STEP Annual Review


Message from our worldwide Chair

Tony is smiling at the camera, wearing a light blue jacket, and striped shirt.

Tony Pitcher TEP

This has been a productive year for STEP. This Annual Review will cover many of our achievements, but I wanted to focus here on work in two key areas that I believe are incredibly important in securing STEP’s future.

The first is equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI). Following on from our commitment last year, this year has seen us really get to work in addressing EDI within our governance and volunteering structures. A survey at the end of 2022 provided all-important data about our membership.

This showed us we have some work to do to ensure our committees are fully reflective of the community we serve. This will of course take time, but we are already seeing some really encouraging signs.

This is just the start of our EDI journey and there is a lot of ground to cover. We recognise that we are learning as we go, adapting and adjusting along the way. We are fully committed to listening to members’ experiences and working to make STEP a fully inclusive and welcoming organisation.

The second is very much linked to the first, and this is around engagement and connection. Key to this is ensuring that STEP remains relevant.

Our work in EDI is clearly essential here, as only by listening to the views and perspectives of all our members and benefiting from their involvement and input will we fully understand and assist with the issues and challenges that members are facing.

Our most recent member survey tells us that members’ biggest challenge is keeping up to date, particularly with regulatory and compliance obligations.

Members tell us we are doing pretty well in supporting them through our information and resources. But we know that support on local, practical issues is important, and this is best delivered by your local STEP branch.

Branches are the main human touchpoint – the core of members’ connection with STEP. Ensuring a healthy branch network is essential, and this relies on volunteers – members who give their time to support others in their local area.

It is so important that we support and enable members to come forward and serve the Society. Volunteers are the lifeblood of STEP and we want to make sure we make the most of their valuable time and skills.

Over the past year we have undertaken a consultation with our volunteers to find out how we can best support them and ensure a consistent experience for members from one branch to another.

Next year will see us use the insight gathered to trial new ways of working in some regions, which could then be extended to other regions if successful.

This is a hugely important project, which we believe will help us to stay relevant and connected to our members around the world.

I want to thank all of our members for their continued support. I look forward to what the coming year will bring.

Our Strategy

Chief Executive Mark Walley explains how STEP's strategy to champion the big issues and raise our profile is starting to attract new members and increase engagement with members and stakeholders. While our vision, mission, and strategy form solid foundations, we continue to adapt our approach as the industry evolves. By doing so we can ensure that our strategy remains relevant and effective so that our members continue to be supported to deliver the highest level of service to their clients.

Drawing on a broad range of cultures and experiences to shape how we do things. That's how we empower all STEP people.
Mark Walley, STEP Chief Executive

Excelling in Education

We have made excellent progress in our strategic objective to ensure that STEP’s qualifications and Continuing Professional Development (CPD) resources become the global benchmark for the industry. 

Accreditations provide robust new routes to membership

International University of Monaco: civil-law focus

We have joined forces with the International University of Monaco to launch a new STEP-accredited programme, International Management of Family Wealth. The course is for practitioners involved in the protection, management and succession of large international estates. This course has been accredited as equivalent to the STEP Diploma, providing an exciting new route to STEP membership for civil-law practitioners. 

US: accredited credentials

We have assessed and accredited certain education/credentials as a route to gaining Full STEP membership in the US. These include: Masters of Law ( LL.M) – Tax; Certified Financial Planner (CFP®); Accredited Estate Planner (AEP®); Estate Planning Law Specialist (EPLS); and Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor (CTFA).

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Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash

Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash

STEP Diploma logo

STEP qualifications see increased demand following launch of more flexible STEP Diploma

We saw 2,109 students enrol onto a STEP course this year: a 17% increase year on year. This follows the launch of our new, more flexible STEP Diploma last year, enabling people to mix and match from our suite of Advanced Certificates to build a qualification that meets their needs.

Contentious estates course

New Contentious Estates CPD Learning course addresses rise in inheritance disputes

In October, we launched a new Contentious Estates CPD Learning course. This course, which is primarily aimed at practitioners in England and Wales, helps contentious lawyers and other practitioners enhance their knowledge of what can go wrong if wills and probate are not prepared properly.

Celebrating student success

In July, we celebrated our Excellence Award winners, who were the highest achievers globally across all of STEP’s qualifications and the Essay Route. Congratulations to our winners from Austria, Germany, Guernsey, Hong Kong, Italy, Jersey, Malta, Mauritius, Mexico, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, UK and the US.

Watch our video of Nitrisha Doorasamy TEP of STEP Cape Town, who was the highest-scoring International Diploma graduate across all four papers and all jurisdictions.

CPD and Standards

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New CPD Hub

In September, we created a new CPD Hub on our website, bringing together our CPD videos and updated guides about reflective practice and ethics, to help members understand, plan and record their CPD.

Torn Ukrainian and Russian flags intersect

Sanctions guidance

We continue to update guidance in respect of Russia sanctions regimes. Alongside guidance on the EU and US, STEP’s UK Guidance Note has been updated three times in 2023 to reflect changes to the law.

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Upholding standards

To ensure we set, maintain and uphold the highest professional standards, we continue to maintain a robust disciplinary process. This year, we have developed new resources to help members adhere to our standards.

Raising our Profile

This past year has seen us take great strides in raising STEP’s profile beyond the industry and helping a range of stakeholders understand the value of our work and members’ specialist expertise. We have focused our attention predominantly on two topic areas: Digital Assets and Mental Capacity, while continuing to engage constructively on all issues of importance to our members.

Raising STEP’s profile with the public and cloud service providers

STEP’s Digital Assets: A Call to Action research report in 2021 found that nearly 25% of practitioners had clients who had experienced significant distress and frustration after trying to access the digital assets of a family member.

The main causes of these difficulties were found to be a lack of public awareness about the need to plan for what happens to your digital assets after you’ve gone and a lack of consistency in tools and terms and conditions offered by service providers (Apple, Facebook, Google, etc).

To address this, we developed a campaign to raise public awareness, with an emotionally engaging short video driving people to a bespoke website,, which encourages people to take action and update their legacy settings.

Since launch, the campaign has reached more than 8.5 million people across 40 countries and the video has been viewed in full more than 200,000 times. The website has had nearly 50,000 visits and nearly 4,000 people took action by visiting the ‘Update your Legacy Settings’ information.

The campaign has been covered by media across the world, including BBC Radio 4’s trusted consumer programme Moneybox, BBC Wales, The Scotsman, the Telegraph, leading trade press and over 20 titles in Canada.

The campaign has also won awards for Best Public Awareness Campaign from both Memcom and the Association Excellence Awards.

Following on from our public campaign, we launched STEP’s Digital Legacy Scorecard, a system for rating cloud service providers on the extent to which they have planned what happens to their users’ accounts in the event of their death or incapacity.

The results demonstrate that all providers need to do more to improve their legacy functionality. Of the service providers rated, none met all of our basic requirements. We want all providers to not only meet the basic requirements, but to go beyond these to provide a fully comprehensive programme that covers all aspects of estate planning and administration.

In light of the scores, we have been calling on all of these service providers to work with us to better support their customers to plan their digital estates. As a result we have met with both LinkedIn and X/Twitter about the Scorecard, and brought to their attention the importance of strengthening their terms of service to better protect consumers’ sentimental assets.

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A composite of pictures of children, a baby, a dog, a couple and a family
A composite of pictures of a baby, cat, young children and Dr Dan from Ouch!
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Expanding our influence

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Inputting into policy development

STEP's expertise continues to be sought on a range of issues from national and supranational authorities. We responded to 14 consultations this year about key topics including anti-money laundering, counter-terrorism finance supervision rules, crypto-assets and the Hague Convention of July 2019 on Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgements in Civil or Commercial Matters.

On the left, Emily (long dark hair) is wearing a white jacket and smiling at the camera. On the right, Jo is wearing glasses and has wavy hair in a bob.

Engaging with media

We had 63 pieces of media coverage this year – a 26% increase on last year, with an average of at least one STEP mention in the media every week. Topics included digital assets, mental capacity, tax, probate, wills and planning for incapacity. Our spokespeople included Emily Deane TEP, STEP Technical Counsel and Head of Government Affairs (pictured left) and Jo Summers TEP, a Partner at Jurit (pictured right).

Tackling global issues associated with loss of mental capacity

With globally ageing populations, and a recent report stating that dementia cases are set to triple by 2050, issues concerning capacity are increasingly important and relevant in all aspects of work relating to inheritance and succession planning.

With its multi-disciplinary membership, STEP and its members have an opportunity to play an active role in assisting clients to plan for and take advanced decisions, should they lose capacity in the future.

 The past year has seen the culmination of three major pieces of work in this area.

 1.     In June, STEP Canada produced its comprehensive Guide for Assisting Persons in Vulnerable Situations. This Guide was an outcome of a cross-sector symposium in March 2021, and provides information and education to raise awareness of the challenges facing advisors seeking to support and better serve their clients in vulnerable situations. The Guide has been viewed over 30,000 times.

 2.     In November, we published a report outlining the findings of a global survey of 756 practitioners. Loss of Mental Capacity – A Global Perspective, which was sponsored by the Alzheimer’s Society (UK), found that practitioners are increasingly advising on capacity issues and expect this to increase over the next five years. Alongside this, a shocking 57% of respondents had seen instances of vulnerable person financial abuse. The findings highlight the need for all jurisdictions globally to implement robust and consistent legal frameworks for safeguarding the financial affairs of incapable clients through powers of representation.

 3.      To support jurisdictions in implementing legal frameworks, STEP has developed and launched its Global Representative Power (GRP). The GRP is a template and a benchmark for a lasting/enduring power of attorney that is globally recognised and portable across borders. It serves as a model ‘best-practice’ template to governments globally when developing new legislation or reviewing existing provisions. With the aid of the STEP GRP, we are now working with multiple jurisdictions to bring proposed improvements in mental capacity legislation to the attention of their respective governments.

Cover of the STEP Canada guide
Cover of the Mental Capacity report

Increasing Value to Members

We have made sustained and impactful progress in delivering value for our members.

Growing our membership

The past year saw the culmination of a project to improve the joining experience for members. We interviewed a range of potential and new members from different regions to understand their motivations for, and experiences of, finding out about and joining our community. We used their feedback to improve our join information and develop a global member recruitment campaign with the strapline: ‘Connect. Learn. Achieve’.

As a result, we have welcomed 2,211 new members this year, an increase of 11% over the past year. We have also welcomed back 161 members from 33 countries across the world due to a targeted re-join campaign.

Connecting practitioners through industry leading events

 More than 6,000 people attended 27 events organised by STEP’s head office across the globe. We welcomed delegates in locations including Australia, the Cayman Islands, Europe, Singapore and South Africa. We provided unique opportunities for delegates to network and gain greater understanding of industry developments.

In September, we celebrated excellence across the industry at this year’s Private Client Awards in London, UK, with nearly 600 people attending from 20 different countries.

Highlights from this year's STEP Private Client Awards

Highlights from this year's STEP Private Client Awards

Delegates at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

Delegates at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

Delegates at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

Dharshi Wijetunga speaking at STEP Alpine Conference 2023

Dharshi Wijetunga speaking at STEP Alpine Conference 2023

Dharshi Wijetunga speaking at STEP Alpine Conference 2023

Delegates at the STEP Journal Roundtable sponsored by Intertrust

Delegates at the STEP Journal Roundtable sponsored by Intertrust

Delegates at the STEP Journal Roundtable sponsored by Intertrust

Guests at the Chair's Reception 2022

Guests at the Chair's Reception 2022

Guests at the Chair's Reception 2022

Hon. Andre Ebanks MP speaking at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

Hon. Andre Ebanks MP speaking at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

Hon. Andre Ebanks MP speaking at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

STEP Asia Conference 2022

STEP Asia Conference 2022

STEP Asia Conference 2022

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Highlights from this year's STEP Private Client Awards

Highlights from this year's STEP Private Client Awards

Delegates at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

Delegates at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

Delegates at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

Dharshi Wijetunga speaking at STEP Alpine Conference 2023

Dharshi Wijetunga speaking at STEP Alpine Conference 2023

Dharshi Wijetunga speaking at STEP Alpine Conference 2023

Delegates at the STEP Journal Roundtable sponsored by Intertrust

Delegates at the STEP Journal Roundtable sponsored by Intertrust

Delegates at the STEP Journal Roundtable sponsored by Intertrust

Guests at the Chair's Reception 2022

Guests at the Chair's Reception 2022

Guests at the Chair's Reception 2022

Hon. Andre Ebanks MP speaking at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

Hon. Andre Ebanks MP speaking at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

Hon. Andre Ebanks MP speaking at STEP Cayman Conference 2023

STEP Asia Conference 2022

STEP Asia Conference 2022

STEP Asia Conference 2022

A landmark year for STEP’s employer community

This year, STEP surpassed 100 Employer Partners on its Employer Partnership Programme. We now work with 104 Employer Partners in over 500 offices across 40 jurisdictions, and continue to benefit from an excellent Partner retention rate.

Developing resources for our members

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Topic-based content hubs

We have built content hubs for key topic areas, including digital assets, mental capacity, modern families and responsible stewardship of wealth so members can keep up to date with developments in these areas.

Informative publications

Our publications and newsletters continue to engage our members. The STEP Journal had 119,215 page views, with the Trust Quarterly Review reaching 44,345 page views. Industry news articles had 276,102 page views.

Specialist supplements

In October, we published a modern families supplement, bringing together a selection of articles and resources on this important topic to help support and educate our members. It has seen fantastic engagement, with more than 1,500 downloads.

Explainer videos

We produced a series of short video clips featuring STEP members explaining key terminology relating to digital assets . Nearly 7,000 people have watched these videos, helping to build our members' knowledge and confidence in this area.

Empowering our People 

We have taken considered action towards delivering our objective to ensure all our people grow and thrive through their relationship with STEP.

Our EDI journey so far

EDI can be a daunting topic. It can be difficult to know where to start.

We knew we had to take action. While it was clear that we have a hugely geographically dispersed membership, with 21,000 members in around 100 countries, we did not have a full picture of demographics beyond location, gender and age. Furthermore, we had no information on whether members felt welcome and included.

We decided to prioritise EDI within our membership governance and volunteering structures to ensure a diverse range of perspectives contributing to decision-making. Our aim is to ensure the right mix of people to support good governance and performance, while creating a welcoming and inclusive environment for all members.

The past year has seen us take a number of steps on our EDI journey: from undertaking a full survey of our members to establish key data, to changing our volunteer and staff recruitment processes, implementing policies and communications to recognise and celebrate all cultures and developing resources to support our staff, volunteers and members to live STEP's inclusive values.

We are incredibly proud that our efforts were recognised at the Memcom Excellence Awards 2023, where we won the Memcom EDI Award for our work so far.

Cover of STEP's Living our Values Guide

Helping our people to live our values

In order to continue to build an environment where everyone feels welcome, we developed a Living our Values EDI resources hub, aimed particularly at volunteers, which:

  • Demonstrates how STEP’s values of community, collaboration, integrity and continuous learning can be implemented on a daily basis with the help of eight inclusive behaviours.
  • Shows examples of how to behave inclusively in a STEP context, using real examples from volunteer experiences.
  • Gives each person concrete actions on how to develop behaviours to be more inclusive and truly embrace our values.
  • Shows how inclusive behaviours help shift mindsets to embed and value EDI throughout the organisation.

Encouraging members to get involved

To encourage more of our members to get involved in STEP’s committees, we created a video featuring members talking about how they have benefited from volunteering with STEP.

If you really want to go up a gear in your career, volunteer. It's a way to accelerate your career.
Ross Belhomme TEP

Our Finances

This Annual Review covers covers the period 1 November 2022 to 31 October 2023. Our financial year runs from 1 April 2022-31 March 2023, which saw STEP globally start to return to normality following the COVID-19 pandemic.

We maintained a strong overall member retention rate of 95%. Alongside this, STEP Head Office and branches globally returned to hosting in-person events, resulting in total income increasing by 43%.

Sponsorship income increased from GBP0.67 million to GBP3.02 million, and course and lecture income increased from GBP1.3 million to GBP3.82 million.

There is also a correlation to costs, with overall costs increasing by 45.5%.

Head Office is continuing to invest in improving member services, and this will continue over the next few years as we work to deliver our 2023-26 Strategy.

Thank you

Thank you to all our members, volunteers, staff and other partners who have helped us to achieve so much this year.