the Family Office. For Ana’s family, coming here was somewhat of a change, but the upheaval has been worth it.
“Looking back, moving to Zurich from London was easier despite going to a country that had a foreign language and culture. Coming here, I found that getting used to being in a small community was different. It is an adjustment getting used to the fact that there’s no anonymity. Everybody knows who you are. Walking along King’s Street you will always bump into someone that you know.”
Long walks on the cliff paths, the fresh air and Jersey summers soon helped with the adjustment from the bright lights of the city life they had left behind.
“Over the last 18 months, big cities have felt very, very far away. But on the flip side of that, being in Jersey during the pandemic was actually a blessing. We’ve got a young daughter and having to deal with home schooling and running a business came with its challenges, but doing it from Jersey was a lot more pleasant than having to do it from a big city.”
Like many other workplaces, Stonehage Fleming has embraced flexible working with employees having the option of being in the office three days a week with two days at home. In order to keep the team spirit alive they require the entire team to come in on the same day at least once a week.
“Interaction between colleagues is important, and the sharing of ideas and brainstorming together is vital. People thrive on collegiate working environments and we want everyone to feel part of the same team. With having the one mandatory day we hope to continue to fuel that spirit and make people feel that they are part of a collaborative and bigger team.”
That ethos fits into Stonehage Fleming’s core values– excellence, moral courage and the importance of family. Those are important to Ana and along with the other directors, she tries to inspire that thinking into her teams.
“I really believe in our values and one of the positive attributes of our model is the longevity of our staff. We recently celebrated one of our team members being with the Stonehage Fleming Group for 40 years and that’s a testament to the fact that people are loyal, and they do enjoy working here. Clients like continuity, and we pride ourselves on the exceptional breadth and depth of technical knowledge that we have acquired from the experience of working with international families for over four decades. We understand their family heritage and legacy and when Stonehage merged with the Fleming family, that highlighted the importance we place in this.”
With the merger of the two businesses, Stonehage reset its corporate identity so that it was not seen simply as having a South African focus. It means it’s now a leading multi-disciplinary family office, expanding into more regions around the world, serving a high-net-worth international clientele that’s based in multiple jurisdictions.
Just as events have shaken the world over the last 18 months, this has prompted a change in the behaviour of clients.
“A lot of our client base are moving onto the next generation, and they are far more open to discussion. There is an engaging dialogue with the younger generation which wasn’t there before Covid. It’s made people realise they really do want to get to know their trustees.”
What is noticeable about the office at the Forum in St Helier is the diverse mix of people. There are the long-standing employees, but then there are also the younger team members who bring ideas into the business. Attracting the next generation into the firm is something that Ana is keen to do.
“We all appreciate that it’s quite a challenge to recruit people and the demand from all firms outweighs the supply in Jersey. When new team members join us, it is important that they can see a clear career path so that they see there is longevity here and there are opportunities for development. We have been fortunate to recently attract some great dynamic and ambitious people, to our already extremely talented team, who have seen opportunity in our company. And hopefully they’ll be with us for many years to come.”
The Fleming family name conjures up some obvious images, especially now. The world of espionage is a million miles away from what the firm does, but there is a direct link to the world’s most famous spy. It’s something Stonehage Fleming like to remind people of from time to time and last month’s long-awaited premiere of ‘No Time to Die’ gave Ana and her colleagues the perfect opportunity to entertain.
“It’s amazing what it does for your brand. It sticks in people’s minds that Stonehage Fleming is the Fleming family that we all know as 007. We had a very successful screening of the Bond movie and drinks at the Grand Hotel for a number of our clients and friends of the firm. What made it so special was that after 18 months of people not being able to socialise, people thoroughly enjoyed it.”