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Empowering Women to take control of their Wealth and Legacy

How can wealthy women in the Middle East achieve financial autonomy, ensure that their sons and daughters are protected and contribute to society? Two wealth experts from Swiss private bank Lombard Odier offer practical insights into how women can achieve their goals.

At Lombard Odier, our women clients in the Middle East come from a range of backgrounds – from matriarchs and heiresses to professionals and successful entrepreneurs. All are educated, hardworking and devoted to their children and their families.

Like all women, our clients in the region generally have two main objectives when it comes to their wealth. They want to protect what they have built in their lifetime and to ensure that their children are provided for.

As evidenced by an exclusive survey by Lombard Odier, many also want to pass on their legacy in ways that reflect their beliefs and values, such as adhering to Sharia principles or protecting the environment.

How can wealthy women in the region achieve these aims? What solutions are available that offer real peace of mind?

Joëlle de Cerjat and Soumaya Hissoussi, both wealth professionals at Lombard Odier, have been creating tailored financial solutions for women across the Middle East for a decade. They draw from their extensive experience to discuss how women can take greater control of their financial futures, for themselves and their children.

BSL: Soumaya, why do your female clients approach you as a private banker? What are they looking for?

Increasing numbers of my clients are wealth creators: successful entrepreneurs and professionals who have worked hard to achieve their wealth.

One of my clients is the founder and senior partner of a successful law firm. While she is extremely accomplished in her field, she feels that she lacks sufficient investment knowledge to manage her own assets. She wants a long-term banking partner that can help her to create a bespoke investment solution aligned with her specific objectives and values.

Her children are her primary concern: she wants to invest for her children’s future, their education, to help them finance a property or a business when they are older. As a result, she is more concerned with protecting her capital and beating inflation to maximise her children’s inheritance than achieving strong returns. She has no liquidity concerns so she can afford to take a long-term view with her investments.

She also asked us if we could invest her money to drive a positive social and environmental impact. For many of my female clients, sustainability has become an urgent priority and they want to better understand how they can invest in a way that drives real, measurable change.

In terms of solutions, the client was very interested in our Sharia-compliant ESG strategy, which we manage in partnership with SEDCO Capital.

We believe that Sharia investment strategies share many common values with sustainable investment models; both are aligned to many of the same social and ethical principles.

We offer a breadth of personalised sustainability portfolios built according to individual client specifications, which may include dedicated biodiversity or climate transition solutions, for example. All are founded on the belief that sustainability is now a key driver of risk and return.

BSL: Joëlle, in your field, what is the main concern of women in the Middle East?

As a wealth planner exclusively focused on the Middle East, I help clients from all over the region to plan their succession, ensuring a smooth transfer of their private and business assets to the next generation.

Like Soumaya, I am seeing increasing numbers of independently wealthy women – entrepreneurs or senior corporate executives – who are concerned about protecting their children from potential litigation in the event of their death.

Many have experienced the double pain of losing a loved one while being bogged down in family conflicts due to unsettled or ill-settled succession. It is this kind of experience that they do not want to leave to their children.

For some, the focus is on protecting their daughters. It is not uncommon to see families where the direct heirs are daughters only. In such cases, there is a possibility that part of the inheritance could default to an uncle or a male cousin.

In the case of Soumaya’s client, she might be keen to pass on the management of her business to her daughters as well, on the conviction that they could make it flourish just as successfully as her sons. One solution would be to transfer part of the assets or shares in the family business during her lifetime through an irrevocable gift, a valid Hiba in compliance with Islamic principles.

Soumaya Hissoussi, Head of Islamic investment offering, Lombard Odier (left). Joëlle de Cerjat, Swiss attorney-at-law, senior wealth planner specialising in the Middle East, Lombard Odier (right).


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