James Sykes - Spear's Magazine

James Sykes

Saffery Champness

James Sykes
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‘I’m not someone who’s got my head in the tax law book the whole time: for me it’s more about going out and meeting people and helping them achieve their aims,’ says James Sykes, who’s been Saffery’s chairman since 2016.

‘Rich people are rich people, they broadly have the same issues,’ says Sykes of his client base, which includes entrepreneurs, sports personalities, film stars and hedge fund managers as well as the more traditional Saffery’s client base of international families, and landed estates. ‘While all my clients are concerned about passing on wealth, new moneyed clients are less attached to individual assets, so primogeniture isn’t something that comes up as much for them.’

Clients are increasingly worried about the CRS. ‘Whether or not they should be is a different matter – but there we are,’ says Sykes, adding that Saffery Champness has never done ‘racy’ tax schemes. Even so, aggressive but legal tax avoidance is no longer as acceptable as it was: ‘I’ve probably got lots of clients who did legal, but quite “schemey” things ten years ago. They wouldn’t do it now.’

With private information to discover online these days, Sykes says he has seen many clients mindful that reputation is an increasingly fragile thing.