Yiolitis: "More Cypriots are putting their trust in Trusts"

Emily Yiolitis, CEO of Anemi Trustees, is a well-known figure on the Cyprus business scene. A highly successful lawyer and former government minister, she has now set up her own trustee company as well as the very popular Maison Anemi concept store.

Here she explains what makes Cyprus trusts so attractive and discusses the concept behind Maison Anemi, which, she says, “is aimed at the global nomad”.

You are involved in two very different sectors, linked by the Anemi brand. So, let’s start with Anemi Trustees. What does it do?

Anemi Trustees is a regulated trustee company offering fiduciary services and succession planning.

Cyprus has gained a strong reputation as a jurisdiction in which trusts can be set up. What makes the country a good choice for trusts?

Since Brexit, Cyprus is one of the few remaining common law jurisdictions within the EU, so it is a natural choice for a prospective settlor looking for an EU-regulated and compliant trust jurisdiction. Many jurisdictions today recognise trusts and have implemented the Hague Convention on the Law Applicable to Trusts and on their Recognition but few offer the product itself – most civil law jurisdictions are better versed in foundations. Cyprus is tax- transparent, meaning that any income flowing into a trust will be treated as though the trust was not there at all (a trust is a relationship and does not have a separate legal personality) but, at the same time, assets placed in a trust are protected from a variety of external factors such as creditor claims or divorce proceedings. Importantly, trusts in Cyprus can offer a seamless succession solution, meaning that no will is required and assets placed in a trust continue to be held on behalf of the stipulated beneficiaries without the hassle and expense of probate.

How do you maintain the privacy and confidentiality of client information in a global environment that is constantly demanding greater transparency?

It has been a historic aim of global organisations such as the G7, the EU, the World Bank, the OECD and the FATF to deconstruct opaque company and trust structures in order to determine the real owners. Although the majority of these structures are perfectly legitimate, there remains a risk that some may act as smokescreens, hiding illegitimate proceeds from financial crime, money laundering and terrorist financing. Company and trust registers, as operated today, obliterate that risk. So, on set-up of a trust, (as well as periodically when changes occur), we submit all the relevant information on the trust parties to the regulator. The register is not open for access by the general public – correctly, in my opinion – because this would mean a significant infringement on the right to privacy and could lead to blackmail, extortion, intimidation or even kidnap of minor beneficiaries (note that some beneficiaries may be resident in countries where there is a real risk of kidnap or abduction for ransom). So, an intricate balance has been struck – and needs to be kept – between transparency and the right to privacy (and safety).

How do you handle potential conflicts of interest that may arise in trust management?

A conflict of interest could arise if a Trustee's personal interests conflict with their responsibilities to the beneficiaries. Trustees must not seek to benefit from their position as Trustee or from knowledge of the trust’s doings or assets or put themselves into a situation where their personal interests conflict with their duties as a Trustee. A Trustee has, above all, a fiduciary duty towards the beneficiaries and must always put the beneficiaries’ interests above all other considerations. If a conflict does arise, the remedy will depend on the type of conflict. If there is a short-term conflict such as having a common supplier for a project who is simultaneously being considered by the Trustee in their personal capacity as well as by the Trustee Board on behalf of the trust, the remedy may be just to declare the conflict and, if necessary, abstain from the decision-making process. If the conflict is high-risk or more permanent, the Trustee may have to resign. It is important in all cases for the Trustee to be honest and transparent about all information pertaining to the trust and to act in good faith when managing the trust.

Apart from the name, the only obvious link between Anemi Trustees and the multibrand concept store Maison Anemi would seem to be the fact that they are both aimed at a wealthy clientele. So, what inspired you to open the store and what is the philosophy behind Maison Anemi?

I would disagree that either Anemi Trustees or Maison Anemi are aimed exclusively at a wealthy clientele! It is often much more economical and certainly more time-efficient for someone to set up a trust and settle their succession and inheritance issues in this manner than to draft a will, pay the lawyers and executors, and deal with the intricacies of probate and potential inheritance wrangling. A trust is not subject to probate because the assets placed in the trust are already vested in the Trustee and the deceased (the settlor) no longer needs to pass them on to his or her beneficiaries as they would in a will. A Trustee will often have reference to a letter of wishes of the settlor and in this way, the settlor’s intentions can be respected fully. Add to this the fact that, without a trust (whether by will or dying intestate), a person domiciled in Cyprus is subject to forced heirship laws (i.e. has to leave certain portions of their estate to specified family members whether they want to or not), more and more Cypriots are turning to trusts to settle their estate seamlessly and in the manner that reflects their true wishes. As for Maison Anemi, this concept space has offerings for a wide range of visitors and is certainly not exclusively aimed at the wealthy.

How strong is the market for luxury brands in Cyprus? Are you planning to launch stores in other cities?

We do sell luxury brands but not exclusively. We have a selection of brands which we love and we think represent the Anemi client, ranging from casual beachwear to beaded eveningwear. There is a strong market in Cyprus for luxury brands both for locals and visitors. Limassol, in particular, has developed exponentially in the last few years with many people choosing to visit, invest or bring their families to set up home here, attracted by the year- round sunshine, good schools, high-end real estate offerings, the safety to bring up a family here and the unparalleled facilities – dining, hotel, retail and now gaming – which Limassol has to offer for a city of this size. All this has created a luxury momentum and demand which we strive to serve. We have been approached to expand the concept to other cities (and even countries) but this is not something we are actively pursuing at the moment.

What makes Maison Anemi stand out from other concept stores? How does the Anemi Bistrot tie in with the whole concept?

The aesthetic of Maison Anemi, the store and the bistrot is aimed at the global nomad. We aim to offer an immersive experience, with Parisian-inspired playlists, unique crockery, comfort food and a curated selection of what we love best to wear for any occasion. We want to be a place where an aesthete who likes to dress well, sip and eat well and listen to good music would love to spend a day.

What next for the Anemi brand?

We do have plans but they are still in the making. My favourite piece of advice is from a letter Chekhov wrote to his wife, Olga Knipper: "Take life step by step, pace by pace, slowly, slowly and leave the competition to others."

(Photo by Giorgos Charal)

This interview first appeared in the 2023 The Cyprus Journal of Wealth Management. Click here to view it.

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