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The benefits of private banking for lawyers

As time-poor professionals, lawyers appreciate speed and simplicity. Banking with Commonwealth Private allows lawyers not only to create and build wealth for their futures and the next generation but also to do so in ways that benefit their vocational idiosyncrasies.

user iconLawyers Weekly 21 February 2024 Big Law
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Just like a good health check, Alen Sirol (pictured) stated, financial wellbeing checks should be in the diary of all lawyers well in advance.

“The investment you place in a regular financial wellbeing check will be beneficial in the long term,” he said.

“I talk to clients all the time, and what’s happening in people’s lives can change from month to month, even week to week. So, when you’re mapping out your plans for the next year, map [a financial wellbeing check] into it, and hold true to it to ensure you are on track to achieve the financial return you are seeking.”


An evolving landscape for lawyers

In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Alen Sirol – the national director for professional services at Commonwealth Private – reflected on the ever-changing environment for those in professional services, including and especially legal practitioners.

Commonwealth Private looks after high-net-worth customers across the country, he explained, including business owners, C-suite professionals, and, of course, law firm partners. It services over 10,000 professionals already – a number that includes a “fair share” of the legal profession, he said.

Its purpose, Mr Sirol proclaimed, is to help create a brighter future across generations by supporting professionals “not only as they’re building and creating their wealth but also as they transition their wealth to the next generation”.

This is especially pertinent for the legal profession, he outlined, given that, as an industry, it has not always received a tailored offering.

And, like others in professional services, lawyers are “time-poor”.

They have complex structures in the ways that they operate, he detailed, particularly as they move through their careers in joining a firm and then rising through partnership models. It can be very difficult, he noted, for those who do not properly understand the sector and the ways such businesses operate to appreciate the financial concerns of law firm partners and the uniqueness of their vocational journeys.

Therefore, Mr Sirol surmised, there is an “opportunity” for senior lawyers to be served by a team with “deep knowledge and expertise” – not just about their industry but also about how different firms operate.

Why lawyers are a priority

From what Commonwealth Private has seen, the complexity of partnership models in law firms across the country is shifting.

What the bank hears from clients, Mr Sirol said, is that they are trying to obtain financing through what he calls simple channels but that the intricacies of firm structures (including but not limited to income-splitting and various considerations of partners at different life cycles, such as new versus established) means that those channels aren’t serving them as well as could be done.

Partnering with Commonwealth Private allows clients to work with professionals with perspectives who understand those business changes, as well as the market trends and the why.

Not only this, Mr Sirol said, Commonwealth Private “makes it really simple” and alleviates the complexity of one’s personal banking arrangements so that lawyers “can go on doing what they do best: serving their clients”.

The scenarios in which one would need better-tailored assistance will ring true for partners of all stripes.

Consider the example of a firm partner who is married with teenage or young children, Mr Sirol suggested: over the course of their career, they may receive advice about setting themselves up via trusts or bucket companies by their existing accountant. But, what can happen, he said, is that while that accountant may have intended to make one’s structure simple and efficient, it can sometimes present future challenges for one’s capacity to borrow money and upgrade a home.

In such a scenario, he said, Commonwealth Private is able to identify ways to navigate such hurdles quickly and is mindful of a partner’s time capacity.

“One of the things [partners] really seek is speed and simplicity,” he pointed out – and Commonwealth Private doesn’t need a client to explain the simple and obvious aspects of such a day job.

“Because we have that understanding, one can go away and consider how things may play out as one moves through a business at different stages of the career.”

Moreover, he said, Commonwealth Private is invested in a client’s family and the future plans for all persons involved.

Mr Sirol reflected on one partner Commonwealth Private is working with, noting that she is being supported with plans not just for succession for her children and wider family but also for guiding those family members through the processes.

“We see financial empowerment for the future as a massive role in what we can provide,” he said.

A multi-pronged proposition

Commonwealth Private focuses on a handful of key areas when building a client relationship, particularly with a client who comes from a legal background.

There is, Mr Sirol listed, the “anchored piece”, involving what a client expects to build, borrow, and protect in order to improve and manage their wealth.

“We have the technical expertise in-house to ensure that we are taking a truly commercial view of lending, investing and borrowing arrangements, based on a deep understanding of the sector. This makes things so much easier from a client’s perspective.

“Whether that’s through wholesale investment opportunities, where clients want to take control of the investment themselves, or whether they would like someone else to help manage it, that’s where our team can really provide some insights.

“In addition to traditional investment strategies, we often see industry professionals look to build wealth through investing in private businesses. As these investments and divestments occur, it’s important to have access to bankers that can add value at the right time. This is where Commonwealth Private acts as a conduit to the broader CommBank team, ensuring that business bankers and technical experts are available when they are needed most,” he said.

Lawyers also “value” connections, he went on, and as such, Commonwealth Private offers curated services and experiences for senior lawyers – including thought leadership and knowledge-sharing opportunities in boardroom settings.

Elsewhere, Mr Sirol said, Commonwealth Private and CommBank “absolutely excel” in technology – something he said remains a key strategic pillar for the bank.

“We offer support [to clients] through a digital concierge service to bring them up to speed around the technology, so they can be fast and efficient. Once they learn that, they’re very strong takers of technology, given the time pressures and the challenges that they have in their day-to-day roles,” he said.

Getting started

When asked about the practical steps that such senior lawyers can take in getting started on a journey with Commonwealth Private, Mr Sirol explained that one must determine “where the departure point is” and what they want to achieve over the next five to 10 years.

Having goals mapped out, he said, allows the Commonwealth Private team to shape them and bring some insight into them. From there, the team can set things up “effectively and seamlessly”, tailored to the needs of the particular professional.

Bringing those goals together means that one can have a “succinct voice” of supporters who are aligned to the same objectives, Mr Sirol went on.

The implications of what is being offered and the technical expertise may be different to those whom one has engaged with previously, but a unified approach helps avoid unintended consequences in the future, he submitted. For example, if one sets up a tax structure that can limit borrowing capacity, it will be better to know this before such a decision is made.

“Bring the right people to the table who also share those goals, get them aligned, and really think through some of the unintended consequences based on the plans that you’re making today that give you consideration to make the right choices,” Mr Sirol said.

Commonwealth Private has a “deeply considered” industry specialisation team, Mr Sirol noted, which understands the ins and outs of the marketplace for lawyers and, thus, what they will require moving forward.

“I really encourage everyone – if you haven’t already thought about your financial wellbeing – to reach out to us and connect with our private banking specialists. We’ll be more than delighted to see how we can support,” he concluded.

To learn more about Commonwealth Private, click here.

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